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Lawyers representing Mattel Inc. in its ongoing legal dispute with the manufacturer of Bratz dolls have filed a motion to disqualify opposing counsel Glaser, Weil, Fink, Jacobs, Howard & Shapiro, citing a conflict of interest that arose after the firm hired an associate who has previously worked on the other side of the same case. In a motion filed on Dec. 10, John Quinn of Los Angeles-based Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan said the associate, Jill Basinger, worked for his firm from 2002 to 2006. During that time, both as an associate and of counsel, she billed nearly 1,500 hours working on several cases for Mattel, including the one against MGA Entertainment Inc., maker of the Bratz dolls. She also was privy to intellectual property and other confidential information at Mattel, the motion says. “Glaser Weil committed the cardinal sin under the disqualification cases — it hired an attorney who worked on the other side of this very case,” Quinn wrote in the motion. “No amount of spin and no ethical wall can change the fact that disqualification of Glaser Weil is required.” Patricia Glaser, managing partner of Los Angeles-based Glaser Weil and co-lead counsel for MGA, declined to comment. MGA’s other co-lead counsel, Annette Hurst, a partner at San Francisco’s Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, did not return a call for comment. As of press time, neither had filed court documents opposing Quinn’s motion. Michael Zeller, a partner at Quinn Emanuel who returned a call to Quinn, declined to comment. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in July reversed a 2008 trial court judgment that Mattel owned the ideas and work of a former employee who designed the Bratz dolls. The 9th Circuit found that U.S. District Judge Stephen Larson of Riverside, Calif., had abused his discretion in giving Mattel the rights to the dolls. A jury had found that the designer of the dolls came up with the idea while working at Mattel and awarded Mattel $100 million in damages. A retrial of the case, along with a second phase addressing trade secrets and racketeering claims, is scheduled for Jan. 18. MGA brought in Glaser Weil earlier this month as co-lead counsel. Glaser has represented MGA before. At the beginning of the case, she partnered with O’Melveny & Myers. MGA and O’Melveny are now fighting in court over $10 million in legal fees. MGA’s lead counsel during the first trial was Thomas Nolan, a partner in the Los Angeles office of New York’s Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. But last year, MGA replaced Skadden with Glaser and Russell Frackman, a partner at Los Angeles-based Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp. A few months later, MGA replaced both of them with Orrick’s Hurst. On Dec. 8, U.S. District Court Judge David Carter in Santa Ana, Calif., who took over the case after Larson retired from the bench, designated Glaser and Hurst as co-lead counsel for MGA, and Quinn and William Price, also at Quinn Emanuel, for Mattel. In its motion, Quinn said Mattel was first notified on Nov. 24 that Glaser Weil, which had hired Basinger, intended to serve as co-lead counsel in the MGA case, according to the motion. Mattel sent the firm a letter on Dec. 3 regarding the potential conflict. On Dec. 6, according to the motion, Glaser Weil acknowledged that Basinger “may have” previously worked for Mattel on the case but said it had taken steps to avoid a conflict and maintained that there was “no basis for any objection by Mattel.” The motion states that, under California Rules of Professional Conduct, an attorney may not represent a client who is in a dispute with a former client on a matter involving confidential information. The motion also cites California case law and the State Bar of California’s position on the rules. “An attorney who switches sides during a pending litigation is disqualified automatically,” Quinn wrote in the motion. Amanda Bronstad can be contacted at [email protected].

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