Ritchie, who holds a law degree but had not yet been admitted to the California bar, was president and CEO of O’Gara and the principal company contact for its outside counsel during an investigation of Ra and other corporate officers which led up to O’Gara’s suit against Ra and those officers. Ritchie quit his job with O’Gara, took and passed the California bar, and formed Ritchie Litigation, LLC, which took on the representation of Ra and the other officers defending O’Gara’s suit. Held, the trial court abused its discretion in not disqualifying Ritchie and Ritchie Litigation. Ritchie had confidential information from his prior role as O’Gara’s president and CEO. While it was not strictly a case of successive representation since Ritchie wasn’t a California lawyer until after he left O’Gara, similar principles apply when a law firm or client acquires the opponent’s attorney-client information through surreptitious means such as hiring a former employee of the opposing party. And since Ritchie had not been ethically screened from the rest of Ritchie Litigation’s lawyers, the whole firm had to be disqualified.
California Court of Appeal, Second District, Division 7 (Perluss, P.J.); January 7, 2019; 30 Cal. App. 5th 1115