Federal prosecutors had argued that the company’s lawyer, James Cole, has information that could have undermined the government’s position in the case because of his former role as US deputy attorney general.
“We are disappointed in the court’s decision, which we believe violates Huawei’s Sixth Amendment right to counsel of its choice,” Huawei said in a statement.
Cole, whom Huawei lawyers had referred to as the company’s “lead counsel” in the case, served as US deputy attorney general from 2010 to 2015.
Lawyers for Huawei said in the hearing that the government’s investigation into the company’s alleged evasion of Iran sanctions did not begin until 2016, after Cole had left office. They called the government’s motion to disqualify Cole “part of a barrage against Huawei.”
Cole now works for the global law firm Sidley Austin LLP in Washington, DC.
Judge Ann Donnelly of US District Court in Brooklyn issued the order to disqualify Cole on Tuesday, and announced that a redacted decision will be made public by January 10. She said in the order that Sidley Austin “should take prompt and reasonable steps to address all issues arising from Mr. Cole’s conflict.”
Cole did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this story.
A Huawei spokesperson could not confirm whether the company plans to appeal the decision, though the company said in its statement: “We reserve our right to appeal this decision when appropriate.”