United States District Court, N.D. California
ORDER REQUESTING SUPPLEMENTAL BRIEFING AND SETTING A HEARING RE: PLAINTIFF'S COUNSEL'S MOTION TO WITHDRAW AS COUNSEL
SAMUEL CONTI, District Judge.
This case involves a seaman's personal injury action involving injuries Plaintiff Reginald Attebury ("Plaintiff") allegedly sustained on or about April 21, 2012 on a fishing vessel owned by Defendants Triple Star LLC and Does 1-5 ("Triple Star"). Now before the Court is Plaintiff's counsel's Motion to Withdraw as Counsel. ECF No. 34-1 ("Mot. to Withdraw").
II. BACKGROUND AND LITIGATION HISTORY
On October 3, 2014, Triple Star served written discovery requests to Plaintiff seeking, among other things, the production of Plaintiff's medical, tax, and Social Security earnings records and/or signed releases for those records. Triple Star claims that Plaintiff verbally agreed during a February 6, 2015 Case Management Conference to produce the signed releases. ECF No. 32 ("Mot. to Compel") at 2. On February 24, 2015, Triple Star's counsel forwarded a release form to Plaintiff's counsel, and Plaintiff's counsel responded by stating: "I will mail this to Mr. Attebury and request that he sign it. However, the last I heard he was hospitalized, and I have not been able to get in touch with him." Id. at 3. Plaintiff did not return the releases. On May 19, 2015, Triple Star's counsel wrote to Plaintiff's counsel asking to meet and confer regarding the outstanding discovery issues. Plaintiff's counsel wrote back the same day stating: "Please be advised that I am now in the process of preparing a substitution of counsel. Mr. Attebury will be representing himself pro per until he is able to secure other counsel." Id.
On May 28, 2015, Triple Star filed a letter to Magistrate Judge Vadas seeking an order compelling Plaintiff to provide signed medical, tax, and Social Security Administration earnings releases, or, alternatively, an order requiring the Plaintiff to meet and confer.
On June 2, 2015, Judge Vadas issued an order requiring the parties to meet and confer on the outstanding discovery requests on or before June 9, 2015. ECF No. 33 ("MTC Order"). If the parties were unable to reach a resolution during the meet and confer, the MTC Order further required the parties to submit a joint letter brief on or before June 12, 2015. The MTC Order also stated that "the court instructs counsel for Plaintiff that the filing of a motion to withdraw from this action will not relieve him from the requirements of this order." Id.
On June 2, 2015, Plaintiff's counsel filed a Motion to Withdraw as Counsel. The motion states:
Due to a breakdown of the attorney client relationship between the Plaintiff and attorneys of record, Brodsky Micklow Bull & Weiss LLP, Counsel can no longer fulfill the legal and ethical duties they owe to their client, Mr. Attebury, nor are they able to fulfill their obligations to the Court or to the opposing parties and their attorneys.
Mot. to Withdraw at 1-2. Plaintiff's counsel did not provide any details, however, as to the nature of the "breakdown of the attorney client relationship." Id.
On June 15, 2015, the parties filed a stipulated request to continue the trial and pretrial deadlines. The Court granted a continuance on June 18, 2015 in order to allow Triple Star sufficient time to obtain the sought-after discovery and avoid prejudice to Plaintiff by allowing him sufficient time to retain new counsel, if necessary, without running afoul with the current deadlines. Discovery is now due by January 8, 2016, and trial is set for March 28, 2016.
Pursuant to Judge Vadas' MTC Order, Triple Star filed a letter brief on June 18, 2015. It was filed unilaterally because "it could not agree to the form of the brief with Plaintiff's counsel." ECF No. 38 ("Triple Star Letter") at 2. According to the Triple Star Letter, the parties conducted a meet and confer on June 5, 2015 during which Plaintiff's counsel authorized Triple Star's counsel to speak with Plaintiff directly to obtain the requested records or releases. Triple Star then sent blank releases directly to Plaintiff on June 5, 2015. On June 9, 2015, Plaintiff called Triple Star's counsel and stated that he would sign the releases and return them.
III. LEGAL STANDARD
Civil Local Rule 11-5(a) prohibits counsel from withdrawing from an action until (1) the Court has issued an order permitting the withdrawal, and (2) written notice has been given reasonably in advance to the client and to all other parties. Rule 11-5(b) applies where, as here, withdrawal is not accompanied by simultaneous appearance of substitute counsel or agreement of the party to appear pro se. That Rule authorizes the Court to permit withdrawal subject ...