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Posted by: Tanja Trezise on Jun 25, 2012

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys 1:

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General & Reporter; Joseph F. Whalen, Associate Solicitor General; Charles L. Lewis, Deputy Attorney General; Brad H. Buchanan, Assistant Attorney General; and Talmage M. Watts, Assistant Attorney General, for the Respondent/Appellant Richard H. Roberts, Commissioner of Revenue, 1 State of Tennessee.

Attorneys 2:

Michael D. Sontag, Stephen J. Jasper, and Ashley N. Bassel, Nashville, Tennessee, for the Petitioners/Appellees Pfizer, Inc., and Pharmacia Corporation.

Joseph F. Welborn, III, and Lauren P. Coble, Nashville, Tennessee, for Amicus Curiae The Council on State Taxation (COST) in support of Appellees.

Brett R. Carter, Joseph W. Gibbs, and Patricia Moskal, Nashville, Tennessee, for Amicus Curiae Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry in support of Appellees.

Judge(s): KIRBY

This appeal involves the disqualification of an attorney and the denial of permission to appear pro hac vice. The plaintiff taxpayer corporations filed two lawsuits against Tennessee’s Commissioner of Revenue for a refund of franchise and excise taxes. The Commissioner filed a motion to permit an out-of-state attorney to appear pro hac vice to assist in representing Tennessee’s Attorney General in the taxpayers’ lawsuits. The attorney to be admitted pro hac vice is a full-time in-house attorney with a quasi-governmental multistate tax policy entity. The plaintiff taxpayers objected, arguing that admission pro hac vice of the multistate tax entity’s in-house attorney was tantamount to allowing the multistate tax entity to intervene in the lawsuits. The plaintiff taxpayers also argued that the attorney should be disqualified from representing the Commissioner because such representation would present an inherent conflict of interest and would give the attorney access to confidential taxpayer information. The trial court agreed with the plaintiff taxpayers. It denied the Commissioner’s motion to admit the attorney pro hac vice and disqualified the attorney from representing the Commissioner in these proceedings. This Court granted the Commissioner’s application for an extraordinary appeal. We reverse and remand the case for entry of an order granting permission for the attorney to appear on behalf of the Commissioner pro hac vice.