Monday, April 27, 2009

Right To Fire Retained Counsel

The Tennessee Supreme Court has held that retained counsel who has been discharged by the client must inform the court of the client's directive as soon as discharged: "since our earliest days, our system of justice has been reluctant to force a lawyer on an unwilling client....clients should not be forced to entrust their legal matters to an unwanted lawyer. Accordingly, clients may discharge a retained lawyer whenever they cease to have absolute confidence in the lawyer's integrity, judgment, or professional competence." The focus of the court in such circumstances is not on whether there is good cause, but rather whether (i) the client understands the consequences of firing the lawyer and (ii) will be significantly prejudiced. Finally, the court must consider the impact of granting withdrawal on the orderly administration of justice.

The court vacated the judgment and remanded the matter for a hearing. If the court below concludes that the waiver of the right to counsel was knowing and intelligent, the client will be given an opportunity to retain new counsel for the appeal.

The criminal case involved charges of murdering an infant child. (Mike Frisch)

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