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Plasse v. Ford

United States District Court, E.D. California

September 3, 2019

MAURICE JOHN PLASSE, III et al, Plaintiffs,
v.
LYNLEY FORD; et al., Defendants,

          ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO WITHDRAW AS COUNSEL FOR LYNLEY FORD

          TROY L. NUNLEY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on David Diepenbrock and Diepenbrock Elkin Gleason's (collectively, “DEG”) motion to withdraw as counsel for Defendant Lynley Ford (“Defendant”). (ECF No. 38.) Attorney of record for Defendant, David A. Dieprenbrock (“Diepenbrock”), submitted a supplemental declaration in support of DEG's motion to withdraw as counsel. (ECF No. 40.) No. oppositions to this motion have been filed.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         The underlying Complaint against Defendant was filed on April 24, 2017, and removed to this Court on May 30, 2017. (ECF No. 1 ¶1.) Defendant engaged DEG to represent her in this case in May 2018, and the parties subsequently entered into a fee agreement. (ECF No. 38 at 3.) Shortly after, Defendant retained a consulting expert through DEG, and under the agreement with that expert, Defendant was solely responsible for payment of the expert's fees. (ECF No. 38 at 3.) DEG alleges Defendant has refused to pay a $1, 500 balance owed to the expert. (ECF No. 28 at 4.)

         When Defendant initially engaged DEG, the matter was stayed pending the parties' completion of a Voluntary Dispute Resolution Program session, which was ultimately held on October 10, 2018. (ECF No. 38 at 4.) DEG alleges that after the session, the already strained attorney-client relationship “completely broke down.” (ECF No. 38 at 4.)

         On October 29, 2018, DEG sent Defendant a letter by certified mail stating DEG's intent to withdraw from its representation of Defendant. (ECF No. 38 at 4; ECF No. 38-2 at 2-3.) The letter advised Defendant to seek new counsel immediately, and if new counsel was not in place by November 15, 2018, DEG would file a motion to withdraw as counsel. (ECF No. 38-2 at 2-3.)

         On November 5, 2018, Defendant sent an email to Diepenbrock stating, “Please do not do any work on my behalf unless I specifically request it until my new attorney is in place which is imminent.” (ECF No. 38-3 at 2.) Defendant directed an individual named Larry Hawk to retrieve her files from DEG's office on November 6, 2018. (ECF No. 38 at 4.) DEG alleges Defendant's conduct since September 10, 2018, has breached DEG's fee arrangement. (ECF No. 38 at 4.)

         DEG filed this motion on December 21, 2018. (ECF No. 38.) As of the filing of this motion, Defendant had not identified or appointed new counsel. Defendant has not formally objected to the termination of the attorney-client relationship, and she has not filed an opposition to this motion. No. trial date has been set in this case.

         II. Standard of Law

         The local rules of this district require an attorney who would withdraw and leave his or her client without representation to obtain leave of the court upon a noticed motion. E.D. Cal. L.R. 182(d). Local Rule 182(d) also requires an attorney to provide notice to the client and all other parties who have appeared, and an affidavit stating the current or last known address of the client. Finally, to comply with Local Rule 182(d), the attorney must conform to the requirements of the California Rules of Professional Conduct. Id.

         California Rule of Professional Conduct 3-700 provides several grounds upon which an attorney may seek to withdraw, including where “[t]he client knowingly and freely assents to termination of the employment, ” Cal. R. Prof. Conduct 3-700(C)(5), and where client's conduct has “rendered[ed] it unreasonably difficult for the member to carry out the employment effectively.” Cal. R. Prof. Conduct 3-700(C)(1)(d).

         The decision to grant or deny a motion to withdraw is within the court's discretion. McNally v. Eye Dog Found. for the Blind, Inc., No. 09-01174, 2011 WL 1087117, at *1 (E.D. Cal. Mar. 24, 2011). District courts within this circuit have considered several factors when evaluating a motion to withdraw, including the reason for withdrawal, prejudice to the client, prejudice to the other litigants, harm to the administration of justice, and possible delay. See e.g., Deal v. Countrywide Home Loans, No. 09-01643, 2010 WL 3702459, at *2 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 15, 2010); CE Res., Inc. v. Magellan Group, LLC, No. 08-02999, 2009 WL 3367489, at *2 (E.D. Cal. Oct. 14, 2009); Beard v. Shuttermart of Cal., Inc., No. 07-594, 2008 WL 410694, at *2 (S.D. Cal. Feb. 13, 2008).

         III. Analysis

         DEG asks the Court to grant its request to withdraw as counsel due to a strained attorney-client relationship and the desires of both parties. (ECF No. 38 at 3.) DEG expresses serious concern over its ability to represent Defendant through trial in this case. (ECF ...


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