Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Retained Counsel Cannot Withdraw Simply Because of Non-Payment

People v Woodring 2008 NY Slip Op 01234 [2/8/08]
Contrary to defendant's contention, the court did not improvidently exercise its discretion in denying trial counsel's motion to withdraw as defendant's attorney. In support of the motion to withdraw, defendant's attorney stated that defendant had not been returning his telephone calls and had refused to accept several plea offers, and he stated that defendant's family had "exhausted" their financial resources and could no longer afford to pay him. Defendant stated in response that he wanted his attorney to continue to represent him and that he "somehow" would find the money to pay him. The failure to return telephone calls does not warrant withdrawal from representation because that failure does not by itself "render[] it unreasonably difficult for the lawyer to carry out employment effectively" (Code of Professional Responsibility DR 2-110 [c] [1] [iv] [22 NYCRR 1200.15 (c) (1) (iv)]), and it is beyond dispute that an attorney is not entitled to withdraw as counsel based on the decision of a defendant to exercise his or her right to trial. Finally, the alleged inability to pay for trial counsel's services does not entitle trial counsel to withdraw as defendant's attorney, particularly in view of the statement of defendant that he would somehow find more money in order to pay his attorney. On the record before us, we conclude that the court properly "balance[d] the need for the expeditious and orderly administration of justice against the legitimate concerns of counsel" (People v Xadi Fen, 192 Misc 2d 788, 790; see generally DR 2-110 [c] [22 NYCRR 1200.15 (c)]).

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