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Richard D. Townsend v. Michael J. Astrue

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA


August 12, 2011

RICHARD D. TOWNSEND,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY,
DEFENDANT.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gary S. Austin United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER GRANTING COUNSEL'S MOTION ) TO WITHDRAW AS ATTORNEY OF RECORD ORDER REQUIRING PERSONAL APPEARANCE OF PLAINTIFF ) (Document 15)

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff's counsel Denise B. Haley filed the instant motion to withdraw as attorney of record for Plaintiff Ricahrd D. Townsend on July 13, 2011. (Doc. 15.) The matter was heard on August 12, 2011, before the Honorable Gary S. Austin, United States Magistrate Judge. Ms. Haley appeared telephonically on behalf of Plaintiff. Lynn Marada appeared on behalf of Defendant. Plaintiff did not appear at the hearing or oppose the motion.

RELEVANT BACKGROUND

On October 19, 2011, Plaintiff Richard Townsend filed this action challenging the Commissioner's denial of Social Security benefits. (Doc. 1.) The Commissioner lodged the administrative record on March 1, 2011. (Doc. 11.) Plaintiff's opening brief is currently due September 2, 2011. (Doc. 19.)

On July 13, 2011, Plaintiff's counsel Denise Haley filed a Motion to Withdraw as Attorney of Record. (Doc. 15.) Counsel served her client at 2100 Virgilia Lane, Olivehurst, CA 95961 via first class mail on that same day. (Doc. 15 at pg. 8). Defendant has not opposed the motion and Mr. Townsned has not filed a response to counsel's motion. At the hearing, Ms. Haley also stated that on July 22, 2011, she sent Plaintiff correspondence informing him that she would be appearing telephonically, that he should appear at the hearing, as well as advising him that the opening brief was due on September 2, 2011. She did not receive a response from Mr. Townsend.

DISCUSSION

In the motion, Ms. Haley contends that she attempted to contact Mr. Townsend numerous times without success. She was eventually able to talk with him on the telephone on May 25, 2011. She is seeking to withdraw because after conducting an extensive review of the administrative record, she and Plaintiff disagree on fundamental matters regarding his case. At the time of their discussion, Plaintiff indicated that he wanted to hire new counsel. Ms. Haley sent Mr. Townsend a letter on May 25, June 21, and July 6, 2011, advising him that he needed to find new counsel, as well as a substitution of attorney form. She has not received a response from her correspondence. Counsel seeks to withdraw because she believes that further pursuit of the action could subject her to Rule 11 sanctions. To date, Plaintiff has not identified alternate counsel, nor has he authorized dismissal of his case. Therefore, Ms. Haley has filed the instant motion. Counsel requests that Plaintiff be given forty-five days to retain substitute counsel and file an opening brief.

ORDER

This Court finds Plaintiff's counsel has demonstrated good cause to withdraw as Plaintiff's counsel. Accordingly, counsel's motion is GRANTED and Plaintiff is SUBSTITUTED in as counsel in pro se. Ms. Haley is DIRECTED to provide Plaintiff with the complete administrative record and all pleadings on or before Friday, August 26, 2011.

Plaintiff is advised that the opening brief in this case is due no later than September 2, 2011. Plaintiff is cautioned that he no longer has the assistance of an attorney. He may wish to seek further legal assistance. Further, Plaintiff appears to have moved and this Court may no longer be the appropriate venue for this action. Accordingly, Plaintiff is ordered to personally appear for a status conference in this Court on Wednesday, August 31, 2011 at 10:30 am. If Plaintiff is unable to personally appear he can contact Courtroom Deputy Amanda Bradley at 559-499-5962 to coordinate appearing by telephone. If Plaintiff does not retain another attorney to represent him, he is responsible for complying with all Court rules and applicable laws. Failure to do so, or failing to comply with any order of this Court (including this order), may result in dismissal of the action.

As per Ms. Haley, Plaintiff's last known address is 2100 Virgilia Lane, Olivehurst California 95961. Plaintiff's telephone number is (530) 742-3929. The Clerk shall update Plaintiffs address on the docket and serve a copy of this order on Mr. Townsend at the above address. Mr. Townsend shall contact the Court immediately if the address listed above is not correct.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

20110812

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