United States District Court, E.D. Texas, Sherman Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
L. MAZZANT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
before the Court is Varant Yegparian, Mark Hammervold, and
Hammervold PLC's Motion for Withdrawal, Substitution of
Counsel, and Designation of Lead Counsel (Dkt. #196). Having
considered the pleadings and the argument of counsel, the
Court finds the motion should be denied.
in this case allege that Defendants Brian Manookian
(“Manookian”), Brian Cummings
(“Cummings”), their law firm Cummings Manookian,
Mark Hammervold (“Hammervold”), and his law firm
Hammervold PLC engaged in a scheme to defame and defraud
Plaintiffs. Manookian, Cummings, and Hammervold are all
attorneys (collectively, the “Attorney
Defendants”). On January 4, 2017, the Court granted
Plaintiff's unopposed motion to clarify that the
“Attorneys' Eyes Only” designation under the
Court's protective order “specifically excludes any
attorneys (including their associates, paralegals, legal
assistants, secretarial and clerical employees) who are
parties to the case, including but not limited to Brian
Manookian, Brian Cummings, Cummings Manookian, PLC, Mark
Hammervold, and Hammervold PLC.” (Dkt. #153).
April 25, 2017, Hammervold became admitted to practice in the
Eastern District of Texas. Hammervold is the sole member of
Hammervold PLC. Varant Yegparian (“Yegparian”)
represents Hammervold and Hammervold PLC in this matter. On
April 25, 2017, Hammervold appeared in this matter as
associate counsel for himself and Hammervold PLC (Dkt. #179).
On May 2, 2017, Manookian and Cummings filed an application
to appear pro hac vice in this matter. On May 9, 2017,
Defendants filed an Emergency Motion to Modify Protective
Order (Dkt. #188). The motion requested that the Court remove
the protective order's “Attorneys' Eyes
Only” designation because the Attorney Defendants
appeared as counsel in the case and were entitled to fully
participate in their own defense. On May 11, 2017, Plaintiffs
filed a response objecting to the modification of the
protective order and the Attorney Defendants' appearance
in the case (Dkt. #189). Plaintiffs cited U.S. v.
Long, 597 F.3d 720, 724 (5th Cir. 2010) to assert that
the Attorney Defendants could not engage in hybrid
representation and represent themselves while represented by
12, 2017, Yegparian filed the pending motion for withdrawal.
According to the motion, good cause exists for withdrawal
because “Hammervold has instructed Counsel that there
are not sufficient resources to pay Counsel's fee through
trial.” (Dkt. #196 at p. 3). The motion states
Hammervold has a right to act as counsel on behalf of himself
under 28 U.S.C. § 1654 (Dkt. #196 at p. 5). The motion
further states that Hammervold, as a licensed attorney
admitted to practice in the Eastern District of Texas, may
appear for and represent Hammervold PLC (Dkt. #196 at p. 5).
17, 2017, Plaintiffs filed a response to the motion (Dkt.
#205). Plaintiffs argue that the motion for withdrawal
“appears to be a tactical move to moot applicability of
the law concerning hybrid representation . . . so that the
Hammervold Defendants can obtain Discovery Material
designated as [Attorneys' Eyes Only]” in violation
of the protective order (Dkt. #205 at pp. 2-3). Plaintiffs
argue highly sensitive information about themselves and their
business cannot be shared with the Attorney Defendants
because they continue to harass and threaten Plaintiffs.
19, 2017, the Court heard argument regarding the motion.
Hammervold argued he did not have sufficient resources to pay
Yegparian's fee through trial because his insurance
policy would soon be depleted. Hammervold did not present
evidence to the Court regarding the remaining balance of the
policy and did not present evidence regarding his personal
ability to pay Yegparian. The Court orally denied the motion
to withdraw, but reserved the right to revisit the issue when
the Court issued a decision. On May 22, 2017, Yegparian sent
the Court a letter again asserting Hammervold's statutory
right to proceed pro se (Dkt. #215).
attorney may withdraw from representation only upon leave of
the court and a showing of good cause and reasonable notice
to the client.” In re Matter of Wynn, 889 F.2d
644, 646 (5th Cir. 1989). An attorney seeking to withdraw
bears the burden of proving the existence of good cause and
must demonstrate that the attorney's withdrawal will not
adversely affect efficient litigation of the suit. See
Mass. Engineered Design, Inc. v. Spaceco Bus. Sols.,
Inc., No. 6:14-CV-411, 2016 WL 6883029, at *1 (E.D. Tex.
Mar. 22, 2016). The Eastern District of Texas adopted the
Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct as a
guideline for governing the obligations and responsibilities
of attorneys appearing before the Court. See Local
Rule AT-2. Rule 1.15(b) outlines six specific situations in
which good cause would exist for withdrawing from
representation of a client. See Texas Disciplinary
Rules of Prof'l Conduct R. 1.15(b)(1)-(6). One
justification for attorney withdrawal is if “the client
fails [to] substantially fulfill an obligation to the lawyer
regarding the lawyer's services, including an obligation
to pay the lawyer's fee as agreed, and has been given
reasonable warning that the lawyer will withdraw unless the
obligation is fulfilled.” Texas Disciplinary Rules of
Prof'l Conduct R. 1.15(b)(5).
where good cause for withdrawal exists, it is
‘incumbent on the court to assure that the prosecution
of the lawsuit before it is not disrupted by the withdrawal
of counsel.'” White v. BAC Home Loans
Servicing, LP, No. 309-CV-2484-G, 2010 WL 2473833, at *3
(N.D. Tex. June 15, 2010) (citing Broughten v. Voss,
634 F.2d 880, 882 (5th Cir. 1981)). This requires the court
to consider additional factors including whether the
withdrawal will prejudice the other parties and harm the
administration of justice. Id.
federal court, “parties are guaranteed by statute the
right to proceed pro se.” Sprague v.
Dep't of Family & Protective Servs., 547 F.
App'x 507, 508 (5th Cir. 2013) (citing 28 U.S.C. §
1654). “This right, however, is limited to appearing on
behalf of one's self; one cannot represent another
separate legal entity, such as another person, a corporation,
or a partnership, pro se.” IntelliGender, LLC v.
Soriano, No. 2:10-CV-125-JRG, 2012 WL 1118820, at *2
(E.D. Tex. Apr. 3, 2012). “As fictional legal entities,
corporations and partnerships cannot appear for themselves
personally. Their only proper representative is a licensed
attorney.” Id. (citations omitted). See
also Nocula v. UGS Corp., 520 F.3d 719, 725 (7th Cir.
2008) (“Corporations cannot appear pro se, and
one pro se litigant cannot represent
another.”); see also Bentz v. Butler, No.
14-CV-00996-NJR, 2015 WL 1361013, at *1 (S.D. Ill. Mar. 23,
2015) (“Although individuals may represent themselves
in federal court, pro se litigants and non-lawyers
cannot represent other individuals or corporations.”).
has not met his burden of proving the existence of good cause
for withdrawal. In the pleadings and at the May 19, 2017
hearing, Yegparian argued that Hammervold's insurance
policy would soon be depleted but did not provide evidence of
the remaining balance on the policy. Hammervold also did not
provide evidence regarding his individual inability to pay
Yegparian. Additionally, Yegparian did not demonstrate that
his withdrawal would not prejudice the other parties and the
administration of justice. Plaintiffs in this case allege
that the Attorney Defendants engaged in a scheme to defraud
Plaintiffs. Plaintiffs allege that the Attorney Defendants
continue to harass and threaten Plaintiffs. The clarification
in the protective order, which Defendants did not oppose,
provides that the “Attorneys' Eyes Only”
designation specifically excludes the ...