United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
E. Weaver, III, moves to withdraw as counsel for Defendant
Nakia Adams. Mr. Weaver alleges he can no longer represent
Mr. Adams because: 1) irreconcilable differences have
developed; 2) Mr. Adams broke off communication with Mr.
Weaver; 3) a conflict of interest has developed between Mr.
Weaver and Mr. Adams; 4) and Mr. Adams is taking independent
action by filing pro se motions without first consulting Mr.
Weaver. (ECF Docket No. 190.) Mr. Adams also moves this Court
to remove Mr. Weaver as his counsel. Mr. Adams alleges Mr.
Weaver can no longer represent him because of: 1) Mr.
Weaver's lack of preparation and negligence in handling
the case; 2) Mr. Weaver's failure to raise Mr. Adams'
concerns with the court - the Government's introduction
of firearms and Brady violations; and 3) Mr. Weaver's
failure to use information recovered by Mr. Adams' CJA
investigator. (ECF Docket No. 194.) For the reasons stated
below, this Court will deny both Mr. Weaver's Motion to
Withdraw (ECF Docket No. 190) and Mr. Adams' Motion to
Remove (ECF Docket No. 194). This Court requires Mr. Weaver
remain as counsel until Mr. Adams' sentencing. Mr. Weaver
is granted an additional ninety (90) days from the date of
this Order to file supplemental briefing to Mr. Adams'
Motion for Judgment of Acquittal and New Trial.
December 8, 2015, the Government filed a twelve-count
Indictment charging Mr. Adams with multiple violations of
federal firearms laws. (ECF Docket No. 1.) On February 2,
2016, the Government filed a Superseding Indictment charging
Mr. Adams with eight additional violations. (ECF Docket No.
15.) Specifically, the Government charged Mr. Adams with: 1)
conspiracy to make false statements to a federal firearms
licensees (“FFL”) with respect to information
required to be kept in the records of the FFL, in violation
of 18 U.S.C. § 371 (Count I); 2) making, and aiding and
abetting the making of, false statements to an FFL regarding
information required to be kept in the records of the FFL, in
violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 924(a)(1)(A) and (2)
(Counts II-XII); and 3) unlawful possession of a firearm by a
convicted felon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1)
(Counts XIII-XX). (Id.)
the Government's Superseding Indictment, Mr. Adams'
first CJA Appointed attorney, Mr. Carlos Martir, Jr.,
requested a continuance to adequately prepare for trial. (ECF
Docket No. 16.) This Court granted the continuance. (ECF
Docket No. 17.) Two months later, Mr. Adams moved dismiss Mr.
Martir as counsel. (ECF Docket No. 23.) This Court granted
Mr. Adams' request to continue pro se and removed Mr.
Martir as counsel. (ECF Docket No. 32.) On June 9, 2016, this
Court appointed Mr. James M. Polyak as Mr. Adams' second
CJA Appointed attorney. (ECF Docket No. 34.) Mr. Adams once
again moved for dismissal of his second counsel, Mr. Polyak.
(ECF Docket No. 49.) Following Mr. Polyak's waiver of
removal and a full colloquy on the issue, this Court granted
Mr. Adams' request to once again continue pro se. (ECF
Docket No. 59.) While this Court granted Mr. Polyak's
motion to withdraw (ECF Docket No. 54), this Court required
Mr. Polyak continue as standby counsel. (ECF Docket No. 63.)
On March 13, 2017, this Court once again appointed Mr. Polyak
- involved as standby counsel - as Mr. Adams' formal
April 28, 2017, this Court granted Mr. Adams' counseled
request to bifurcate trial to minimize the risk of prejudice
“only as to the issue of Adams' prior conviction
relating to the eight (8) counts of Felon in Possession of a
Firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1).”
(ECF Docket No. 91.) This Court then scheduled Mr. Adams'
trial for June 12, 2017. (ECF Docket No. 92.) Mr. Adams'
trial commenced June 12, 2017. On June 13, 2017, a dispute
arose between Mr. Polyak and Mr. Adams. (Trial Tr.
159:17-169:24, June 13, 2017, PM.) As a result of the
dispute, Mr. Polyak could no longer represent Mr. Adams and
orally moved to immediately withdraw as counsel. (ECF Docket
No. 112.) On June 14, 2017, this Court granted Mr.
Polyak's motion and declared a mistrial. (ECF Docket No.
113.) Following the mistrial, this Court appointed Mr. Luther
Weaver, III, as Mr. Adams' third and final counsel.
(Id.) As a result of Mr. Adams' conduct since
the filing of the Superseding Indictment, the Government
petitioned this Court to colloquy Mr. Adams. (ECF Docket No.
113.) This Court agreed and asked Mr. Adams a series of
questions on the record and informed him that Mr. Weaver
would be his final attorney. This Court scheduled Mr.
Adams' new trial for July 31, 2017. Given the volume of
documents and length of case, Mr. Weaver requested a
continuance. (ECF Docket No. 117.) This Court granted Mr.
Weaver's request and continued Mr. Adams' trial to
October 10, 2017. (ECF Docket No. 124.)
October 10, 2017, Mr. Adams' trial commenced. (ECF Docket
No. 153.) The jury found Mr. Adams guilty on all counts. On
October 27, 2017, Mr. Adams moved for a new trial and
judgment of acquittal under Rule 29 and Rule 33. Sometime
between the conclusion of the trial and Mr. Adams'
scheduled sentencing, communication between Mr. Weaver and
Mr. Adams broke down. On April 12, 2018, Mr. Weaver moved to
withdraw from the case citing a number of issues. Following
Mr. Weaver's motion, Mr. Adams then moved to remove Mr.
Weaver as counsel of record. On May 21, 2018, this Court held
oral arguments on both motions to withdraw.
Sixth Amendment guarantees criminal defendants the right to
counsel. While the right to counsel is absolute, the Sixth
Amendment does not guarantee criminal defendants the right to
counsel of their choice. United States v.
Gonzalez-Lopez, 548 U.S. 140, 151 (2006) (emphasis
added); see also Wheat v. United States, 486 U.S.
153, 159 (1988) (“the essential aim of the [Sixth]
Amendment is to guarantee an effective advocate for each
criminal defendant rather than to ensure that a defendant
will inexorably be represented by the lawyer whom he
prefers.”); see also Jones v. Zimmerman, 805
F.2d 1125, 1133 (3d Cir. 1986).
the Local Criminal Rules for the Eastern District of
Pennsylvania, an attorney's representation of a criminal
defendant constitutes representation of the defendant
“until final disposition of the case” and no
withdrawal may occur without leave of Court. E.D. Pa. Local
Criminal Rule 44.1. The decision to withdrawal as counsel is
within the sound discretion of the trial court and is
reviewed for abuse of discretion. United States v.
Fattah, 159 F.Supp.3d 545, 548 (E.D. Pa. 2016) (citing
Ohntrup v. Firearms Center, Inc., 802 F.2d 676, 679
(3d Cir. 1986); see also United States v. Kikumara,
947 F.2d 72, 78 (3d Cir. 1991).
resolving a motion to withdraw, the court weighs three
factors: 1) the prejudice to the client and other litigants;
2) the harm to the administration of justice; and 3) the
delay in the resolution of the matter. Id. The court
must also account for the interests of the attorney or firm
seeking withdrawal and the defendant's speedy trial
rights under the Sixth Amendment. Id. (citing
Buschmeier v. G&G Investments, Inc., 222
Fed.Appx. 160, 160-61 (3d Cir. 2007). To warrant a
substitution or withdrawal of counsel, “the defendant
must show good cause, such as a conflict of interest, a
complete breakdown of communication or an irreconcilable
conflict which leads to an apparently unjust verdict.”
United States v. Dunbar, 718 F.3d 1268, 1276 (10th
discussed above, the right to counsel of choice must be
consistent with “the fair and proper administration of
justice.” Dorival v. United States, 2013 WL
12340563, at *6 (D.V.I. 2013) (citing Davis v.
Stamler, 650 F.2d 477, 479 (3d Cir. 1981); see also
United States v. Jones, 662 F.3d 1018, 1024 (8th Cir.
2011) (stating a “defendant's right to choice of
counsel must not obstruct orderly judicial procedure or
deprive courts of their inherent power to control the
administration of justice”). While our Circuit cautions
us to consider other factors such as a defendant's speedy
trial rights, this Court need not address this issue since
Mr. Adams' trial already concluded. Because both motions
to withdraw were filed after trial, there is no harm
to Mr. Adams' speedy trial rights. So, this Court will
consider the fair and proper administration of justice to
determine whether withdrawal or substitution is proper.
this Court's general discretion over its trial calendar
and the facts surrounding Mr. Adams' representation, a
substitution of counsel or withdrawal by Mr. Weaver is not
appropriate at this stage. This Court denies Mr. Weaver's
request because: 1) Mr. Weaver is familiar with the case; 2)
no other counsel with knowledge of the case is available; and
3) appointing new counsel at this stage in the litigation
would cause delay and great inconvenience to all parties.
Before and during trial, Mr. Weaver competently and zealously
represented his client within the bounds of professional
standards. At this late stage, Mr. Weaver, having been
through the trial, is the only counsel that could adequately
represent Mr. Adams through post-trial motions and
Weaver's arguments - irreconcilable differences and
conflict of interest with Mr. Adams - do not provide
“good cause” for withdrawal. Although troubling,
Mr. Weaver's complaints amount to no more than strategic
differences between Mr. Weaver and his client, which can
adequately be addressed post-sentencing. While this Court is
very familiar with Mr. Adams' history of terminating his
counsel, strategic differences and client misconduct - filing
pro se motions while represented by counsel - do not
provide a sufficient basis to grant Mr. Weaver's
withdrawal at this time. Appointing new counsel at this ...