United States District Court, N.D. California
PLAINTIFF'S COUNSEL'S MOTION TO WITHDRAW RE:
JACQUELINE SCOTT CORLEY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
pending before the Court is the motion for Plaintiff's
Counsel Kronenberger Rosenfeld to withdraw as counsel for
Plaintiff Arunasree Swapna. (Dkt. No. 27.) Ms. Swapna has not
responded to the motion despite an order directing her to do
so and Defendant has filed a statement of non-opposition to
the motion. (Dkt. Nos. 30 & 31.) After carefully
considering Plaintiff's counsel's motion, the Court
concludes that oral argument is unnecessary, see
Civ. L.R. 7-1(b), and GRANTS the motion as set forth below.
the Court's Civil Local Rules, “[c]ounsel may not
withdraw from an action until relieved by order of the Court
after written notice has been given reasonably in advance to
the client and to all other parties who have appeared in the
case.” Civ. L.R. 11-5(a); Dist. Council No. 16 No.
Cal. Health & Welfare Trust Fund v. Lambard Enters.,
Inc., No. C 09-05189 SBA, 2010 WL 3339446, at *1 (N.D.
Cal. Aug. 24, 2010) (citations omitted). The Local Rule
further provides that “[w]hen withdrawal by an attorney
from an action is not accompanied by simultaneous appearance
of substitute counsel or agreement of the party to proceed
pro se, leave to withdraw may be subject to the condition
that papers may continue to be served on counsel for
forwarding purposes, unless and until the client appears by
other counsel or pro se.” Civ. L.R. 11-5(b).
decision to permit withdrawal of counsel is within the trial
court's discretion. See United States v. Carter,
560 F.3d 1107, 1113 (9th Cir. 2009) When considering motions
to withdraw, “the consent of the client is not
dispositive.” Robinson v. Delgado, 2010 WL
3259384, at *2 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 18, 2010). Rather, courts
consider (1) the reasons counsel seeks to withdraw; (2) the
possible prejudice that withdrawal may cause to other
litigants; (3) the harm that withdrawal might cause to the
administration of justice; and (4) the extent to which
withdrawal will delay resolution of the case. See Deal v.
Countrywide Home Loans, 2010 WL 3702459, at *2 (N.D.
Cal. Sept. 15, 2010). “Ultimately, a ruling on a motion
to withdraw must involve a balancing of the equities.”
Robinson, 2010 WL 3259384, at *2 (internal citation
and quotation marks omitted).
District, courts also consider the standards of professional
conduct required of members of the State Bar of California
when determining whether counsel may withdraw representation.
See, e.g., U.A. Local 342 Joint Labor-Mgmt.
Comm. v. So. City Refrigeration, Inc., No. 09-3219, 2010
WL 1293522, at *3 (N.D. Cal. Mar. 31, 2010); Cal. Native
Plant Soc'y v. U.S. EPA, No. 06-3604, 2008 WL
4911162, at *1 (N.D. Cal. Nov. 14, 2008). Under California
Rule of Professional Conduct 3-700(C)(1)(d), an attorney may
request permission to withdraw on the basis of “conduct
[that] renders it unreasonably difficult for the [attorney]
to carry out the employment effectively.” Cal. Rule of
Prof. Conduct 3-700(C)(1)(d).
counsel seeks to withdraw because he maintains that
fundamental differences have arisen between counsel and
Plaintiff such that continued representation is unreasonably
difficult. In particular, counsel cites the following
difficulties: (1) Plaintiff has disregarded Kronenberger
Rosenfeld's case strategies and advice; (2) Plaintiff has
assessed the strength of her case far differently than has
Kronenberger Rosenfeld and adopted expectations on the timing
and scope of resolving the case that differ from Kronenberger
Rosenfeld's expectations; (3) Plaintiff has asked
Kronenberger Rosenfeld to pursue discovery and claims that
are not justified by law; and (4) Plaintiff has resisted
fulfilling her obligations as a litigant before this Court.
(Dkt. No. 28 at 3:8-17.)
support of the motion to withdraw counsel has submitted two
declarations from Plaintiff's counsel Jeffrey Rosenfeld,
one of which attaches emails between counsel and Plaintiff.
(Dkt. No. 28-1.) Because these emails reflect confidential
attorney client communications, the motion is accompanied by
a request to file portions of the motion, the first
declaration of Jeffrey Rosenfeld, and the exhibits thereto
under seal. (Dkt. No. 28.) The unopposed motion to seal is
GRANTED as these matters are properly sealable. See
Civil L.R. 79-5(b). These communications reflect pervasive
ongoing difficulties in the attorney-client relationship.
(Dkt. No. 28-28, Rosenfeld Decl. at ¶¶ 2-16; Dkt.
Nos. 28-4 - 28-20 (email communications between counsel and
Plaintiff.) Plaintiff was served with a copy of the motion to
withdraw and the Court directed to her to file a response,
but she has not done so. (Dkt. No. 27-1 at ¶ 6; Dkt. No.
33.) Further, in the last few months Plaintiff has
“become unreceptive to any communications from
Kronenberger Rosenfeld, whether those communications reflect
litigation strategies or Ms. Swapna's obligations to the
Court, counsel, and Defendant.” (Dkt. No. 27 at
3:19-22; Dkt. No. 27-1, Rosenfeld Decl. at ¶ 16.; Dkt
No. 32-1, Reply Rosenfeld Decl. at ¶¶ 2-3.)
failure to maintain regular contact with her counsel and
refusal to assist counsel in fulfilling her discovery
obligations and cooperate in moving the litigation forward
constitutes good cause for withdrawal. The lack of a
cooperative relationship between an attorney and his client
may justify the attorney's withdrawal. See,
e.g., U.A. Local 342, 2010 WL 1293522, at *3;
McClintic v. U.S. Postal Serv., No. 13-cv00439, 2014
WL 51151, at *3 (E.D. Cal. Jan. 7, 2014) (collecting cases in
which a client's failure to cooperate or communicate
effectively with counsel justified the attorney's motion
to withdraw). However, “withdrawal is only proper if
the client's interest will not be unduly prejudiced or
delayed.” McClintic, 2014 WL 51151, at *2
Rosenfeld has taken “reasonable steps to avoid
reasonably foreseeable prejudice to the rights of the
client.” See Cal. R. Prof. Conduct 3-700(A).
Counsel first attempted to resolve the dispute between
counsel and Plaintiff, “[h]owever, as time continued,
Ms. Swapna became more entrenched in her various positions,
with which [counsel] disagreed.” (Dkt. No. 27-1 ¶
16.) Once counsel determined that he could no longer
represent Ms. Swapna, he offered to obtain replacement
counsel for Plaintiff, but she declined. (Dkt. No. 27 at
4:8-10.) Although the communications attached to the motion
reflect that Plaintiff objects to her counsel's
withdrawal, having reviewed totality of communications the
Court concludes that continued representation by Kronenberger
Rosenfeld would indeed be unreasonably difficult and that
counsel has complied with his professional responsibilities
to attempt to work with Plaintiff to find replacement
counsel, but Plaintiff has resisted all such efforts.
See, e.g., Castro v. City of Union City,
No. 14-CV-00272-MEJ, 2016 WL 6873455, at *2 (N.D. Cal. Nov.
22, 2016) (concluding that withdrawal was appropriate where
“the client relationship has deteriorated beyond repair
and is no longer based on mutual trust and
Defendant, who does not oppose the motion to withdraw, will
not be prejudiced by withdrawal because trial is not until
March 26, 2018. Further, Defendant's opposition suggests
his willingness to stay discovery and reset the case
deadlines to allow Plaintiff to obtain replacement counsel
should Kronenberger Rosenfeld be permitted to withdraw. (Dkt.
No. 30 at 2:20-26.) This may delay the resolution of the
case, but it will allow Ms. Swapna time to find new counsel
(or appear pro se). Thus, the court is convinced that
withdrawal at this juncture, along with a continuation of
deadlines, will not prejudice Defendant.
the Court concludes the circumstances here make it
“unreasonably difficult for the [counsel] to carry out
the employment effectively” such that withdrawal is