United States District Court, C.D. California
Keith Page, (Plaintiff) Beth Weinstein, James Rapore, Attorneys Present for Plaintiffs.
Mark Brown, Attorneys Present for Defendants.
CIVIL MINUTES - GENERAL
CHRISTINA A. SNYDER, District Judge.
Proceedings: MOTION TO WITHDRAW AS COUNSEL OF RECORD FOR PLAINTIFF (Dkt. #127, filed April 28, 2014)
I. INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND
Plaintiff, a former California prisoner, filed this action on June 15, 2011. Dkt. #16. The operative third amended complaint ("TAC") asserts claims for false arrest, malicious prosecution, and conspiracy. Dkt. #44.
On March 7, 2013, defendants Michael Stefanoff and William Siegl filed motions for summary judgment. Dkt. #'s 70, 76. The Honorable Suzanne H. Segal issued a Report and Recommendation on May 23, 2013, recommending that the motions be granted. Dkt. #91. This Court adopted Judge Segal's Report and Recommendation by order dated June 5, 2013. Dkt. #95. As a result of that order, the sole remaining defendant in this action is California Highway Patrol Officer Roberto Corral.
Plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment on June 12, 2013. Dkt. #96. On September 20, 2013, Judge Segal issued a Report and Recommendation, recommending that plaintiff's motion be denied. Dkt. #110. This Court adopted Judge Segal's Report and Recommendation by order dated October 9, 2013. Dkt. #112. On October 16, 2013, this Court vacated the reference of this action to Judge Segal, and ordered that all further proceedings take place before this Court. Dkt. #114. On January 24, 2014, Beth M. Weinstein and James A. Rapore filed notices of appearance as counsel for plaintiff. Dkt. #'s 120-21.
On April 28, 2014, counsel for plaintiff filed a motion to withdraw as counsel. Dkt. #127. On May 20, 2014, plaintiff's counsel submitted a supplemental brief and an in camera declaration in support of their motion. Dkt. #'s 136-37. On May 28, 2014, plaintiff filed an opposition. Dkt. #139. No response or opposition has been filed by defendant. The Court held a hearing on June 2, 2014. After considering the parties' arguments, the Court finds and concludes as follows.
Local Rule 83-2.3.2 allows an attorney to withdraw as counsel only upon leave of court. If withdrawal will cause delay in the case, the court will not allow the attorney to withdraw unless "good cause is shown and the ends of justice require [such relief]." L. R. 83-2.3.5. If withdrawal is allowed, the affected parties then "shall appear pro se or appoint another attorney by a written substitution of attorney." L.R. 83-2.3.3.
Plaintiff's counsel state that, since they began representing plaintiff in this action, they have spent over 250 hours investigating the facts of this case. Weinstein Decl. ¶ 4; see also Rapore Decl. They further state that, as a result of this investigation, they have "discovered facts and formed conclusions that have resulted in an irreconcilable conflict between Plaintiff and [plaintiff's counsel]." Weinstein Decl. ¶ 5. According to plaintiff's counsel, "this conflict has resulted in a breakdown of the attorney-client relationship, because it has become extremely difficult for [plaintiff's counsel] to engage in open and effective attorney-client communications with Plaintiff." Id . ¶ 6. Plaintiff's counsel state that this conflict has made it "unreasonably difficult" for them to represent plaintiff. Id.
The existence of a conflict of interest ordinarily constitutes a sufficient basis for withdrawing as counsel. Moore, 2008 WL 1901322, at *2; Aceves v. Superior Court , 51 Cal.App.4th 584, 592 (1996); see also Cal. R. Prof. Conduct 3-700(C)(2) (providing that an attorney may seek to withdraw as counsel if "the continued employment is likely to result in a violation of the [Rules of Professional Conduct]"). A conflict of interest is present when "there has been an irreparable breakdown of the working relationship between counsel and client." Manfredi & Levine v. Superior Court , 66 Cal.App.4th 1128, 1135 (1998). Additionally, an attorney may seek to withdraw as counsel if the client "renders it unreasonably difficult for the [attorney] to carry out the [representation] effectively." Cal. R. Prof. Conduct 3-700(C)(1)(d). Here, plaintiff's counsel assert that a breakdown in attorney-client communications has occurred, and that it has become "unreasonably difficult" for plaintiff's counsel to continue to represent ...