McPhearson v. The Michaels Co., 96 Cal. App. 4th 843 (2002)

Plaintiff’s attorney in this discrimination case (John Riestenberg) had represented another employee of The Michaels Company (Kevin Harris) in a similar lawsuit against the company. As part of his settlement agreement, Harris agreed to keep the terms of the agreement confidential. When Riestenberg filed the current lawsuit against the employer, the company filed a motion to disqualify Riestenberg on the ground that the confidentiality clause in the Harris settlement agreement created an unwaivable conflict of interest between Harris and McPhearson. The trial court granted the motion to disqualify Riestenberg even though Harris and McPhearson had signed conflict-waiver letters. The Court of Appeal reversed the disqualification order, holding that the confidentiality clause did not and could not preclude Harris from testifying as a percipient witness in McPhearson’s case.