United States District Court, District of Columbia
United States of America, ex rel. Andrew Scollick Plaintiff-Relator,
Vijay Narula, et at. Defendants.
HONORABLE ROYCE LAMBERTH UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
October 13, 2017, the attorney for some of the defendants in
this case moved to withdraw. That action and subsequent delay
have resulted in numerous procedural hang-ups that prevent
this case from moving forward. This opinion works through
those issues, including the attorney's motions to
withdraw, various motions for extensions of time, and several
motions for entry of default.
Motions to Withdraw-ECF Nos. 197 and 216
of the defendants in this case-Neil Parakh; Shobha Mehta; and
CB Construction Group, Inc.-have until now been represented
in this litigation by Juan Estevez. On October 13, 2017, Mr.
Estevez notified the Court that he discovered a conflict of
interest and moved to withdraw his appearance in this case.
ECF No. 197 at 1. Under the applicable Rules of Professional
Conduct, this conflict of interest required him to cease
representing the above-named defendants. (See D.C.
R. Prof'l Conduct 1.7; Va. R. Prof'l Conduct 1.7).
the day that Mr. Estevez notified the Court of this conflict
was the very day on which his clients' responsive filings
to the complaint against them were due. And Mr. Estevez did
not notify the Court of any substitute counsel who would
appear on his clients' behalf. Unwilling to leave the
clients in such a position, the Court did not grant the
motion to withdraw at that time.
months later, the various plaintiffs in this case began
moving for default against Mr. Estevez's clients as
alternate representation arrangements still had not been made
and no responsive filings had been filed. At that point, Mr.
Estevez filed another, emergency motion for leave to withdraw
from the case, in which he again insisted that he could not
ethically represent his clients. ECF No. 216.
more months have passed in which Mr. Estevez has not filed
anything on his clients' behalf, despite the Court never
having granted his request for leave to withdraw. But his
clients have indicated that they understand that Mr. Estevez
will no longer represent their interests. They have all
since, acting pro se, filed for additional time in
which to respond to the complaint against them. ECF Nos. 223,
224. In those filings, the defendants also indicated that
they have actively sought new counsel. All this being the
case, then, the Court will grant Mr. Estevez's emergency
motion to withdraw his appearance in this case and deny as
moot his earlier motion to withdraw.
Motions for Extensions of Time to File an Answer-ECF Nos.
217, 223, 224
before the Court are three separate motions by Mr.
Estevez's former clients in which they seek additional
time in which to seek new counsel and file responsive
pleadings. The first of these was filed by Mr. Estevez
himself on the same day on which he filed his emergency
motion to withdraw. ECF No. 217. In that motion, the
defendants sought an additional 60 days in which "to
find independent counsel and file responsive pleadings."
ECF No. 217-1 at 2.
the end of those 60 days, the defendants, acting pro
se, filed the second and third motions for extensions of
time. Mr. Shobha Mehta filed the second motion. ECF No. 223.
In that motion, he informed the Court that he was actively
seeking new counsel. He also told the Court that the
plaintiffs counsel would not communicate with him because he
was still technically represented by Mr. Estevez. And he
requested until May 28, 2018, to respond to the complaint
Neil Parekh, on behalf of himself and on behalf of CB
Construction Group, Inc., filed the third motion. ECF No.
224. This motion is very similar to Mr. Mehta's motion.
It informed the Court that he and CB Construction Group were
actively seeking new counsel: It told the court that the
plaintiffs counsel would not communicate with them as they
were still technically represented by counsel. And it
contained a request that they be given until May 28, 2018, to
respond to the complaint against them.
Court begins with Mr. Mehta's motion. ECF No. 223.
Although one of the plaintiffs has moved for entry of default
against Mr. Mehta, ECF Nos. 210, 213, the Clerk has not
entered default against him. In addition, no new counsel has
entered an appearance on Mr. Mehta's behalf, so it would
seem that his search for counsel has been unsuccessful. Given
his pro se status, then, the Court will deal lightly
with Mr. Mehta and grant his motion for an extension of time
in which to respond to the complaint against him. His
proffered deadline of May 28, 2018, has already passed. But
in consideration of his pro se status, the Court
will set a new deadline for Mr. Mehta. Specifically, the
Court will give Mr. Mehta until the close of business on July
27, 2018, to file, either pro se or through counsel,
any response he may have to the complaint against him.
Court now addresses Mr. Parekh's motion. ECF No. 224. The
Court will grant his motion as to Mr. Parekh for the same
reasons the Court gave for granting Mr. Mehta's motion.
As such, Mr. Parekh will have until the close of business on
July 27, 2018, to file, either pro se or through
counsel, any response he may have to the complaint against
him. But the Court will deny the motion as to CB Construction
Group, Inc. CB Construction Group, Inc., is a corporation.
Corporations are not allowed to represent themselves pro
se. They must be represented by counsel. See Lennon
v. McClory, 3 F.Supp.2d 1461, 1462 n.l (D.D.C. 1998)
("A corporation cannot represent itself and cannot
appear pro se. It must be represented by counsel or
it will be treated as not having appeared at all, and default
judgment may be entered against it."). That being the
case, CB Construction Group, Inc., could not move for an
extension of time either on its own or through Mr. Mehta, who
is not an attorney. Therefore, CB Construction Group, Inc.,
will not be granted additional time in which to respond to
the complaint against it.
Court now addresses these defendants' original motion for
an extension of time in which to file a response to the
complaint against them. ECF No. 217. The Court will deny this
motion as moot. It is moot as to Mr. Mehta because his later
motion for an additional extension of time will be granted.
It is moot as to Mr. Parekh because his later motion for an
additional extension of time will be granted. And it is moot
as to CB Construction ...