An attorney who worked with Uber Inc. to fight driver classification while at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce can’t represent a class of limo drivers suing Uber now over the same employment law issue, a federal court said Jan. 9.
Warren Postman was privy to Uber’s privileged and confidential information in earlier litigation, Judge Edward M. Chen wrote for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
That disqualifies him and his new firm Keller Lenkner LLC from representing parties suing Uber, the court said.
Lyft Inc. is also trying to get Postman disqualified from a similar suit
he and his firm filed against it.
Diva Limousine brought a class action against Uber over pre-arranged ground transportation services. Diva alleges that Uber saves money by misclassifying its drivers as independent contractors instead of employees, taking market share from competitors like Diva that follow the law.
Uber moved to disqualify Postman and his firm, arguing Postman worked with Uber on litigation involving the driver classification question while at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Litigation Center.
But Postman argued he has no confidential information from or about Uber that is related to this case. Two legal ethics experts advised Postman that his work at the Chamber didn’t establish an attorney-client relationship with Uber and didn’t appear to create a conflict, he argued.
The court sided with Uber.
“Where an attorney successively represents clients with adverse interests, his disqualification is required under the California Rules of Professional Conduct if ‘the subjects of the two representations are substantially related,’” the court said.
Postman’s work on the earlier cases is substantially related to this litigation and his access to Uber’s confidential information is presumed, the court said.
Disqualification of Postman and his firm is mandatory under California’s ethics rules, the court said.
Robins Kaplan LLP and Keller Lenkner LLC represented Diva.
Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP represented Uber.
The case is Diva Limousine, Ltd. v. Uber Techs., Inc.
, 2019 BL 8013, N.D. Cal., No. 18-cv-5546, 1/9/19.