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Sabre International Security v. Torres Advanced Enterprise Solutions, LLC

United States District Court, District of Columbia

November 29, 2016

SABRE INTERNATIONAL SECURITY, Plaintiff & Counter-Defendant,
v.
TORRES ADVANCED ENTERPRISE SOLUTIONS, LLC, et al., Defendants & Counter-Claimants. Re Document Nos. 517, 522

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          RUDOLPH CONTRERAS United States District Judge

         Granting Motion to Withdraw as Plaintiff's Counsel of Record Without Substitution; Granting Plaintiff's Counsel's Motion to Submit Confidential Declaration

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This case was filed by Plaintiff, Sabre International Security (“Sabre”), a private Iraqi security company, against Defendants, Torres Advanced Enterprise Solutions, LLC-a Virginia limited liability company-Jerry Torres, and Rebekah Dyer (collectively “Torres”). See Compl., ECF No. 1. Timothy B. Mills, of the law firm Maggs & McDermott LLC, and Michael A. Gordon, of the law firm Michael A. Gordon PLLC, (collectively “Moving Attorneys”) represent Sabre in this case.

         Before the Court is Moving Attorneys' motion to withdraw as counsel for Sabre and Torres's opposition to that motion. See Mot. Withdraw as Pl.'s Counsel Without Substitution (“Mot. Withdraw”), ECF No. 517; Defs.' Opp'n Pl.'s Counsel's Mot. to Withdraw (“Opp'n Mot. Withdraw”), ECF No. 518. In support of their motion to withdraw, Moving Attorneys also filed a motion requesting leave to file the confidential declaration of Timothy B. Mills under seal for ex parte, in camera review. See Pl.'s Counsel's Mot. Submit Confidential Decl. for Ex Parte In Camera Review (“Mot. Leave File Under Seal”), ECF No. 522. Moving Attorneys have attached a redacted version of Mr. Mills's declaration to their reply in support of the motion to withdraw. See Pl.'s Counsel's Reply Supp. Mot. Withdraw, Ex. 1, ECF No. 521-1. Although Sabre has not provided written consent for its attorneys to withdraw, it has not joined in Torres's opposition or otherwise objected to the motion to withdraw. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant Moving Attorneys' motion for leave to file the declaration of Mr. Mills under seal for in camera review and grant their motion to withdraw without substitution.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         “As a fundamental premise, counsel is under an obligation to see the work through to completion when he agrees to undertake the representation of his client.” Laster v. District of Columbia, 460 F.Supp.2d 111, 113 (D.D.C. 2006) (citing Streetman v. Lynaugh, 674 F.Supp. 229, 234 (E.D. Tex. 1987); see also Byrd v. District of Columbia, 271 F.Supp.2d 174, 176 (D.D.C. 2003). The withdrawal of an attorney from a civil action in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia is governed by Local Civil Rule 83.6. When, as here, attorneys wish to withdraw from representing a party but the client has not consented and has no other attorney representing him in the matter, a formal motion must be filed and granted by the court. See Banneker Venters, LLC v. Graham, No. 13-391, 2016 WL 1304834, at *2 (D.D.C. Mar. 31, 2016). The Local Rule states that,

if a party's written consent is not obtained, or if the party is not represented by another attorney, an attorney may withdraw an appearance for a party only by order of the Court upon motion by the attorney served upon all parties to the case. Unless the party is represented by another attorney or the motion is made in open court in the party's presence, a motion to withdraw an appearance shall be accompanied by a certificate of service listing the party's last known address and stating that the attorney has served upon the party a copy of the motion and a notice advising the party to obtain other counsel, or, if the party intends to conduct the case pro se or to object to the withdrawal, to so notify the Clerk in writing within seven days of service of the motion.

LCvR 83.6(c).

         “The decision to grant or deny counsel's motion to withdraw is committed to the discretion of the district court.” Laster, 460 F.Supp.2d at 113 (citing Whiting v. Lacara, 187 F.3d 317, 320 (2d Cir. 1999)). “The Court may deny an attorney's motion for leave to withdraw if the withdrawal would unduly delay trial of the case, or be unfairly prejudicial to any party, or otherwise not be in the interests of justice.” LCvR 83.6(d). A court may also consider factors such as the length of time the case has been pending, the time it would take for the party to find and secure new counsel, and the degree of financial burden counsel would undergo if he continued to represent the party in the case. See Barton v. District of Columbia, 209 F.R.D. 274, 277-78 (D.D.C. 2002); Byrd, 271 F.Supp.2d at 176.

         Documents supporting motions to withdraw as counsel are routinely filed under seal where necessary to preserve the confidentiality of the attorney-client relationship between a party and its counsel. See Team Obsolete Ltd. v. AHRMA Ltd., 464 F.Supp.2d 164, 165-66 (E.D.N.Y. 2006) (concluding after a review of relevant case law that “this method is viewed favorably by the courts”); Weinberger v. Provident Life & Cas. Ins. Co., No. 97-9262, 1998 WL 898309, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 23, 1998) (“[I]t is appropriate for a Court considering a counsel's motion to withdraw to consider in camera submissions in order to prevent a party from being prejudiced by the application of counsel to withdraw.”).

         III. ANALYSIS

         Moving Attorneys argue that their withdrawal as counsel for Sabre will not unduly delay trial or unfairly prejudice any party, because there is minimal non-stayed pre-trial activity, no trial date has been set, and the requested 45-day continuance of any pending proceedings will ensure Sabre has ample time to retain successor counsel. See Mot. Withdraw at 5-6. Moving Attorneys also claim there have been both a breakdown in communications and that Moving Attorneys have irreconcilable differences with Sabre, which would place a financial burden on them should they continue the representation. Id. at 6. Moving Attorneys assert they have fulfilled their ethical obligations to this Court and to their client, and that withdrawal can be accomplished without material adverse effect on Sabre's interests. Id. at 6-7.

         Torres contends that the reasons proffered in Moving Attorneys' motion-particularly, the breakdown of communication and irreconcilable differences-are vague and insufficient to support allowing Moving Attorneys to withdraw after five years of litigation. See Opp'n Mot. Withdraw at 3. Torres claims that even if withdrawal was justified, the Court should refuse to permit withdrawal without substitution or refuse to grant a continuance of the proceedings. Id. at 2. Torres argues that withdrawal, combined with the requested 45-day continuance and any additional time required for the new counsel to get up to speed, would unduly delay the case at a critical juncture. Id. at 5-7. Torres also notes that, as a corporation, Sabre cannot represent itself pro se. Id. at 10-11. Thus, Torres asserts that, if Sabre's counsel is permitted to withdraw, the case should be dismissed and a default judgment should be entered on Torres's counterclaims. Id. ...


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