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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:From 1995 until August 1997, Gayle Mortola-Strasser worked as a legal assistant for Burford & Ryburn L.L.P. on asbestos cases brought against (among others) TXU U.S. Holdings Co. d/b/a TU Electric (TXU). Shortly after she earned her law license in 1997, Waters & Kraus, a firm representing asbestos plaintiffs in suits against TXU (among others), expressed interest in hiring her as an attorney. To avoid any conflicts, C. Andrew Waters contacted Gregory Jensen, Mortola-Strasser’s supervisor at Burford & Ryburn. The two negotiated a settlement of the only asbestos case the Waters firm had pending against TXU, and Waters and Mortola-Strasser signed an agreement regarding conflicts of interest in which they agreed that neither they nor any attorneys at Waters & Kraus would participate in asbestos suits against TXU or share any information about them. More than four years later, Mortola-Strasser left the employment of Waters & Kraus. Within the same month, Waters & Kraus filed the underlying asbestos suit by Joe and Carol Mitcham against TXU. The trial court denied a motion to disqualify the Waters & Kraus firm, but the court of appeals disagreed. The Mitchams seek mandamus relief from the latter court’s order disqualifying their chosen counsel, arguing it was a clear abuse of discretion for which they have no adequate remedy at law. HOLDING:Denied. The only question presented here is whether the law firm’s representation of the Mitchams will in reasonable probability involve a violation of any confidences Mortola-Strasser may have gained during her earlier work for TXU. On this question, the court has recognized different standards for attorneys and their assistants. Under the peculiar facts of this case, Waters & Kraus would be disqualified no matter what rule applied. Waters agreed to forego asbestos cases against TXU in the agreement regarding conflicts of interest. The agreement contained no termination date, but the Mitchams argue the court can imply a reasonable time limit which they suggest is when Mortola-Strasser left the firm. But the agreement also stated the parties would not “[s]hare any information with any person regarding the facts and circumstances surrounding [TXU's] use of asbestos.” Because the duty to guard confidences is permanent (at least for Mortola-Strasser), the court cannot imply a termination date that applies to only some of the provisions and some of the parties. In National Medical Enterprises, Inc. v. Godbey, 924 S.W.2d 123 (Tex. 1996), the court held an attorney for one defendant who owed no duty of confidentiality to a co-defendant was nevertheless bound by such a duty when he signed a joint defense agreement. Because of this voluntary confidentiality agreement, any attorneys with whom he was associated during that representation were disqualified as well. Here, Waters agreed not to share any information regarding TXU’s use of asbestos; the agreement contained no time limit, and at least as to confidentiality none can be implied. Even if Waters would otherwise have been free to bring asbestos claims against TXU after Mortola-Strasser left (an issue the court does not decide), his confidentiality agreement precludes him from doing so. Because Waters cannot give the Mitchams the representation to which they are entitled without mentioning facts surrounding TXU’s use of asbestos (which his agreement precludes him from doing), he and the members of his firm are disqualified. Accordingly, the court denies the Mitchams’ petition for writ of mandamus. OPINION:Per curiam.

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