While investigating who had leaked a police report, San Diego’s police department questioned Hoover, who was represented by lawyer X in a separate sexual assault suit against San Diego. During the interrogation of Hoover, the department required her to answer questions about her communications with X about her sexual assault case despite her objection on attorney-client privilege grounds. To make matters worse, a city attorney attended the interrogation and even asked Hoover questions. The police knowingly violated Hoover’s attorney-client privilege, and the city attorney committed misconduct in communicating with a client, known to be represented by counsel, about the suit. There was no question that the city and its attorney had committed misconduct, yet this decision holds that the trial court abused its discretion in disqualifying the City Attorney from representing San Diego in the sexual assault case since the transcript of the interrogation showed that the City had learned nothing of significance and nothing prejudicial to Hoover’s case through the improper interrogation. Disqualification is appropriate only as a measure to prevent harm, not as punishment for misconduct.
California Court of Appeal, Fourth District, Division 1 (Dato, J.); December 19, 2018 (modified upon denial of rehearing January 7, 2019, 2019 Cal. App. LEXIS 16); 30 Cal. App. 5th 457