Legal Ethics

Top Mass. Court Nixes Seyfarth Claim That Texas Law Firm Said Too Much, Gives Pro Hac Vice OK

Rejecting an argument by Seyfarth Shaw that an out-of-state lawyer from a Texas law firm should be precluded from appearing pro hac vice in a legal malpractice case against Seyfarth, the top court in Massachusetts held that negative statements by a Bickel & Brewer attorney about Seyfarth, in a state-court complaint and a news article, were backed by facts.

Hence, they were not a sufficient basis for a holding by the trial court that a colleague of the lawyer who made the comments, William Brewer III, should be prevented from representing the Seyfarth firm’s former client on a pro hac vice basis, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts held in a July 29 opinion (PDF).

Brewer’s comments largely tracked allegations in the complaint against Seyfarth, the appeals court writes. And, to the extent that what he said went beyond the four corners of the complaint, public record material backed him.

“Placing the conflicting representations in Seyfarth Shaw’s Essex County and Norfolk County court filings side by side makes clear that Brewer’s statement that Seyfarth Shaw had ‘[filed court] papers’ (the Essex County withdrawal motion) that ‘misstated the facts,’ finds support in the public record,” the appeals court writes. “We conclude, therefore, that no violation of [attorney ethics rules] has been shown.”

Requests for comment by the ABA Journal to Seyfarth this afternoon did not receive an immediate response.

Earlier coverage: “Ex-Client Sues Seyfarth, Seeks Treble Damages & Legal Fees”

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