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Brittney Gobble Photography, LLC v. Wenn Ltd.

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Knoxville

November 30, 2017

BRITTNEY GOBBLE PHOTOGRAPHY, LLC, Plaintiff,
v.
WENN LIMITED, and USA ENTERTAINMENT NEWS, INC., d/b/a/ “WENN” and “WORLD ENTERTAINMENT NEWS NETWORK, ” Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          C. CLIFFORD SHIRLEY, JR. UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This case is before the undersigned pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the Rules of this Court, and Standing Order 13-02.

         Now before the Court is a Motion to Withdraw as Counsel [Doc. 60], filed by defense counsel, Attorney Paige Mills. The parties appeared before the Court on November 28, 2017, for a hearing on the Motion. Attorneys C. Dale Quisenberry and Heather Anderson appeared on behalf of Plaintiff. Attorney Paige Mills appeared on behalf of Defendants. Lloyd Beiny, Defendants' representative, appeared telephonically. Accordingly, for the reasons explained further below, the Court finds the Motion [Doc. 60] well-taken, and it is GRANTED.

         I. POSITIONS OF THE PARTIES

         In her Motion, Attorney Mills [Doc. 60] requests that she be permitted to withdraw as counsel of record for the Defendants. The Motion explains that she and her firm have fundamental differences with Defendants about the appropriate and prudent conduct of this litigation that makes their continued representation of Defendants untenable. Further, the Motion states that Defendants have failed to fulfill an obligation to counsel regarding counsel's services and has been given reasonable warning that counsel will seek to withdraw unless such obligation is fulfilled. Defendants' representative, Lloyd Beiny, consented to the Motion via email, which is attached as an exhibit to the Motion.

         Plaintiff objects [Doc. 66] to the Motion, stating that a corporation cannot represent itself in federal court. Plaintiff states that granting the Motion without substitute counsel would substantially delay the action and prejudice it. Plaintiff continues that they are already being prejudiced by defense counsel's “pencils down” approach.

         II. ANALYSIS

         By way of background, the Court originally scheduled a telephone conference for November 15, 2017, over a discovery dispute. A few days before the telephone conference, defense counsel filed the instant Motion. During the November 15 telephone conference, the Court advised the parties of its concerns regarding unrepresented corporations. The Court continued the hearing to November 17, 2017, to discuss Beiny's availability to attend a hearing on the Motion to Withdraw. Subsequently, on November 17, 2017, the Court held another telephonic conference, wherein the Court set a hearing on the Motion to Withdraw for November 28, 2017, so that Beiny could attend the hearing. Later, Beiny reported to the Court that he could not attend the hearing, citing financial reasons, and that he would appear via telephone.

         During the November 28 hearing, the Court addressed the Motion to Withdraw and several discovery disputes between the parties.

         A. Motion to Withdraw

         As mentioned above, the Court conducted a hearing on November 28, 2017, wherein the undersigned reiterated its concerns regarding unrepresented corporations. The Court explained to Beiny that a corporation may only appear in federal court through a licensed counsel and emphasized that Defendants must retain counsel if they wanted to continue to defend this case and prosecute their counterclaims. See In re Classicstar Mare Lease Litigation, No. 5:07-cv-353, 2009 WL 1468594, at *1 (E.D. Ky. May, 13, 2009) (noting that corporations, partnerships, and associations cannot appear in federal court except through a licensed attorney). The Court also warned Beiny of the potential consequences if the Defendants did not obtain new counsel (e.g., default judgment being entered against them and/or their counterclaims being dismissed). Beiny stated that he understood the consequences and that he consented to Attorney Mills withdrawing from the case.

         Pursuant to Local Rule 83.4, in order to withdraw from a case, an attorney must do the following:

(1) File a motion with the Court requesting permission to withdraw as ...

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