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Scala's Original Beef & Sausage Co., LLC v. Alvarez

December 10, 2009

SCALA'S ORIGINAL BEEF & SAUSAGE COMPANY, LLC, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAELANGELO ALVAREZ D/B/A MICHAELANGELO FOODS, AND MICHAELANGELO FOODS, LLC, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Robert M. Dow, Jr.

Magistrate Judge Maria Valdez

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Currently before the Court is a motion to disqualify Plaintiff's counsel [15] filed by Defendants Michaelangelo Alvarez d/b/a Michaelangelo Foods and Michaelangelo Foods, LLC (collectively, "Defendants"). For the reasons stated below, the motion [15] is respectfully denied.

I. Background

Defendants contend that Plaintiff's attorney, Michael Rachlis, and firm, Rachlis Durham Duff & Adler LLC ("RDDA"), should be disqualified pursuant to the Rules of Professional Conduct that have been adopted by the Northern District of Illinois ("Local Rules") and the pertinent case law governing disqualification of counsel. The basis for Defendants' motion is a 2005 state court action in which Mr. Rachlis and RDDA represented Defendant Alvarez and a construction company operated by Mr. Alvarez in a dispute against Home Depot.

In support of their motion, Defendants invoke Local Rule 83.51.9 (b), which provides that:

A lawyer shall not knowingly represent a person in the same or a substantially related matter in which the firm with which the lawyer formerly was associated had previously represented a client, (1) whose interests are materially adverse to that person, and (2) about whom the lawyer had acquired information protected by Rule 1.6 and 1.9(c) that is material to the matter; unless the former client consents after disclosure.

Defendants also cite Rules 1.9(a) and 1.7(a) of the Illinois Supreme Court Rules of Professional Conduct. Rule 1.9(a) provides:

A lawyer who has formerly represented a client in a matter shall not thereafter: (1) represent another person in the same or a substantially related matter in which that person's interests are materially adverse to the interests of the former client, unless the former client consents after disclosure; or (2) use information relating to the representation to the disadvantage of the former client, unless: (A) such use is permitted by Rule 1.6; or (B) the information has become generally known.

Rule 1.7(a) states that:

A lawyer shall not represent a client if the representation of that client may be materially limited by the lawyer's responsibilities to another client or to a third person, or by the lawyer's own interests, unless: (1) the lawyer reasonably believes the representation will not be adversely affected; and (2) the client consents after disclosure.

II. Analysis

A. Legal Standards on Motions to Disqualify

In considering motions to disqualify, courts must balance two important considerations: "the sacrosanct privacy of the attorney-client relationship (and the professional integrity implicated by that relationship) and the prerogative of a party to proceed with counsel of its choice." Schiessle v. Stephens, 717 F.2d 417, 419-20 (7th Cir. 1983). The Seventh Circuit has "continuously maintained" that, in achieving that balance, it is important to bear in mind that "disqualification is a ' drastic measure which courts should hesitate to impose except when absolutely necessary.'" Id. (citation omitted); see also Freeman v. Chicago Musical Instrument Co., 689 F.2d 715, 722 (7th Cir. 1982) (emphasizing that motions for disqualification "should be viewed with extreme caution for they can be misused as ...


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