Disqualification is not reserved solely for conflicts of interest. Instead, ten broad categories of misconduct may warrant disqualification. A recent First Circuit decision illustrates the breadth of disqualification possibilities. The defense counsel accused the plaintiff’s lawyer of passing the plaintiff a note while defense counsel was deposing her. When accused of passing the note, the lawyer turned over his notepad and refused to permit defense counsel to see what had been written on it. After then briefly exiting the room, the plaintiff’s lawyer reentered the room, announced that the notepad was now ready for viewing, and claimed that only a court address was written on the notepad. The defense counsel in response recessed the deposition and took the matter before the judge. After hearing from several witnesses, the court found that the plaintiff’s lawyer had lied to defense counsel, altered the notepad (to remove whatever note had been passed to the plaintiff mid-question), lied to the court about the incident, and proffered the altered notepad to the court. Disturbed, the court issued monetary sanctions, and after additional notice and opportunities to be heard, revoked the lawyer’s pro hac vice admission.
The lawyer then appealed to the First Circuit. The Circuit agreed to hear the appeal because of the potential damage to the lawyer’s reputation (and pocketbook) and because the Circuit suggested (but did not decide) that lawyers must be accorded notice and a meaningful opportunity to be heard before pro hac vice admission can be revoked. That said, the Circuit deferred to the district court’s factual findings, and in light of those grave findings, concluded that the revocation was an appropriate sanction. The case is Ryan v. Astra Tech, Inc. (1st Cir. 2014), and the ABA published a brief article about the case here.