State v. 3M Co.Annotate this Case
In 2010, the State retained Covington & Burling, LLP (“Covington”) to represent it in a natural resource damages case against 3M Company (“3M”) involving the manufacture and disposal of perfluorochemicals, which are a subset of all fluorochemicals. In 2012, 3M moved to disqualify Covington as counsel for the State because Covington had previously represented 3M in legal and regulatory matters related to 3M’s fluorochemicals business from 1992 to 2006. The district court granted 3M’s disqualification motion. Both the State and Covington appealed. The court of appeals dismissed Covington’s appeal for lack of standing and affirmed the disqualification of Covington. The Supreme Court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded, holding (1) an attorney has standing to appeal when a district court finds that the attorney violated the rules of professional conduct and disqualifies the attorney from the representation, and therefore, Covington had standing to appeal the disqualification order; (2) the district failed to use the proper legal standard in disqualifying Covington under Minn. R. Prof. Conduct 1.9(a); and (3) remand was required to permit the district court to make the necessary factual findings and determine whether 3M waived the right to seek disqualification of Covington.