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Claude L. v. Saul

United States District Court, S.D. California

January 13, 2020

CLAUDE L., Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW M. SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          ORDER GRANTING MOTION OF DENISE BOURGEOIS HALEY TO WITHDRAW AS COUNSEL [ECF No. 16]

          HON. MITCHELL D. DEMBIN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff's attorney of record, Denise Bourgeois Haley of the Law Offices of Lawrence D. Rohlfing (“Rohlfing”), moves to withdraw as attorney of record for Plaintiff Claude L. (ECF No. 16). No party has opposed the motion. (See Docket). For the reasons stated herein, the Court GRANTS Rohlfing's motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On May 28, 2019, Plaintiff Claude L. (“Plaintiff”) filed this action against Andrew M. Saul, Commissioner of Social Security, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), requesting judicial review of the Commissioner's decision denying his claims for disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act. (ECF No. 1). Plaintiff simultaneously filed a motion to proceed in forma pauperis (“IFP”) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. (ECF No. 2). On July 15, 2019, the Court granted Plaintiff leave to proceed IFP. (ECF No. 8).

         The Commissioner filed the Administrative Record on September 30, 2019. (ECF No. 13). On November 1, 2019, Plaintiff filed a motion for an extension of time to file a merits brief. (ECF No. 14). The Court granted the motion, giving Plaintiff until December 6, 2019 to file a merits brief. (ECF No. 15). Plaintiff did not file a merits brief. (See Docket). Thereafter, Rohlfing filed the instant motion to withdraw as Plaintiff's counsel of record. (ECF No. 16). In the accompanying declaration, Denise Bourgeois Haley states that representation of Plaintiff has become unreasonably difficult. (Id. at 5). In particular, Ms. Haley states that she has been unable to obtain guidance and approval from Plaintiff on the “specific direction for the case.” (Id.). Ms. Haley wrote, emailed, and called Plaintiff on December 2, 2019 and December 6, 2019. (Id.). Ms. Haley did not receive a response from Plaintiff. (Id.).

         II. DISCUSSION

         “An attorney may not withdraw as counsel except by leave of court.” Darby v. City of Torrance, 810 F.Supp. 275, 276 (C.D. Cal. 1992); see also S.D. Cal. Civ. L.R. 83.3(f)(3). The decision to grant or deny a motion for withdrawal is within the court's sound discretion, and courts consider the following factors: “(1) the reasons why withdrawal is sought; (2) the prejudice withdrawal may cause to other litigants; (3) the harm withdrawal might cause to the administration of justice; and (4) the degree to which withdrawal will delay the resolution of the case.” Garrett v. Ruiz, No. 11cv2540-IEG (WVG), 2013 WL 163420, at * 2 (S.D. Cal. Jan. 14, 2013).

         Here, the Court finds that good cause for withdrawal exists. Pursuant to the California Rules of Professional Conduct, an attorney may seek to withdraw from representation if the client “renders it unreasonably difficult for the member to carry out the employment effectively.” Cal. Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 3-700(C)(1)(d). “Refusal to participate in the litigation is undoubtedly one such example.” Leatt Corp. v. Innovative Safety Tech., LLC, No. 09cv1301-IEG (POR), 2010 WL 444708, at *2 (S.D. Cal. Feb. 2, 2010). In her accompanying declaration, Ms. Haley states that Plaintiff would not provide guidance and approval on the “specific direction of the case” and that she has been unable to communicate with Plaintiff at all. (ECF No. 16 at 5). The Court finds that this constitutes good cause for withdrawal. Further, the Commissioner does not oppose the motion, and it appears that neither party will suffer prejudice as a result of Rohlfing's withdrawal given that Plaintiff may obtain another attorney or proceed pro se in this matter. Accordingly, the Court GRANTS Rohlfing's motion to withdraw as counsel of record for Plaintiff.

         The Court cautions Plaintiff that if he does not obtain a new attorney, he must proceed pro se and file a merits brief on his own behalf. Additionally, failure to comply with this Order and file a merits brief may result in dismissal of this case. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 16(f)(1)(C) (stating that “the court may issue any just orders” if a party “fails to obey a . . . pretrial order”); see also S.D. Cal. Civ. L.R. 83.1(a) (permitting the Court to impose sanctions, including dismissal of an action, for failure to comply with any order of the court); S.D. Cal. Civ. L.R. 41.1 (permitting the Court to dismiss a case for failure to comply with the provisions of the local rules of this Court).

         III. CONCLUSION

         For the reasons set forth above, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff's counsel's motion to withdraw as counsel of record for Plaintiff Claude L. The Clerk of Court is instructed to terminate Denise Bourgeois Haley of the Law Offices of Lawrence D. Rohlfing as attorney of record for Plaintiff Claude L. The Clerk of Court is further instructed to amend the Docket to reflect that Plaintiff Claude L. is proceeding pro se with the following address:

Claude Randall Little
1158 Mayberry ...

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