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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:The relator, Betty Dalco, seeks mandamus relief from the trial court’s order disqualifying her trial counsel, Kimberly Soard, and Soard’s firm, based on allegations of breach of confidentiality and conflict of interest. The order was the result of a motion to disqualify filed by the plaintiff/real party in interest in the underlying suit, Citibank (South Dakota) N.A. Citibank extended a line of credit to Dalco and issued her a credit card. Citibank alleged that Dalco defaulted in making payments on charges made to the line of credit, thereby violating certain terms contained in a card agreement. Citibank proceeded to accelerate maturity of the total amount due on the account, an amount alleged to be $14,710.27. The manner of notice to Dalco of her default allegedly included what Dalco described as harassing telephone calls to her home from a collection agency (Regent & Associates) employed by Citibank. Citibank filed suit against Dalco for breach of contract to recover the amount that Dalco was alleged to owe, and for quantum meruit. Dalco hired Soard to defend her in the underlying suit. Soard has been in private practice since February 2005. Prior to that time, Soard was executive vice president and general counsel for Universal Fidelity Corp., a nationwide company engaged in commercial and consumer debt-collection. She was employed by Universal for more than six years. According to her r�sum�, filed by Citibank as an attachment to its motion to disqualify, Soard directly supervised the legal department at Universal, and indirectly supervised other staff. She was responsible for negotiating and drafting client agreements, employment agreements, commercial contracts and other corporate contracts. HOLDING:Conditionally granted. At the heart of Citibank’s disqualification motion is the contention that in her capacity as general counsel and executive vice president of Universal, Soard signed a series of commercial employment contracts between Universal and Citicorp Credit Services Inc. (CCSI), a corporate affiliate of Citibank, and not a party to this suit. Citibank cites National Medical Enterprises Inc. v. Godbey, 924 S.W.2d 123 (Tex. 1996), for the proposition that any attorney whether or not she represented a particular third party is duty-bound to preserve the confidences of that third party where she obtains those confidences under a confidentiality agreement. “A careful reading of Godbey, in light of subsequent pronouncements by the Court leads to the conclusion that its holding was fashioned with very fine brush-strokes.” Texas Rule of Evidence 503(b)(1)(C) attaches the common-interest privilege to confidential communications disclosed in the course of legal services rendered during some pending action and concerning a matter of common interest in that action. Here, pursuant to its commercial employment contract with Universal, CCSI provided Universal with certain confidential or proprietary information from a variety of sources, one source being Citibank. However, this contractual relinquishment of Citibank’s confidential or proprietary information to Universal did not occur during any pending action and therefore could not concern a matter of common interest in that action. More importantly, neither CCSI nor Citibank was ever a client or former client of Soard. The facts are undisputed that Soard was corporate counsel for Universal exclusively, and Citibank presented no evidence that either it or CCSI were ever a co-defendant with Universal in which shared confidences were exchanged in furtherance of a joint defense. “Ultimately, we find Godbey’s applicability to be narrowly confined to the somewhat unique set of facts and circumstances arising in that case, but not to the starkly contrasting factual situation before us. . . . “We have examined all of the various pleadings, motions, and requests filed by Dalco and can see nothing that appears to involve or implicate any of the confidential or proprietary information included with the in camera material submitted to the trial court in support of the disqualification motion. We have no opinion and make no comment as to the merits of either party’s allegations in the underlying lawsuit. And, as in the usual course of any litigation, either party’s discovery requests will be subject to the standard discovery objections and conditions. We simply find no support in any of Dalco’s pleadings or other court papers for Citibank’s disqualification motion.” Following its disqualification of Soard, the trial court filed findings of fact and conclusions of law. The pertinent findings of fact are not supported by substantive evidence but are mere conclusory statements, the appeals court finds. Because the trial court applied an improper standard of law to the motion to disqualify, and found facts that were unsupported by probative evidence, its disqualification of Soard as Dalco’s counsel was an abuse of discretion, the court concludes. OPINION:Per curiam.

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