Disqualification of an Attorney in an Arizona Divorce
The Arizona Court of Appeals of Arizona received a Notice of Appeal filed by Mother in the unpublished case of Miller v. Miller. The appeal was regarding an order granting Father’s motion to disqualify Mother’s attorney, McCulloch, from further representation in the case.
A disqualification order is not appealable, but as Mother appears to have no other means of plain, speedy or adequate remedy by appeal, the court exercised its discretion to treat the appeal as a Special Action in order to accept jurisdiction.
Miller v. Miller: A Brief History of the Case
After the Arizona divorce of Miller v. Miller in 2009, Mother purchased a phone for the use of their child. When seeing notification of a new email on the phone, Mother clicked on it and realized that the phone was set up to receive emails from Father’s personal email account. There was a dispute between the two parties regarding why Father was using the child’s phone to access his email.
Mother searched through approximately 3 months of emails in Father’s personal email account, forwarding several she felt could be relevant to ongoing litigation to herself and then deleting them so that Father would not know. Three days later, Mother showed the emails to her attorney, McCulloch.
Two days later, “McCullock” sent a letter to Father’s attorney bringing up Father’s use of the cell phone for his personal email and disclosing the emails Mother had forwarded to her. There was no response to the letter. Neither Father nor his attorney objected when Mother referenced emails in the December 2, 2013, hearing.
After the hearing was completed, Father filed a motion to disqualify McCulloch based on alleged ethical violations stemming from Mother’s viewing of Father’s private emails. McCulloch was found in violation of the Arizona Rules of Professional Conduct by the Superior Court and Father’s motion to disqualify was granted. Mother appealed.
While a disqualification order is not appealable, the Arizona Court of Appeals accepted jurisdiction by exercising its discretion to treat the appeal as a Special Action.
Miller v. Miller: Arguments on Appeal Treated as a Special Action
The Arizona Court of Appeals reviewed the ruling disqualifying Mother’s counsel for an abuse of discretion. Motions to disqualify are seen as a tactic that can be abused, should be viewed with suspicion and are, therefore, only to be granted in extreme circumstances. The party requesting the disqualification bears the burden of proof.
After consideration, the Arizona Court of Appeals found the superior court’s argument was flawed as is was working under the assumption that Father’s emails were privileged. One email was to the Parenting Coordinator assigned to the case. No information was shared that was not already known to both parties. This communication was not privileged.
The rest of the emails that were accessed by Mother were unsolicited emails to attorneys seeking representation. No information was exchanged that was not already known to both parties, there were no requests to keep the information confidential, and the emails were sent to multiple attorneys.
None of the attorneys accepted Father as a client, therefore, no attorney-client relationship existed and the emails were not privileged. There is no indication Father showed proof that McCulloch’s actions or inactions prejudiced the case. Father’s parenting time was not decreased, Mother was not awarded attorney’s fees, and McCulloch’s notification of access to his email account resulted in Father changing his password to prevent future access.
The Arizona Court of Appeals: In Conclusion
The Superior Court’s order was based on the inaccurate conclusion that the emails were privileged. In addition, Father did not establish any prejudice stemming from McCulloch’s behavior. As such, the Court of Appeals of Arizona vacated the order to disqualify McCulloch and remand for reconsideration.
If you have questions about disqualifications of an attorney in an Arizona divorce case, you should seriously consider contacting the attorneys at Hildebrand Law, PC. Our Arizona divorce and family law attorneys have over 100 years of combined experience successfully representing clients in divorce and family law cases.
Our family law firm has earned numerous awards such as US News and World Reports Best Arizona Family Law Firm, US News and World Report Best Divorce Attorneys, “Best of the Valley” by Arizona Foothills readers, and “Best Arizona Divorce Law Firms” by North Scottsdale Magazine.
Call us today at (480)305-8300 or reach out to us through our appointment scheduling form to schedule your personalized consultation and turn your Arizona divorce or family law case around today.
More Articles About Divorce in Arizona
- The advantage of Filing Divorce First in Arizona
- Are Prenuptial Agreements Enforceable in Arizona
- Arizona Divorce
- Arizona Divorce Attorney Reviews
- Arizona Divorce Child Custody
- Arizona Divorce Debt
- Arizona Divorce Forms
- Arizona Divorce Laws
- Arizona Divorce Laws Alimony
- Arizona Divorce Laws and Statutes
- Arizona Divorce Laws on Adultery
- Arizona Divorce Papers
- Arizona Divorce Practice
- Arizona Divorce Process
- Arizona Divorce Records Search
- Arizona Marriage Laws
- Asset and Property Search in an Arizona Divorce
- Arizona Divorce When You Can’t Find Your Spouse
- Change to Maiden Name After Divorce in Arizona
- Changing Orders in an Arizona Divorce Decree
- Children and Divorce in Arizona
- College Expenses After Divorce in Arizona
- Complex Divorce Cases in Arizona
- Conciliation Court Services in Arizona
- Consent Required for Marriage of Minors in Arizona
- Considering the Children during a Divorce in Arizona
- Convert to a Covenant Marriage in Arizona
- Coping With Divorce in Arizona
- Court Services to Save a Marriage in Arizona
- Custody of the Family Pet in a Divorce in Arizona
- Dissolution of Marriage in Arizona
- Divorce After Legal Separation in Arizona
- Divorce and Children in Arizona
- Divorce Arizona
- Divorce Case is on the Inactive Calendar in Arizona
- Divorce Court Jurisdiction in Arizona
- Divorce in Arizona Without Children
- Divorce Procedures in Arizona
- Divorce Records in Arizona
- Divorce Statistics in Arizona
- Divorce Support Groups in Arizona
- Domestic Violence and Divorce in Arizona
- Effect of Adultery on an Arizona Divorce
- Effects of Divorce on Children in Arizona
- Enforceable Arizona Prenuptial Agreements
- Failure to Include an Issue in an Arizona Divorce
- Filing for Divorce in Arizona
- Filing for Divorce to Receive Alimony in Arizona
- Guide to Divorce for Men in Arizona
- High Asset Divorce in Arizona
- High Conflict Divorce in Arizona
- High Net Worth Divorce Arizona
- How is a Divorce Finalized in Arizona
- How Long Does a Contested Divorce Take in Arizona
- How Long Does it Take to Get a Divorce in Arizona
- How Long Does it Take to Get Divorced in Arizona
- How Long Does Uncontested Divorce Take in Arizona
- How Long To Be Separated Before Divorce in Arizona
- How long to get Temporary Orders in Arizona
- How Much Does it Cost to Get a Divorce in Arizona
- How to Appeal a Divorce Decree in Arizona
- How To Find Good Divorce Attorney in Arizona
- How to Start a Divorce in Arizona
- Learn About Uncontested Divorce in Arizona
- Legally Separated File Divorce in Arizona
- Marital Settlement Agreement in Arizona
- The merger of the Settlement Agreement in Arizona
- Military Divorce Laws in Arizona
- Misled Into Signing Divorce Settlement in Arizona
- Modifying a Divorce Decree in Arizona
- No Contest Divorce in Arizona
- No-Fault Divorce in Arizona
- Order to Pay Spouses Attorney Fees in Arizona
- Parenting Class During a Divorce in Arizona
- Petition for Dissolution of Marriage in Arizona
- Protect Children in a Divorce in Arizona
- Quick Divorce in Arizona
- Reasons for Divorce in Arizona
- Reasons to File for Divorce in Arizona
- Represent Yourself in Arizona Divorce Case
- Same-Sex Divorce in Arizona
- Sealing Court Records in an Arizona Divorce
- Sell Home During Divorce in Arizona
- Selling Property During a Divorce in Arizona
- Served With Divorce Papers in Arizona
- Serving Divorce Papers by Publication in Arizona
- Should I Keep the House in a Divorce in Arizona
- Social Media Evidence in Divorce in Arizona
- Stop an Arizona Divorce
- Stop an Arizona Divorce if You Change Your Mind
- What Happens at a Resolution Management Conference in Arizona
- What Happens If the Divorce Case Goes to Trial in Arizona
- What Happens Temporary Orders Hearing in Arizona
- What is a Covenant Marriage in Arizona
- What is a Default Divorce in Arizona
- What is a Family Law Master in an Arizona Divorce Case
- What is a Preliminary Injunction in an Arizona Divorce
- What is a Temporary Orders Hearing in Arizona
- What is the Divorce Process in Arizona
- What Reasons Do I Need to Obtain a Divorce in a Covenant Marriage in Arizona
- What to do When Served with Divorce Papers in Arizona
- When Can I File For Divorce in Arizona
Chris Hildebrand wrote the information on this page about motions to disqualify an attorney in Arizona to ensure everyone has access to information about family law in Arizona. Chris is a divorce and family law attorney at Hildebrand Law, PC. He has over 24 years of Arizona family law experience and has received multiple awards, including US News and World Report “Top Arizona Divorce Attorneys”, Phoenix Magazine “Top Divorce Law Firms”, and Arizona Foothills Magazine “Best of the Valley” award. He believes the policies and procedures he uses to get his clients through a divorce should all be guided by the principles of honesty, integrity, and, quite frankly, actually caring about what his clients are going through in a divorce or family law case. In short, his practice is defined by the success of his clients. He also manages all of the other attorneys at his firm to make sure the outcomes in their clients’ cases are successful as well.
As Seen on CBS News, ABC News, NBC News, and Fox News