By Erin Geiger Smith
Dec 6 (Reuters) - Texas-based law firm Bickel & Brewer has
been disqualified from representing a client in a contentious
lawsuit over mining technology.
Dallas state court Judge Carlos Cortez on Nov. 28
disqualified Bickel & Brewer in a lawsuit by its client, the
battery recycler RSR Corporation, against Inppamet, a Chilean
company that produces devices used in mining zinc.
RSR sued Inppamet in September 2008 in state court for
breach of contract, for failing to properly account for sales
and for providing RSR's confidential information to third
parties. The trade secrets were worth hundreds of millions of
dollars, RSR said in court papers.
Cortez said he disqualified Bickel & Brewer because he
found that during the litigation, the firm may have received
privileged and confidential information from a consultant
involved in the lawsuit.
The consultant, Hernan Sobarzo, was the former chief
financial officer of Inppamet and left the company in April
2010, the order noted. In exiting Inppamet, Sobarzo secretly
took with him electronic copies of files and emails containing
what the court eventually deemed to be confidential and
privileged information, Cortez said.
At the time, Sobarzo also contacted RSR and offered to
provide information on federal and state cases pending against
Inppamet, including those involving RSR, the judge's order said.
Sobarzo eventually met with a Chilean law firm, Bofill, Mir
& Alvarez Jana, who hired him as a consultant and put him in
touch with Bickel & Brewer, including name partner William
Brewer, the opinion said.
Sobarzo met with Bickel & Brewer more than 19 times,
including meetings at the firm's New York office, the judge
Sobarzo invoiced Bofill for more than $45,000, according to
Bickel & Brewer's disqualification was "required," the judge
said, because there "is without question a genuine threat" that
the Chilean law firm "disclosed Inppamet's confidential
information to Bickel & Brewer."
Court records showed, the opinion said, that Bickel & Brewer
"actually has received Inppamet's confidential information,"
including a privileged internal audit spreadsheet.
Bickel & Brewer said it disagreed with the judge's order
and, if necessary, will appeal the decision all the way to the
Texas Supreme Court.
Former Texas Supreme Court justice Harriet O'Neill also
represented RSR in the disqualification-related proceedings.
Bickel & Brewer acted in accordance with Texas ethical rules and
guidelines, she said, and she is confident that the order will
be overturned on appeal.
Inppamet is represented by Michael Lynn of Lynn Tillotson
Pinker & Cox in Dallas. Judge Cortez's opinion was "thorough and
correct," Lynn said.
Bickel & Brewer is no stranger to disqualification disputes.
The firm recently made headlines for successfully moving, on
behalf of client 3M, to disqualify Covington & Burling from
representing the state of Minnesota in an environmental lawsuit
against the Scotch Tape maker.
The dispute stemmed from Covington's representation of 3M in
the 1990s. The October disqualification followed months of legal
bickering; that same month, Covington appealed that
The case is RSR Corporation and Quemetco Metals Ltd, Inc v.
Andreas Siegmund, U.S. District Court, Dallas County, No.
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