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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:Relators, Shell E&P Inc. and SWEPI LP (collectively Shell), sought mandamus relief from an order compelling the production of documents owned by Shell but in the temporary custody of attorneys Michael B. Silva and Paul F. Simpson, formerly of Silva & Simpson, and McGinnis, Lochridge & Kilgore (collectively the attorneys). The attorneys were the defendants in an underlying fee dispute lawsuit brought by their former clients, Arnoldo Casas, Carolina Casas, Ferman Casas Jr., Juanita P. Casas, Irene Casas, Santos R. Casas, Servando Casas, Yolanda Casas, Johnny Lane III, Lydia C. Pena, Ruben Pulido and Clementina C. Pulido (collectively the Casases), arising out of prior litigation between Shell and the Casases. Silva and Simpson had filed suit against Shell on behalf of the Casases, alleging that Shell’s failure to drill on the Casases’ property had caused them damages. While the Shell suit was pending, Silva and Simpson joined the law firm of McGinnis, Lochridge & Kilgore, but continued to represent the Casases. The Shell suit settled for a confidential amount but a dispute over the attorneys’ fees arose. The Casases essubsequently filed suit against the attorneys alleging causes of action for breach of contract, deceptive trade practices and fraud, and seeking an accounting. In connection with their pending suit against the attorneys, the Casases requested the release of their original case file from the Shell suit. The attorneys delivered the Casases’ case file, but withheld certain documents that had been produced by Shell pursuant to the terms of an Unopposed Protective Order Regarding Confidentiality. The Casases filed a motion to compel the attorneys to release the retained Shell documents, but Shell objected because it would violate the protective order. The trial court issued an order compelling the attorneys to promptly deliver the previously retained Shell documents and Shell filed this petition for mandamus challenging the trial court’s orders, along with a motion for a temporary stay. HOLDING:The court conditionally grants the writ of mandamus. The Casases argue that Shell filed no pleadings and presented no evidence in the trial court, and thus as a nonparty had no standing to object to the disclosure of its documents. The court disagrees and reasons that while Shell is not a party to the fee suit between the Casases and the attorneys, Shell is a party to the agreed protective order entered in the prior litigation between it and the Casases. The court notes that the protective order provides that confidential documents produced by Shell must be returned to Shell at the conclusion of the litigation, but permits the attorneys to retain one original or copy of the documents for 24 months after conclusion of the litigation, subject to the continuing effect of the protective order. The court finds that under Texas Rules of Civil Procedure 192.6(a), Shell had the right to object to disclosure of its confidential documents and to seek enforcement of the protective order in the underlying case. The court finds that the trial court’s order holding that Shell lacks standing to object to the disclosure of its documents conflicts with Rule 192.6(a) and, therefore, the court holds that the trial court clearly abused its discretion. The Casases alternatively argue that disclosure of the Shell documents to them would not violate the protective order because as parties they are qualified persons to whom the protective order permits disclosure. The court disagrees and points out that the protective order’s definition of a qualified person limits permissible disclosure to “parties . . . to whom disclosure of Confidential Information is reasonably necessary for purposes of the administration, preparation, trial, or appeal of this Litigation.” The court notes that the litigation to which the protective order refers is the Shell suit, which was concluded. The court finds that the Casases’ suit against the attorneys constitutes a separate and distinct, although related, case. Therefore, the court holds that disclosure of the Shell documents to the Casases in the fee-dispute case would violate the continuing terms of the protective order. Because the court concludes that the trial court abused its discretion in holding that Shell had no standing to object to the disclosure of its documents and in compelling production of the Shell documents, it conditionally grants the writ of mandamus. OPINION:Speedlin, J.; Karen Angelini, Phylis J. Speedlin, and Rebecca Simmons, JJ.

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