United States District Court, S.D. California
ORDER DISQUALIFYING PLAINTIFF'S COUNSEL MATTHEW
RIFAT [ECF NO. 15]
MITCHELL D. DEMBIN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
December 5, 2019, the Court issued an Order to Show Cause
requiring counsel for Plaintiff, Matthew Rifat, Esq., to
notify the Clerk regarding certain felony charges pending
against him in the California Superior Court in Riverside
County and to demonstrate why he should be allowed to
continue to represent Plaintiff in this case, as required by
Civil Local Rule 83.5. (ECF No. 13). On December 6, 2019, Mr.
Rifat notified the Clerk of the charges. (ECF No. 14). On
December 11, 2019, Mr. Rifat moved the Court to allow him to
continue to represent Plaintiff. For the reasons provided
below, Mr. Rifat's motion is DENIED.
Local Rule 83.5(b) states, in part:
1. Any attorney charged with or convicted of a felony must
report the charge or conviction within fourteen (14) days to
the Clerk of Court. …
3. A non-court appointed attorney charged with a felony must
show cause why he or she should not be removed from any
pending civil or criminal case due to a conflict of interest.
It will be the attorney's burden to demonstrate to each
judge assigned a case on which the charged attorney wishes to
appear that there is no conflict and the attorney can
appropriately discharge his or her duties to the client.
Motion to remain as counsel for Plaintiff, Mr. Rifat asserts
that his client is aware of the charges against him and
wishes that he remain as counsel. (ECF No. 15-2, ¶¶
15-17). Mr. Rifat states that the charges against him have no
connection to his representation of Plaintiff.
(Id.). Mr. Rifat is vigorously defending himself
against these very serious charges and correctly points out
that he is entitled to the presumption of innocence. (ECF No.
15-2, ¶ 13). Nonetheless, being subject to significant
criminal charges must be stressful and distracting.
is all there was to this, the Court likely would accede to
the wishes of Plaintiff and allow Mr. Rifat to continue as
its attorney. But, there is more to the story.
Rifat acknowledges that he is a prospective witness in this
case. (ECF Nos. 10 at 3; 15-2, ¶ 15). Although starting
out as a contract dispute/collections case, Defendant's
Amended Counterclaims allege misrepresentations by Plaintiff
inducing Defendant to enter into the subject contract. Of
concern here, Defendant specifically asserts that
representations were made by Mr. Rifat, which representations
are alleged to have been false. (ECF No. 8, ¶¶ 22,
Rule of Professional Conduct 3.7(a) provides:
lawyer shall not act as an advocate in a trial in the which
the lawyer is likely to be a witness unless:
1. the lawyer's testimony relates to an uncontested
2. the lawyer's testimony relates to the nature and value
of legal services ...