When you select the best Marietta car accident lawyer, or the best Atlanta
product liability lawyer, to handle your case, you ask friends and neighbors
for references. You do your research on the Internet to figure out which
lawyers have received awards and been recognized by their peers. Choosing
a lawyer is serious business, because that person will represent you in
court as you try to receive compensation for one of the most devastating
things that has ever happened to you. You want to select a lawyer you
can trust, who will listen to you. You want to find a lawyer with the
experience to represent you well.
Georgia law recognizes that when you choose an attorney, you are making
a very personal decision. Whether you pick a Decatur personal injury lawyer,
or a contract lawyer to represent your company, the courts in Georgia
protect your right to choose your own attorney. “‘The right
to counsel is an important interest which requires that any curtailment
of the client’s right to counsel of choice be approached with great
Southern General Insurance Company v. Holt, 409 S.E.2d 852, 200 Ga. App. 759  (1991), quoting Cherry v. Coast
House, Ltd., 257 Ga. 403, 359 S.E.2d 904 (1987). See also
Amwest Surety Ins. Co. v. Interstate Construction Co., Inc., 442 S.E.2d 772, 212 Ga. App. 590  (1994). Said in layman’s
terms, courts know that picking a lawyer is a big deal, and they do not
want to interfere with your choice.
Courts do have the power – which they use very sparingly –
to disqualify an attorney from representing a client. “Whether an
attorney should be disqualified from representing a client rests in the
discretion of the trial judge. Clos v. Pugia, 204 Ga. App. 843, 845 (1)
(420 SE2d 774) (1992).”
Welch v. Welch, 244 Ga.App. 685, 536 S.E.2d 583 (2000) (upholding trial court’s
decision refusing to disqualify counsel and refusing to allow counsel
to be called as a witness at trial).
For obvious reasons, courts are reluctant to interfere with the client’s
right to pick an attorney. “Disqualification of a party’s
chosen counsel is an extraordinary remedy and should only be resorted
to sparingly. . . . We view motions to disqualify on this ground with
some skepticism, because they are sometimes filed for tactical or harassing
reasons, rather than the proper reason . . . . ” Singer Island Ltd.
Inc. v. Budget Construction Co., 714 So.2d 651  (Fla.App. Dist.4 1998)
(citations omitted). Even deposing (much less disqualifying) opposing
counsel is “offensive to our adversarial system and is an extraordinary
step which will rarely be justified.” Scottsdale Insurance Co. v.
Camara De Comercio Latino-Americana De Los Estados Unidos, Inc., 813 So.2d
250 (Fla.App. Dist.3 2002).
In all the cases I have handled in my 25 years of experience as an Atlanta
personal injury lawyer, I have only seen a judge disqualify lawyers one
time. I did not move to disqualify the other side’s counsel, but
the judge in that case raised the issue. Ultimately, his decision to disqualify
the counsel was reversed on appeal.