This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2006).
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Stockwalk Group, Inc. and
Miller, Johnson, Steichen & Kinnard, Inc.,
Frank Charles Taylor III,
Taylor Law Office, PLC,
Amy Kaldor Taylor,
Kaldor Law Firm, PLLC,
Hennepin County District Court
File No. 27-CV-06-15561
Geoffrey P. Jarpe, Thomas H. Boyd, William A. McNab, Kyle J. Kaiser, Winthrop & Weinstine, P.A., 225 South Sixth Street, Suite 3500, Minneapolis, MN 55402 (for appellants)
Lewis A. Remele, Jr., Charles E. Lundberg, Bassford Remele, 33 South Sixth Street, Suite 3800, Minneapolis, MN 55402 (for respondents Taylor and Taylor Law Office)
F. Chet Taylor, Chestnut & Cambronne, P.A.,
Amy Kaldor Taylor, Kaldor Law Firm, P.L.L.C.,
Considered and decided by Toussaint, Chief Judge; Kalitowski, Judge; and Minge, Judge.
Appellants challenge the district court’s denial of their motion to temporarily enjoin respondents-attorneys from representing an adverse party in an arbitration matter. After briefing, respondents filed a motion to dismiss the appeal as moot. We grant the motion and dismiss the appeal.
Appellant Stockwalk Group, Inc. (Stockwalk) is a privately owned Minnesota corporation. Appellant Miller Johnson Steichen Kinnard, Inc. (MJSK) is a wholly owned subsidiary of Stockwalk and is engaged in the securities-brokerage business. Respondent Frank Taylor (Taylor) and respondent Amy Kaldor Taylor (Kaldor Taylor) are licensed Minnesota attorneys. They are married to each other.
interest of John Feltl in the various firms that make up Stockwalk, and the
role of Taylor as an attorney for Feltl, his family, and the various securities
firms is complex. Until August 2000,
John Feltl owned R.J. Steichen & Company (Steichen). In December 1996,
July 31, 2002, Taylor left MJSK to return to private practice as a part of a
new law firm known as Meikle and Taylor, P.A.
As a member of the law firm, Taylor continued to represent appellants on
a regular basis. Appellants deposited a
retainer with the firm. In October 2005,
In March 2005, Kaldor Taylor opened the Kaldor Law Firm, P.L.L.C., a solo-practitioner law firm. Less than a year later, Kaldor Taylor’s firm began sharing office space with the Taylor Law Firm. The two law firms maintained separate building signs, records, and door signs, but shared a facsimile machine.
June 2006, following John Feltl’s death, Mary Jo Feltl, as personal
representative of John Feltl’s estate (the estate), requested that Taylor
represent the estate in a claim against MJSK.
Appellants brought an action for injunctive relief in the district court, seeking to disqualify and enjoin respondents from representing the Feltl estate in the arbitration action against MJSK. The district court denied the injunction and this interlocutory appeal follows. After this appeal was filed, an arbitration award was entered against MJSK, the award was paid, and the decision of the arbitrator became final. Respondents then moved to dismiss this appeal as moot.
threshold issue is whether this appeal should be dismissed as moot. The determination of whether a cause of
action is moot presents a question of law.
Isaacs v. Am. Iron & Steel Co.,
690 N.W.2d 373, 376 (
an appeal is dismissed as moot if, pending appeal, an event occurs making a
decision on the merits unnecessary or an award of effective relief
impossible. In re Application of Minnegasco for Auth. to Increase Its Rates for
Natural Gas Serv., 565 N.W.2d 706, 710 (
Here, after briefing, respondents moved to dismiss the appeal as moot, noting that the arbitration had concluded, the decision went unchallenged, and the arbitration award had been paid in full. The parties acknowledge that it is now impossible to grant appellants relief from the specific arbitration proceeding. But appellants argue that Taylor is using and will continue to use the confidential knowledge he gained while serving as their in-house counsel in currently pending and imminently pending matters. Therefore, according to appellants, the matter is capable of repetition, but likely to evade review and is an important public issue of statewide significance requiring appellate consideration.
whether a controversy is moot requires an analysis of the nature of the
underlying questions. This case is an
appeal from the denial of a motion for a temporary injunction. Appellant claims that Taylor’s representation
of the estate constitutes a current conflict of interest under Rule 1.7 of the
Minnesota Rules of Professional Conduct and a former-client conflict of
interest under Rule 1.9. We note that a
party seeking an injunction must establish that the injunction is necessary to
prevent irreparable harm and that the legal remedy is inadequate. Cherne
Indus., Inc. v. Grounds & Assocs., Inc., 278 N.W.2d 81, 92 (
of the Dahlberg factors are fact-specific
and our interlocutory review of the district court’s factual determinations
based on the Dahlberg factors is
deferential. See Prod. Credit Ass’n v. Buckentin, 410 N.W.2d 820, 822 (
the district court’s analysis of the request for a temporary injunction was
very fact-specific and any review of the district court’s denial of a temporary
injunction would be based on the unique facts in the proceeding. In this regard, we note that
The other basis for Stockwalk’s claim of a conflict is Taylor’s obligation to a former client. Rule 1.9 of the Minnesota Rules of Professional Conduct regulates an attorney’s ability to undertake representation that is adverse to a former client. In pertinent part, it provides:
A lawyer who has formerly represented a client in a matter shall not thereafter represent another person in the same or a substantially related matter in which that person’s interests are materially adverse to the interests of the former client unless the former client gives informed consent, confirmed in writing.
Minn. R. Prof. Conduct 1.9(a) (emphasis
added). The purpose of disqualification
under this rule “is to ensure the attorney’s absolute fidelity and to guard
against inadvertent use of confidential information.” Nat’l
Texture Corp. v. Hymes, 282 N.W.2d 890, 894 (
scope of a ‘matter’ for purposes of this rule depends on the facts of a
particular situation or transaction.”
Resolution of the Rule 1.9 issue is based on the particular facts in the proceeding. It is highly unlikely that the facts in this Feltl claim would be sufficiently similar to another proceeding so that any determination on the merits by this court would be helpful. We conclude that, under these fact-specific circumstances, the matter is not one that is so important as to require appellate consideration.
appellant contends that the district court should have disqualified Kaldor
Taylor due to an imputed conflict. Rule
1.10(a) of the Minnesota Rules of Professional Conduct governs imputed
conflicts. Part (a) provides that “while
lawyers are associated in a firm, none of them shall knowingly represent a
client when any one of them practicing alone would be prohibited from doing so by
Rule 1.7 or 1.9 . . . .”