Why Would an Attorney Withdraw from a Case?

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A high profile example of why an attorney would withdraw from a case can be seen in the court proceedings involving Arizona’s most notorious Sheriff.

In 2014, the court proceedings involving former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio were all over the media. The events came to a head when Arpaio’s lawyer asked to withdraw from the case. The attorney representing Arpaio in his contempt trial, Tim Casey, submitted a motion to Judge Murray Snow asking for approval to withdraw from the case. Casey stated that he was “ethically required” to do so.

Karen Clark, legal counsel for Casey, said that the withdraw request came in response to a testimony given by the Sheriff. In the testimony, Arpaio reportedly disclosed that Casey had hired a private investigator to confirm statements allegedly made by Judge Snow’s wife, who was accused of saying that her husband “wanted to do everything to make sure [Arpaio] is not elected.”

To further complicate the matter, Arpaio’s Chief Deputy, Jerry Sheridan, apparently made a separate testimony in which he stated that there was no private investigation into Judge Snow or any members of his family.

When it became known that Casey had acted outside the rules of professional conduct, he felt obligated to file a motion to withdraw, but there are other reasons an attorney may withdraw as well.

Can an Attorney Fire or Drop a Client?

As a client, you have the luxury of firing your attorney at any time for any reason under the sun. Attorneys, however, are not offered the same privilege. If an attorney wants to withdraw from a case, they must have a valid reason to do so.

There are some circumstances in which an attorney is ethically required to withdraw from a case and other situations when an attorney may apply to do so with a valid reason.

When is an attorney ethically required to withdraw from a case?

A lawyer may be legally required to withdraw from a case if the following applies:

  • The attorney is violating a law or the rules of professional conduct.
  • The attorney has been suspended from practicing law by a disciplinary committee.
  • The client wishes to terminate their relationship with the attorney.
  • The attorney is physically or mentally incapable of representing their client.
  • The attorney or their firm is representing an adversary party in the case. This is also known as a conflict of interest.

When may an attorney submit a motion to withdraw from a case?

An attorney may submit a motion to withdraw from a case if they have a valid reason to do so. Commonly accepted reasons include:

  • Failure to pay attorneys’ fees. Regardless of whether a client signed a contract with their attorney prior to representation, the client has the obligation to pay their attorney for any services performed.
  • Conflicting case strategies. When a client and their attorney cannot reach an agreement regarding case strategy, it is often in the client’s best interest for the attorney to withdraw.
  • Criminal, unethical, or fraudulent activity by the client. An attorney cannot help you commit activities which may be deemed criminal, unethical, or fraudulent.
  • Client’s failure to fulfill obligations. A successful attorney-client relationship involves a good deal of communication on behalf of both parties. If the client is failing to provide their attorney with requested information or documents, the attorney may seek to withdraw from the case.
  • Client consent. If the attorney receives permission from their client to withdraw from the case, they may do so.
  • Personality conflicts. When attorneys and clients are unable to get along amicably, the likeliness of a successful case outcome diminishes dramatically, and it is often in the best interests of both parties for the attorney to withdraw from the case.

Please keep in mind: it is extremely rare for an attorney to submit a motion to withdraw from a case.

Work with the Right Criminal Defense Attorney

If you have been charged with a crime in Mesa, Tempe, Phoenix, Chandler, or another Arizona city, the criminal lawyers at JacksonWhite will work with you to devise the best defense for your case. Call us today at (480) 467-4370 to schedule a free and private consultation with our dedicated JacksonWhite criminal defense team.

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