United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Division
H. Miller United States District Judge
Teddrick Batiste, an inmate on Texas death row, has requested
that this Court replace his current habeas attorney, Kenneth
W. McGuire. This is the second time Batiste has sought to
dismiss Mr. McGuire. The Court finds that Batiste has not
shown that a substitution of counsel is necessary at this
21, 2015, this Court appointed Mr. McGuire to represent
Batiste on federal habeas review from his Texas capital
conviction and death sentence. Dkt. 3. Batiste filed a Motion
to Fire Appointed Attorney on January 19, 2016. Dkt. 4.
Batiste, however, subsequently filed a pleading indicating
that Mr. McGuire met with him and he felt reassured about his
efforts and investigation. Dkt. 7. This Court denied the
initial motion to replace Mr. McGuire. Dkt 8.
April 28, 2016, Mr. McGuire filed a lengthy federal petition
for a writ of habeas corpus raising numerous grounds for
relief. Dkt. 9. Respondent Lorie Davis has moved for summary
judgment. Dkt. 22. Batiste's response is due on April 3,
filed a second motion to remove Mr. McGuire on January 30,
2017. Batiste complains that a lack of communication has
caused him to lose confidence in Mr. McGuire. Batiste also
complains that Mr. McGuire did not investigate certain
issues. Batiste says that Mr. McGuire's “refusal to
communicate” makes him “unwilling to accept the
advice of Mr. McGuire in any further proceedings.” Dkt.
23 at 4. Batiste requests that the Court instead appoint
attorney Gregory W. Gardner to represent him in this action.
Dkt. 24. Mr. Gardner has subsequently filed a motion to
substitute counsel. Dkt. 27. Mr. Gardner anticipates asking
for additional time to review this case and assess whether it
would be necessary to amend the habeas petition. Dkt. 27 at
10. In a sealed pleading, Mr. McGuire disputes Batiste's
allegations but does not oppose substitution. Dkt. 26.
Respondent opposes the substitution of counsel. Dkt. 28.
law entitles indigent capital petitioners to the appointment
of counsel, but an inmate has no right to the service of an
appointed attorney of his choice. See United States v.
Gonzalez-Lopez, 548 U.S. 140, 151 (2006); see also
Wheat v. United States, 486 U.S. 153, 159 (1988)
(stating that it was not “the essential aim of the
[Sixth] Amendment . . . to ensure that a defendant will
inexorably be represented by the lawyer whom he
prefers”). A court may only substitute counsel for
capital inmates when in the “interests of
justice.” Martel v. Clair, 565 U.S. 648,
659-60 (2012). This “context-specific inquiry”
involves “several relevant considerations, ”
including: “the timeliness of the motion; the adequacy
of the district court's inquiry into the defendant's
complaint; and the asserted cause for that complaint,
including the extent of the conflict or breakdown in
communication between lawyer and client (and the client's
own responsibility, if any, for that conflict).”
Id. The Supreme Court has emphasized that a
“conflict of interest” is also an important
consideration in this inquiry. Christeson v. Roper,
135 S.Ct. 891, 894 (2015).
has expressed his concerns about the lawyer/client
relationship and this Court has requested information from
Mr. McGuire. The information before the Court does not
suggest that problems in communication have created an
irreconcilable conflict of interest between Mr. McGuire and
Batiste. Instead, the heart of Batiste's motion revolves
around lawyer/client communications. Mr. McGuire has
submitted a sealed pleading disputing the factual premise of
Batiste's motion. Mr. McGuire does not concur in
Batiste's allegation that a complete breakdown in
communication has occurred. See United States v.
Jones, 795 F.3d 791, 797 (8th Cir. 2015) (rejecting,
under a different standard, the substitution of counsel when
an attorney contradicts an inmate's description of
communication). Mr. McGuire has not abandoned his client.
See Battaglia v. Stephens, 824 F.3d 470, 474 (5th
Cir. 2016). The pleadings do not demonstrate a conflict of
interest in which “an attorney's personal interests
prevent her from advancing her client's best
arguments” Clark v. Davis, No. 14-70034, 2017
WL 955257, at *6 (5th Cir. Mar. 10, 2017).
McGuire has been on this case for nearly two years. Batiste
did not file his recent motion for the substitution of
counsel until many months after Mr. McGuire ended his
investigation and filed a comprehensive federal petition.
Only now, in the final stages of district court review, has
Batiste sought the replacement of counsel. Given the late
stage of district court review, Batiste has not shown that
the denial of his substitution request would prevent him from
receiving competent, zealous legal assistance. See
Rosales v. Quarterman, 565 F.3d 308, 312 (5th Cir. 2009)
(holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion
“where the already-appointed counsel has never
withdrawn from the case and is well familiar with the facts
on which the petitioner claims his clemency petition should
be based”). Substituting counsel would only add
significant delay and, given the procedural posture of the
case, a new attorney likely could not litigate new habeas
claims. See Mayle v. Felix, 545 U.S. 644, 657 (2005)
(allowing new issues in an amended petition only if they
“ar[o]se from the same core facts as the timely filed
claims.”). At this stage of the proceedings, and in
light of Mr. McGuire's competent representation, Batiste
has not shown that the interests of justice require that a
new attorney represent him. See Clair, 565 U.S. at
666 (denying substitution when obstacles would
impede new counsel for carrying out representation as desired
by the petitioner). As Batiste has not shown an
irreconcilable conflict, this Court will
deny the pending motions requesting the
substitution of counsel. (Dkts. 23, 24, 27).
federal law, a capital inmate “shall be entitled to the
appointment of one or more attorneys.” 18 U.S.C. §
3599(a)(2). Mr. McGuire is the only attorney representing
Batiste. If Mr. McGuire perceives that the appointment of
second-chair counsel would increase communication and trust,
he may submit the name of an additional attorney to aid in
litigating Batiste's federal habeas petition.
unopposed motion for extension of time to respond to the
pending summary judgment motion (Dkt. 30) is GRANTED.
Defendant's response is due on or before July 3, 2017.