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March 22, 2011

Banning Ranch Conservancy v. Superior Court (City of Newport Beach) (2011) 193 Cal.App. 4th 903

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The Fourth District holds that a “framework” fee agreement designed to expedite future engagements did not create an open-ended disqualifying attorney-client relationship.

Banning Ranch Conservancy (Conservancy) retained Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger (the Shute firm) to challenge the City of Newport Beach’s (City) plan to build a four-lane divided highway on its land.  The City filed a motion to disqualify Shute based on prior representations as well as two identical fee agreements signed several years prior that the City claimed established a current attorney-client relationship.  The trial court granted the motion to disqualify, determining that the City remained the Shute firm’s current client under the fee agreements.

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