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In re Marriage of Perry
Montana Supreme Court
293 P.3d 170 (2013)
In January 2008, Karen Perry (defendant) called attorney Gail Goheen to discuss filing for divorce. Karen spoke with Goheen’s assistant and Goheen but ultimately hired a different attorney, claiming Goheen requested an overly steep retainer fee. Terance Perry (plaintiff), Karen’s husband and an attorney himself, filed for divorce in 2009, retained three different attorneys, and then represented himself before hiring Goheen. Meanwhile, the parties filed information detailing their personal lives and finances, and Karen filed affidavits detailing alleged spousal abuse. Karen moved to disqualify Goheen and for a preliminary injunction, arguing she and Goheen had an implied professional relationship and that the ethics rules prohibited Goheen from representing Terance after consulting with Karen. Karen testified she had told Goheen personal information about instances involving domestic abuse and Karen’s “weaknesses and fears” and had asked for legal advice about her position and her options. When asked how Goheen’s representing Terance had harmed her, Karen said she felt it was “psychologically . . . like getting beat up by him again,” that she couldn’t trust anyone and felt betrayed by someone in whom she had confided, and that it was “another form of abuse and control.” Goheen testified that she had a brief conversation with Karen, not an initial client meeting, and did not quote a retainer fee. Goheen explained that it was her policy not to represent someone divorcing a local divorce attorney so she refused the representation and referred Karen elsewhere. The district court refused to disqualify Goheen. Karen appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Rice, J.)
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