United States District Court, D. Delaware
Brian E. Farnan, Esq., Michael J. Farnan, Esq., Farnan LLP, Wilmington, DE; Matthew D. Powers, Esq. (argued), Steven S. Cherensky, Esq., Azra M. Hadzimehmedovic, Esq., William P. Nelson, Esq., Natasha M. Suputo, Esq., Tensegrity Law Group, LLP, Redwood Shores, CA, attorneys for Plaintiff.
Frederick L. Cottrell, III, Esq., Travis S. Hunter, Esq., Richards Layton & Finger, P.A., Wilmington, DE; Jared Bobrow, Esq. (argued), Jason Lang, Esq., Marion Read, Esq., Blake Davis, Esq., Weil Gotshal & Manges LLP, Redwood Shores, CA; Doug McClellan, Esq., Melissa Hotze, Esq., Weil Gotshal & Manges LLP, Houston, TX, attorneys for Defendant.
RICHARD G. ANDREWS, District Judge.
Presently before the Court is Micron Technology, Inc.'s Motion to Disqualify Tensegrity Law Group LLP. (D.I. 22). The matter has been fully briefed. (D.I. 35, 55, 62). The Court heard oral argument on April 23, 2015. (D.I. 67 [hereinafter, "Tr."]).
For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's motion is GRANTED.
Innovative Memory Solutions, Inc. filed this patent infringement action against Micron on December 12, 2014. (D.I. 1). Plaintiff alleges that Defendant's NAND flash products infringe eight asserted patents, which it recently purchased from SanDisk. (D.I. 35 at p. 1). Plaintiff is represented by Tensegrity Law Group LLP. (Id ). Two Tensegrity attorneys, Matthew Powers and Steven Cherensky, were formerly employed by defense counsel, Weil Gotshal & Manges LLP. (Id ). While at Weil, Messrs. Powers and Cherensky represented Micron and Lexar Media, Inc., which Micron acquired in 2006, in several patent cases and a trade secret case. (Id ). Seven of the patent cases and the trade secret case focused on NAND flash technology. (Id ).
This Court has summarized the relevant legal principles for analysis of the pending motion.
The Court has the inherent authority to supervise the professional conduct of attorneys appearing before it, including the power to disqualify an attorney from a representation. See United States v. Miller, 624 F.2d 1198, 1201 (3d Cir. 1980). Motions to disqualify are "generally disfavored" and, therefore, require the moving party to show clearly that "continued representation would be impermissible." Talecris Biotherapeutics, Inc. v. Baxter Int'l Inc., 491 F.Supp.2d 510, 513 (D. Del. 2007) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted); see also Conley v. Chaffinch, 431 F.Supp.2d 494, 496 (D. Del. 2006) (same). Because "[t]he maintenance of public confidence in the propriety of the conduct of those associated with the administration of justice is so important, " however, a court may disqualify an attorney "for failing to avoid even the appearance of impropriety." Kabi Pharmacia AB v. Alcon Surgical, Inc., 803 F.Supp. 957, 960 (D. Del. 1992),
Attorney conduct is governed by the ethical standards of the court before which the attorney appears. See In re Corn Derivatives Antitrust Litig., 748 F.2d 157, 160 (3d Cir. 1984). The District of Delaware has adopted the Model Rules of Professional Conduct ("M.R.P.C."). See D. Del. LR 83.6(d)(2). M.R.P.C. Rule 1.9(a) provides:
A lawyer who has formerly represented a client in a matter shall not thereafter 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 gives informed consent, confirmed in writing.
To establish that a representation violates Rule 1.9, four elements must be shown: "(1) the lawyer must have had an attorney-client relationship with the former client; (2) the present client's matter must either be the same as the matter the lawyer worked on for the first client, or a substantially related' matter; (3) the interests of the second client must be materially adverse to the interests of the former client; and (4) the former client must not have consented to the representation after consultation." Apeldyn Corp. v. Samsung Elecs. Co., Ltd, 660 F.Supp.2d 557, 561 (D. Del. 2009).
To determine whether a current matter is "substantially related" to a matter involved in a former representation, and, thus, whether disqualification under Rule 1.9 is appropriate, the Court must answer the following three questions: "(1) What is the nature and scope of the prior representation at issue? (2) What is the nature of the present lawsuit against the former client? (3) In the course of the prior representation, might the client have disclosed to his attorney confidences which could be relevant to the present action? In particular, could any such confidences be detrimental to the former client in the current litigation?" Satellite Fin. Planning Corp, ...