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Hamilton v. Lincoln Mariners Associates Limited

United States District Court, S.D. California

February 5, 2015

JAMES HAMILTON, an individual, Plaintiff,
v.
LINCOLN MARINERS ASSOCIATES LIMITED, dba MARINERS COVE APARTMENT HOMES, a limited liability company; AIMCO-GP, INC, a corporation; MARIBEL ROBLES, an individual; and DOES 1 through 20, inclusive, Defendant.

ORDER

WILLIAM Q. HAYES, District Judge.

The matter before the Court is the Motion to be Relieved as Counsel for James Hamilton filed by Donald R. Holben & Associates, APC (ECF No. 6).

I. Background

On June 11, 2014, Plaintiff James Hamilton commenced this action by filing the Complaint in San Diego County Superior Court. (ECF No. 1 at 9). On July 17, 2014, Defendants Lincoln Mariners Associates Limited, dba Mariners Cove Apartment Homes ("Mariners Cove"), Aimco-GP, Inc. ("Aimco"), and Maribel Robles (collectively "Defendants") removed to this Court on the basis of federal question jurisdiction. (ECF No. 1 at 2).

On September 23, 2014, Andrew A. Rosenberry and Donald R. Holben of Donald R. Holben & Associates, APC, Plaintiff's counsel of record, filed the Motion to be Relieved as Counsel. (ECF No. 6). On November 6, 2014, Plaintiff James Hamilton filed an opposition. (ECF No. 12). On November 10, 2014, the Court issued an Order, finding that "there is insufficient information to determine whether good cause exists to permit Donald R. Holben and Associates, APC to withdraw as counsel of record in this case." (ECF No. 13 at 2). The Court stated that it "will allow Donald R. Holben & Associates, APC an opportunity to demonstrate good cause for withdrawal by filing declarations under seal, if necessary, to demonstrate good cause." Id.

On November 21, 2014, Donald R. Holben & Associates, APC filed two declarations and numerous exhibits under seal in support of its motion. (ECF No. 17). On December 11, 2014, Plaintiff James Hamilton filed numerous exhibits under seal in support of his opposition. (ECF No. 22). On December 14, 2014, Plaintiff James Hamilton filed a declaration and numerous exhibits under seal in support of his opposition. (ECF No. 25). On December 23, 2014, Donald R. Holben & Associates, APC filed an Objection to Documents Untimely filed by James Hamilton in Opposition to be Relived. (ECF No. 29). On February 5, 2015, the Court held a hearing on the Motion to be Relieved as Counsel for James Hamilton, with Plaintiff James Hamilton appearing pro se and Attorney Andrew Rosenberry appearing on behalf of Donald R. Holben & Associates, APC. (ECF No. 34).

II. Discussion

Donald R. Holben & Associates, APC contends that withdrawal is justified because there has been a breakdown in the attorney-client relationship between Donald R. Holben & Associates, APC and Plaintiff James Hamilton. Donald R. Holben & Associates, APC submits the declarations of Andrew Rosenberry and Donald Holben. Andrew Rosenberry and Donald Holben state that the parties dispute fees and states that Plaintiff James Hamilton owes the firm fees. Andrew Rosenberry and Donald Holben state that the parties have reached an impasse on case strategy. Andrew Rosenberry and Donald Holben state that the firm and Plaintiff James Hamilton no longer trust one another.

Plaintiff James Hamilton states that he has already paid more than he bargained for. Plaintiff James Hamilton states that Donald R. Holben & Associates, APC has misled him as to the nature of its fees and as to other aspects of his case.

An attorney may not withdraw as counsel except by leave of court. Darby v. City of Torrance, 810 F.Supp. 275, 276 (C.D. Cal. 1992). "The decision to grant or deny counsel's motion to withdraw is committed to the discretion of the trial court." Irwin v. Mascott, No. C 97-4737, 2004 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 28264, at *3-4 (N.D. Cal. December 1, 2004) (citing Washington v. Sherwin Real Estate, Inc., 694 F.2d 1081, 1087 (7th Cir. 1982)). Among other things, courts ruling upon motions to withdraw as counsel have considered:

(1) the reasons why withdrawal is sought; (2) the prejudice withdrawal may cause to other litigants; (3) the harm withdrawal might cause to the administration of justice; and (4) the degree to which withdrawal will delay the resolution of the case.

Irwin, 2004 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 28264 at *4.

In the Southern District of California, Local Civil Rule 83.4 requires counsel to "comply with the standards of professional conduct required of members of the State Bar of California... which are now adopted as standards of professional conduct of this court." Local Civil Rule 83.4 also states that "[t]his specification will not be interpreted to be exhaustive of the standards of conduct[, ...


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