Spann v. NC Department of Public Safety et al
ORDER denying without prejudice Pltf's Counsel's 54 MOTION to Withdraw as Attorney; Counsel for Pltf directed to file a Response to 48 MOTION to Dismiss for Lack of Prosecution, MOTION to Compel Discovery by 12/7/2017. Signed by Magistrate Judge Dennis Howell on 12/6/2017. (ejb)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF NORTH CAROLINA
1:17 cv 104
RONALD WAYNE SPANN,
NORTH CAROLINA DEPARTMENT )
OF PUBLIC SAFETY, et al.,
Pending before the Court is Plaintiff’s Counsel—Kristin Harmon Lang’s
Motion to Withdraw as Attorney [# 54]. In support of the motion, Plaintiff's Counsel
states that she has obtained consent from Plaintiff’s mother. The motion does not
reflect Plaintiff has given written consent to the withdrawal of his attorney. The
motion does not show that Plaintiff had any prior knowledge or notice of the
proposed withdrawal. Plaintiff’s Counsel does not state whether she attempted to
contact Defendants’ counsel prior to filing her motion to withdraw.
On November 20, 2017, Defendant Uhren filed a Motion to Dismiss for Lack
of Prosecution and a Motion to Compel Discovery [# 48]. On December 5, 2017,
Plaintiff’s Counsel filed her Motion to Withdraw as Attorney. Plaintiff’s reply to
the motion to dismiss is due December 7, 2017. Plaintiff’s Counsel has yet to reply
to the motion.
LCvR 83.1(F) states as follows:
(F) Withdrawal of Counsel. In support of a motion, counsel seeking
to withdraw shall electronically file written consent of their client to
their withdrawal which shall become effective, however, only upon
court approval. Absent consent of the client, withdrawal may be
obtained by electronically filing a motion to withdraw showing good
cause for the withdrawal. This motion is to include the last known
address of the client. Even in the absence of consent, withdrawal may
still be allowed upon good cause shown.
LCvR 83.1(F) (emphasis added).
Withdrawal of counsel is also governed under the rules as set forth by the
North Carolina Rules of Professional Conduct, specifically Rule 1.16. Plaintiff's
Counsel has not referenced the specific provision of the rule under which her motion
to withdraw is being made. A review of those rules shows the following would be
RULE 1.16: DECLINING OR TERMINATING REPRESENTATION
(b) Except as stated in paragraph (c), a lawyer may withdraw from
representing a client if:
(1) withdrawal can be accomplished without material adverse effect
on the interests of the client; or
(2) the client knowingly and freely assents to the termination of the
(7) the representation will result in an unreasonable financial burden
or the lawyer or has been rendered unreasonably difficult by the
(9) other good cause for withdrawal exists.
(c) A lawyer must comply with applicable law requiring notice to or
permission of a tribunal when terminating a representation. When
ordered to do so by the tribunal, a lawyer shall continue representation
notwithstanding good cause for terminating the representation.
(d) Upon termination of representation, a lawyer shall take steps to the
extent reasonably practicable to protect a client's interests, such as
giving reasonable notice to the client, allowing time for employment of
other counsel, surrendering papers and property to which the client is
entitled and refunding any advance payment of fee or expense that has
not been earned or incurred. The lawyer may retain papers relating to
the client to the extent permitted by other law.
After reviewing the record, it appears that withdrawal cannot be accomplished
without a material adverse effect on the interest of Plaintiff. There is a pending
Motion to Dismiss and Motion to Compel Discovery filed by a defendant. On
December 7, 2017, Plaintiff’s reply is due. Withdrawing two days before a reply to
a motion to dismiss is due would have a material adverse effect on Plaintiff’s
interests. Two days is inadequate time for Plaintiff to secure another attorney, get
that attorney up to speed, and file a reply to a motion to dismiss. The Court notes the
obvious harm not replying to a motion to dismiss creates.
Plaintiff’s Counsel’s Motion to Withdraw does not reflect that Plaintiff
knowingly or freely assented to the termination of the representation. Plaintiff’s
Counsel states that she received consent from Plaintiff’s mother, who she claims has
power of attorney. Indeed, the motion does not reflect that Plaintiff has been actually
consulted at all about the withdrawal of his attorney. Obtaining consent from the
actual party to withdrawal as counsel is a crucial element in both LCvR 83.1(F) and
NC RPC 1.16(b)(2). In fact, LCvR 83.1(F) demands written consent. Otherwise,
counsel must show good cause for the withdrawal. LCvR 83.1(F).
The continued representation by Plaintiff's Counsel could result in an
unreasonable financial burden being placed upon her, however, an attempt to
withdraw two days before a response to a motion to dismiss is due must be weighed
against allowing such withdrawal.
Plaintiff’s Counsel’s Motion to Withdraw is five sentences. It contains no
showing of good cause as to why she should be allowed to withdraw.
The Court is concerned that Plaintiff's Counsel has not taken steps to the
extent reasonably practicable to protect the interest of Plaintiff. The Court cannot
find that any notice has been given to Plaintiff, much less reasonable notice. There
is no written consent from Plaintiff. There has not been any allowance for the time
it will take for plaintiff to employ other counsel, which, as stated, may be extremely
difficult upon such short notice. Plaintiff’s Counsel has not requested an extension
of time to reply.
Based upon the foregoing and weighing all of the factors as set forth under
LCvR 83.1(F) and NC RPC 1.16(b), the Court has determined to deny Plaintiff’s
Counsel’s Motion to Withdraw as Attorney.
Therefore, the Court DENIES Plaintiff’s Counsel’s Motion to Withdraw as
Attorney [# 54] without prejudice. Counsel for Plaintiff is directed to file a response
to the Motion to Dismiss by December 7, 2017. If Plaintiff’s Counsel can show
compliance with LCvR 83.1(F) and RPC 1.16(b)—including notice to and consent
of plaintiff, or an attorney makes an appearance on behalf of plaintiff—then Counsel
is invited to file a new motion to withdraw addressing the concerns of the Court.
Signed: December 6, 2017
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?