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Committee on Legal Ethics v. Frame

433 S.E.2d 579 (1993)

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Committee on Legal Ethics v. Frame

West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals

433 S.E.2d 579 (1993)

Facts

Wesley Metheney and Clark Frame (defendant) were partners of the law firm Wilson, Frame & Metheney (WFM). Metheney represented a Mr. Baamonde in a personal-injury action against Markwoods, Inc. (Markwoods). Vickie Lynn McMillen was Markwoods’ vice president, manager, and majority shareholder. McMillen was served in the Baamonde matter and entrusted the matter to Markwoods’ insurer. One year later, McMillen consulted with Frame regarding her divorce, telling Frame that she wanted to protect her interest in Markwoods from her husband. Frame asked McMillen whether WFM was suing Markwoods. McMillen mistakenly thought that the Baamonde matter had concluded. Not understanding the implications of WFM suing Markwoods in one matter and representing McMillen in her divorce, McMillen hired Frame. Months later, an associate brought the possible conflict to the attention of Metheney and Frame. Metheney and Frame discussed the possible conflict and decided that there was none, reasoning that the defendant in the Baamonde matter was Markwoods, not McMillen. Frame and Metheney decided not to talk to McMillen about the potential conflict. Sometime before Baamonde’s matter went to trial, McMillen realized that there was a potential conflict, and counsel for the insurance company filed a motion to disqualify Metheney. The court did not grant the motion, and during trial, Metheney cross-examined McMillen about Markwoods’ business. McMillen filed a complaint with the West Virginia State Bar. Frame argued that there was no direct adversity because the divorce and personal-injury matters were unrelated and there was no actual harm caused to McMillen. The Committee on Legal Ethics (the committee) (plaintiff) argued that there was direct adversity because of McMillen’s relationship with Markwoods.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Per curiam)

Dissent (Neely, J.)

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