Attorney Did Not Act Unethically By Contacting Other Employees Of Company

Snider v. Superior Court, 113 Cal. App. 4th 1187 (2003)

Quantum Productions, Inc. sued its former sales manager, David Snider, for misappropriation of trade secrets, breach of contract, interference with contractual relations and unfair competition after Snider resigned his employment with Quantum and formed a competing company. Quantum filed a motion to disqualify Snider’s attorney, Dale Larabee, after it learned that Larabee had contacted two current employees of Quantum following the trial readiness conference that was held in the case. The trial court granted Quantum’s motion on the ground that Larabee had violated Rule of Professional Conduct 2-100, which prohibits a lawyer from having ex parte communications with a party the lawyer knows to be represented by another lawyer in the matter. The Court of Appeal issued a writ of mandate directing the trial court to vacate its order disqualifying Larabee on the ground that the two employees whom Larabee contacted were not managing agents of Quantum (since they did not “exercise substantial discretionary authority over significant aspects of [Quantum’s] business”) nor were they officers or directors of Quantum. The Court of Appeal further held that Quantum had not satisfied the other requirements of Rule 2-100, including proof of the binding effect on Quantum of any statements from the two employees and actual knowledge on Larabee’s part that the employees were “represented parties.”