The "Congruent-Interest Representation Conflict" Doctrine

The General Motors case is illustrative of the "congruent-interest representation conflict" doctrine. It bears stressing that this doctrine applies uniquely to former government lawyers and has been distinguished from the normal rule applicable for non-government lawyers in this wise –

To illustrate the normal rule for non-government lawyers, imagine that the lawyer has represented passenger A and has recovered substantial damages in a suit against a driver. No conflict of interest principle or rule restricts the lawyer from later representing passenger B against the driver with respect to exactly the same accident. B may obtain the benefits of the lawyer’s help regardless of the fact that the lawyer might be able to employ to B’s advantage information and strategies developed in the representation of A. The critical element is that the interest of A and B do not conflict.

The rationale for the "congruent-interest representation conflict" doctrine has been explained, thus:

The rationale for disqualification is rooted in a concern with the impact that any other rule would have upon the decisions and actions taken by the government lawyer during the course of the earlier representation of the government. Both courts and commentators have expressed the fear that permitting a lawyer to take action in behalf of a government client that later could be to the advantage of private practice client would present grave dangers that a government lawyer’s largely discretionary actions would be wrongly influenced by the temptation to secure private practice employment or to favor parties who might later become private practice clients …
The fear that government lawyers will misuse government power in that way is not idle. Lawyers who represent the government often exercise enormous discretion unchecked by an actual client who oversees the lawyer’s work. For that reason a special rule is needed to remove the incentive for government lawyers to take discretionary decisions with an eye cast toward advantages in future, nongovernmental employment. The broad disqualification accomplishes that and, particularly under rubrics that do not invariably require disqualification of the entire firm with which the former government lawyer practices, does it without unnecessarily discouraging lawyers from entering temporary public service.53 (PCGG v. Sandiganbayan (G.R. Nos. 151809-12. April 12, 2005)