U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Federal Courts and Attorney Disqualification Motions: A Realistic Approach to Conflicts of Interest (From Criminal Law Review, P 289-313, 1988, James G Carr, ed. -- See NCJ-114710)

NCJ Number
L A Winslow
Date Published
25 pages
The motion to disqualify an adversary's attorney because of alleged conflicts of interest can result in great advantage to the movant by denying the opposition its choice of counsel or by delaying the proceedings.
The attractiveness of attorney disqualification as a strategic weapon is enhances by the failure of the courts to impose sanctions against attorneys who bring frivolous disqualification motions. An examination of Federal courts' treatment of such motions and the relevant rules of professional conduct and responsibility reveals that disproportionate weight is given to the possibility of divulgence of client confidences as compared to the harms suffered by the party whose attorney is disqualified. This disproportionate weighing results from the restrictiveness of current rules of professional responsibility. This imbalance of interests could be lessened by stricter requirements for standing and greater consideration of the good faith of motions. In some cases rule modifications and increased court sanctions are needed. In addition, law firms must take steps to lessen exposure to allegations of conflicts of interest by careful scrutiny of potential clients and employees. The implementation of screening mechanisms may help prevent disqualification of the entire firm if a single attorney within the firm is disqualified. Without such safeguards, disqualification may be used to impede a law firm's effectiveness. 171 footnotes.