By Eric Schweibenz
On April 11, 2012, ALJ Theodore R. Essex issued Order No. 20 in Certain LED Photographic Lighting Devices and Components Thereof (Inv. No. 337-TA-804).  In the Order, ALJ Essex granted a motion for leave to withdraw as counsel filed by the law firm of Tannenbaum Helpern Syracuse & Hirschtritt LLP (collectively, “Tannenbaum”).  Tannenbaum had represented Respondents Shantou Nanguang Photographic Equipment Co. Ltd. (“Shantou”) and Fuzhou F&V Photographic Co. Ltd. (“F&V”).

According to the Order, on March 12, 2012, Tannenbaum filed its motion for leave to withdraw as counsel for Shantou and F&V.  In the motion, Tannenbaum argued that, despite repeated requests, Shantou and F&V had failed to pay any of Tannenbaum’s bills.  According to Tannenbaum, it had made repeated efforts to resolve the matter with Shantou and F&V directly and with its Chinese counsel DeHeng, but had been unsuccessful.  Tannenbaum further argued that F&V and Shantou had not cooperated in discovery despite Tannenbaum’s efforts and that any discovery received from them had been untimely and incomplete.

Tannenbaum stated in its motion that the Commission Investigative Staff and certain Respondents did not oppose the motion and that neither the Complainants nor the remaining Respondents responded.  Tannenbaum also stated that Shantou and F&V’s new counsel, Locke Lord, had indicated that it would oppose the motion – but the order states that Locke Lord later withdrew its opposition.

After considering Tannenbaum’s arguments, the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct, and relevant case law, ALJ Essex determined to grant Tannenbaum’s motion.  In particular, the ALJ found that “Shantou and F&V’s failure to pay is sufficient cause for withdrawal.”  ALJ Essex also found that permitting Tannenbaum to withdraw would not severely prejudice Shantou and F&V or the continued progress of the investigation because they had retained other legal counsel.  The ALJ also found that even if he were to deny Tannenbaum’s motion, “it is not clear that Tannenbaum would be able to adequately represent Shantou and F&V due to the alleged lack of cooperation from said respondents.”  Accordingly, since Tannenbaum had demonstrated good cause to withdraw and the motion was unopposed, ALJ Essex granted Tannenbaum’s motion.