An acquaintance is the executor of their father’s estate. Father explicitly and with the aid of an attorney wrote the colleague’s sibling out of the will, charging elder abuse, with police reports etc. to confirm. The sibling has been suing the estate, though nothing has gone to court yet; it’s been letters to the colleague’s attorney, threatening court action, filing court action, (which has been delayed for 3 years) requesting mediation, offering to settle, in that order. Now the colleague has received notice that the sibling’s lawyer has filed with the court to remove himself from the case and client. Is this common? Other thoughts, experiences, observations? Potential outcomes? Perspiring minds want to know!
It likely means that the sibling’s lawyer feels he can no longer represent his client and remain within the bounds of his professional duties and ethics, either due to the client’s demands or information the client has shared with him. It is uncommon, courts generally do not look favorably on a lawyer attempting to leave his client mid-litigation.
It’s impossible to say with any certainty but I doubt it’s a good sign for sibling’s chances of getting any money from the estate.
My understanding is it is uncommon and frowned upon for lawyers to drop clients in criminal cases, did not know that was true of civil cases as well. Does this indicate it may be something rather different from the lawyer saying to the client, “look, your case is terrible, I advise dropping it. If you don’t agree, then I’m out”?
I have no actual knowledge and therefore no educated opinion, but I’ve got to believe that it is a very bad sign indeed when your own lawyer dumps you.
It often means that a very important witness to the case, Mr. Franklin, has not been made available to the lawyer.
My bet is that the lawyer decided there was insufficient potential profit in it for him to make it worth their while.
Not sure why a lawyer ought not be able to call it quits - provided that does not unduly disadvantage the client. Maybe the lawyer realized the case was weaker than they had thought. Or maybe the client is a pain to work with, or isn’t paying their bills. If the sibling has a legitimate claim, there certainly is no shortage of hungry lawyers.
There are certain situations where a lawyer is ethically required to withdraw from representation (inevitably involving the client being shady), and many more where the attorney is allowed to withdraw for good cause so long as the client is not harmed (which could have nothing to do with the client; could be the lawyer just suffered a heart attack or something.)
I heard it happening one time in a civil case. The plaintiffs were working with an attorney whose firm merged with another. The plaintiffs had to sign a new letter of intent(?) after the merge. For some reason, the attorney and the plaintiffs couldn’t agree on how to go forward and the attorney dropped them as clients. They were not easy people to work with and were making unreasonable claims, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the attorney was just looking for a reason to drop them. I don’t know the whole story. I was friends with the defendants and heard this from them.
I’ve definitely heard of lawyers firing clients in messy divorce cases, often because of a parent wanting to accuse the spouse of child abuse that they KNOW did not happen.
Not uncommon, sadly. I had a few dependency cases with family law crossover issues, and they were the worst. (And I have a pretty high threshold for “worst.”) You couldn’t pay me enough to do divorce and child custody proceedings.
What are the consequences of a lawyer ditching his client if the case is criminal, not civil?
In any type of case, once the attorney of record has appeared in court, the court has to allow the attorney to withdraw. This will typically be rubber-stamped if another attorney is ready to step in and proceed without the need for further continuances and the client consents, but technically the judge still has to approve it. (It can get contentious when a criminal defendant wants to represent himself but is obviously an idiot, or wants to hire an attorney with no experience in criminal law.) If the attorney is allowed to withdraw, there are no consequences. If the attorney abandons the client without permission, they can face discipline by the state bar. That discipline may be harsher if the client is incarcerated, detained by immigration, or otherwise vulnerable, and the actual harm to the client will be considered (someone who got the death penalty vs someone who lost their $15k civil suit), but there isn’t an automatic across-the-board enhancement for criminal cases, as far as I know.
Now, is it harder for criminal defense attorneys to get off the case? Theoretically, perhaps, but in practice, maybe not. I’m not as familiar with ordinary civil proceedings, but I have quite a few friends at various public defenders’ offices who have had to withdraw because their client insisted on perjuring themselves, and they have a nudge-wink script for the judge that gets them off the case without actually disclosing the particular kind of shadiness their client got up to. The jury never has to know, and the record won’t be clear enough for the appellate court to draw inferences against the defendant. Plus with a public defender, they can usually get someone else in there right away.
Too late to edit, but I phrased this badly. I should have written,
“In any type of case, once the attorney of record has appeared in court, the attorney needs the court’s permission in order to withdraw.”
I see, thanks. Interesting. Generally speaking, as long as a defendant pays all of his/her bills and behaves himself/herself, the attorney will not drop him/her as a client, right? Unless some other, much more lucrative opportunity suddenly appears? (i.e., an OJ Simpson sort of person shows up and says “I’ll pay you millions of dollars to handle my case and drop all others”)
Yeah. The check bounced. Legit in Civil cases.
Generally, i.e. most of the time, yes, but I can think of lots of other reasons. A private attorney I knew in dependency court had to withdraw from all his cases for health reasons; he died not long after. I had to conflict off two cases once when the mom I represented on one case had a baby with the dad I represented on another (he was beating her up and they were both doing meth and denying it, claiming the stash the cops found belonged to the other. Obv I couldn’t rep them both.) If an attorney is suspended or disbarred, he still has to file a motion to be relieved; he’s not just automatically off the case. (I forgot about this earlier when I said mandatory withdrawal necessarily involves shadiness by the client; this is another situation where the attorney must withdraw, which might have nothing to do with the client or the merits of the case.) There’s also sort of a gray area when it comes to your caveat about the client behaving himself. If the client and the attorney are deeply at odds over the appropriate strategy, or there’s just a serious personality conflict, that can constitute good cause to withdraw. And reasonable people might disagree, or consider on a case-by-case basis, which one of them was misbehaving, or both, or neither.
The lawyer probably has a client who is a liar and the case would require the client to testify if it goes to court. No respectable lawyer will put a witness on the stand who is going to commit perjury and given the background of the case, I suspect the client is just a money tree shaking lowlife.
This is not the case in Canada, where the OP is presumably posting about.