Costello v. Buckley

Attorney was disqualified from defending his brother against suit by brother’s former lover whom attorney had previously represented, when the lover produced direct evidence of she had shared relevant confidential information with attorney. Attorney represented Costello in a suit about an easement over property she owned. At the time Costello was romantically involved with Attorney’s brother, Buckley. Later, that romantic relationship ended and Costello sued Buckley for return of $92,000 she claimed she had lent him during the time they were romantically involved. Costello moved to disqualify Attorney from representing Buckley in her suit for repayment of the loan. Held, Attorney is disqualified. Though there was no substantial relationship between the subject matter of the two suits and thus no presumption that Costello had divulged confidential information to Attorney that he might misuse against her in the loan litigation, she provided direct evidence that she had described her romantic relationship with Buckley to Attorney in the course of the easement litigation. With direct evidence of shared confidences, there was no need to rely on any presumption that confidences had been shared. Furthermore, while the romantic relationship might not be relevant to Costello’s complaint, it might be raised in defense to show that what she said was a loan was in fact a gift.

California Court of Appeal, Fourth District, Division 1 (Prager, J., sitting by designation); March 16, 2016; 2016WL 1042981

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