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United States v. Head

United States District Court, E.D. California

September 4, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
CHARLES HEAD, Defendant. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
CHARLES HEAD, Defendant.

          ORDER

         Defendant Charles Head is a prisoner proceeding pro se with counsel appointed for a limited purpose in two related cases: Case No. 2:08-cr-0093 and Case No. 2:08-cr-00116. Specifically, the court appointed counsel, Daniel Lars Olsen, for the limited purpose of assisting Head in obtaining files from his former trial counsel in compliance with the procedures applicable in Head's Bureau of Prisons facility and redacted to protect personal identifying information contained in the discovery. See Notice of CJA Appointment, ECF No. 1623 (ECF No. 885)[1]; Def.'s Response to Court's Request, ECF No. 1632; Mot. for Reconsideration and Clarification, ECF No. 1631. Head has now filed an Ex Parte Motion For Substitution of Counsel, in which he expresses that Olsen has not been communicating with him, and asks the court to substitute Olsen for an attorney familiar with habeas law. ECF No. 1639 (and ECF 890).[2] Head's filings also raise related issues that warrant addressing, all of which the court resolves below.

         I. HEAD'S REQUEST FOR SUBSTITUTION OF COUNSEL

         In response to this filing, the court directed Head's counsel to respond to the merits of the motion, which he has in a document the court has filed under seal. See ECF No. 1649 (and 898). Olsen explained that Head is correct, Olsen is not a habeas attorney, and he was appointed only for the limited purpose described above. Nevertheless, Olsen argues that it is in Head's best interest to keep Olsen as his attorney until the task for which he was appointed is completed. Olsen is correct that he was not appointed to represent Head as his habeas attorney, so his lack of expertise in the area is not a reason to replace him. Olsen will be retained as Head's limited purpose discovery attorney until the completion of the discovery task for which he was appointed. Head would be prejudiced if Olsen were replaced at this time. For these reasons, and with the foregoing clarifications, the court DENIES Head's request to substitute counsel. ECF No. 1639 (and 890). This denial also resolves Head's duplicative Motion to Withdraw Counsel, ECF No. 1636 (and ECF No. 889).

         II. OTHER ISSUES RAISED

         Olsen and Head raise several other issues in their filings on the motion for substitution, which the court addresses below.

         A. Communication with Counsel

         In his response, Olsen explains he has had difficulty communicating with Head due to Head's incarceration. He does not explain whether this lack of communication has been rectified. Accordingly, the court DIRECTS Olsen to provide the court with an update on whether he has been able to establish effective lines of communication with his client in the next 21 days.

         B. Minute Order, ECF No. 1630

         Olsen also points the court to the Minute Order at ECF No. 1630, which reads:

The court is in receipt of an ex parte discovery motion and request to seal that are not filed on the public docket. In light of the court's appointment of counsel for Mr. Head for the purpose of discovery, the court will not consider discovery motions filed pro se. Accordingly, the court DISREGARDS the aforementioned motion and request to seal.

         Because Olsen was retained for one, discrete discovery task, Olsen argues the court erred in disregarding Head's other discovery motions, as he is representing himself in this case. The court agrees.

         Head's sealed Ex Parte Motion for Substitution of Counsel, ECF No. 1639 (and ECF No. 890), and his Motion to Withdraw Counsel, ECF No. 1636 (and ECF No. 889), both argued that Head's pro se discovery motions should be considered, in light of Olsen's appointment for only a limited purpose. The court will not disregard Head's pro se discovery motions that are unrelated to Olsen's discovery task.

         Accordingly, ECF No. 1630, which has no corresponding filing in Case No. 2:08-cr-00116, is hereby VACATED and the court DIRECTS the Clerk to file only the request to seal referenced therein on the docket. The request and the substantive motion will be considered in due course.

         C. Olsen's Response to Minute Order ECF No. ...


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