Update 10/26/21: The State of California rejected the request to pause the proceedings.
Original article: On Wednesday, Activision Blizzard filed an Application to Stay for the gender discrimination lawsuit filed against them by the State of California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), so they can investigate claims that two lawyers representing the DFEH have a conflict of interest that could potentially disqualify them from the case.
"Activision Blizzard respectfully requests that the case be put on pause to allow it to obtain the facts and information needed to determine whether a motion to disqualify or other remedies are appropriate and present such facts to the court," the company stated in their application to stay. "If ethical violations did occur, then allowing the attorneys at the center of the violation to continue to prosecute the case against Activision Blizzard would continue to cause irreparable harm, both to Activision Blizzard and to the DFEH's ability to prosecute this case."
Legal counsel for Activision Blizzard alleges that two members of the DFEH council violated rule 1.11 of the California Rules of Professional Conduct, by working for the DFEH after also working for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) when they also investigated ABK over the past three years. According to ABK, this should also disqualify the other DFEH attorneys too since they failed to "screen the individual attorneys."
Rule 1.11 of the California Rules of Professional Conduct states "except as law may otherwise expressly permit, a lawyer who has formerly served as a public official or employee of the government . . . shall not otherwise represent a client in connection with a matter in which the lawyer participated personally and substantially as a public official or employee."
The rule further states that, "a lawyer who was a public official or employee and, during that employment, acquired information that the lawyer knows is confidential government information about a person, may not represent a private client whose interests are adverse to that person in a matter in which the information could be used to the material disadvantage of that person."
Now lawyers for ABK are requesting that the trial be paused while their allegations that DFEH council used confidential information acquired while working for the EEOC are investigated, and are seeking the disqualification of those lawyers from the case should they be found to be in violation of the ethics rules. Activision Blizzard also attempted to argue that the entire investigation's integrity is harmed if their allegations prove true.
You can read their full argument here, via Reuters.
Activision Blizzard been under fire from multiple agencies and groups since the DFEH filed its lawsuit in July of 2021, in which it alleged a rampant culture of sexual harassment and gender discrimination at the company. Since then, multiple lawsuits have been filed by Activision Blizzard workers, investors, and most recently the federal government, alleging misconduct on the part of the company.
We will update this story as it continues to develop.
Aaron is an esports reporter with a background in media, technology, and communication education.