March 22, 2023

Counsel’s knowing use of the opposing side’s privileged documents, however obtained, is a ground for disqualification, a California appeals court ruled Tuesday in a dispute among cannabis company co-owners.

The 3-0 court held that a board member defendant reasonably expected her emails with her husband that were downloaded by plaintiff “were, and would remain, confidential.”

Insisting that counsel “not read purloined documents any more closely than is necessary” to determine if they are privileged, and prohibiting their use if they are, won’t inhibit legitimate attorney-client conversations, the court said. And a client whose counsel is disqualified for defying such a rule isn’t likely to repeat the violation.

Hosie Rice LLP represented Militello and the firm. Zweiback, Fiset & Zalduendo LLP represented Lawrence. Cohen Williams Williams LLP represents Cannaco Research Corp.

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