United States District Court, D. Maryland
LAURA MCFEELEY, et al.
JACKSON STREET ENTERTAINMENT, LLC, et al.
DEBORAH K. CHASANOW, United States District Judge
Presently pending and ready for resolution in this Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) case is a motion to compel, for contempt, and for sanctions filed by Plaintiffs Laura McFeeley, Danielle Everett, Crystal Nelson, Danielle Arlean McKay, Jenny Garcia, and Patrice Howell (collectively, the “Plaintiffs”). (ECF No. 128). The court now rules, no hearing being deemed necessary. Local Rule 105.6. For the following reasons, Plaintiffs’ motion will be granted in part and denied in part.
Plaintiffs brought this collective action under the FLSA and the Maryland Wage and Hour Law. After the court granted Plaintiffs’ motion for partial summary judgment, the remaining issues went to trial in February 2015. Following a three-day jury trial, the jury returned verdicts as to the amount of compensatory damages to which each plaintiff is entitled. (See ECF No. 87). On February 10, the court entered judgment in favor of Plaintiffs and against Defendants Jackson Street Entertainment, LLC; Risque, LLC; Quantum Entertainment Group, LLC; Nico Enterprises, Inc.; XTC Entertainment Group, LLC; and Uwa Offiah (collectively, the “Defendants”); jointly and severally for a total amount of $265, 276.50, which included compensatory and liquidated damages. (ECF No. 93).
On May 19, Plaintiffs filed a motion to recover attorney’s fees and costs. (ECF No. 101). After the Defendants filed an appeal with the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, this court stayed the action and deferred ruling on Plaintiffs’ motion until after the adjudication of the appeal. (ECF No. 123). Oral argument is scheduled before the Fourth Circuit for May 11, 2016.
On January 5, 2016, Plaintiffs served Michael L. Smith, attorney for Defendants, with interrogatories in aid of enforcement of judgment. (ECF No. 128-2). When Defendants did not respond timely to the interrogatories, Plaintiffs sent a letter to Mr. Smith noting that they would “promptly file a Motion for Sanctions seeking attorney’s fees and costs” if Defendants did not respond to the interrogatories by March 1. (ECF No. 128-3). On March 1, Mr. Smith informed Plaintiffs that his “representation [of Defendants] ended once a final judgment was entered” and that he continues to represent Defendants only in their appeal before the Fourth Circuit. (ECF No. 129-1). Accordingly, Mr. Smith asserts that he is “not authorized to accept service for any documents other than those pertaining to the ongoing appeal.” (Id.). On March 15, Plaintiffs filed the pending motion to compel and for sanctions and contempt. (ECF No. 128). Defendants responded in opposition (ECF No. 129), and Plaintiffs replied (ECF No. 130).
A. Defense Counsel’s Purported Withdrawal
Defendants’ opposition argues that Mr. Smith no longer represents Defendants in this action, and therefore, Defendants have not been served properly with the interrogatories. Plaintiffs counter that Mr. Smith has not withdrawn his appearance in this action and still represents Defendants. (ECF No. 130, at 2-3).
According to Mr. Smith, his representation of Defendants in this action “terminated on May 5, 2015.” (ECF No. 129 ¶ 6). Mr. Smith provides no evidence showing that Defendants terminated his representation or that he attempted to withdraw from representing Defendants in this action. Counsel’s withdrawal of appearance is governed by Local Rule 101.2. Local Rule 101.2 provides, in relevant part:
In the case of any party other than an individual, including corporations, partnerships, unincorporated associations and government entities, appearance of counsel may be withdrawn only with leave of court and if (1) appearance of other counsel has been entered, or (2) withdrawing counsel files a certificate stating (a) the name and last known address of the client, and (b) that the written notice has been mailed to or otherwise served upon the client at least seven (7) days previously advising the client of counsel’s proposed withdrawal and notifying that it must have new counsel enter an appearance or be subject to the dismissal of its claims and/or default judgment on claims against it.
Local Rule 101.2.b. In addition, “[a]ll parties other than individuals must be represented by counsel.” Local Rule 101.1.a; see MHD-Rockland Inc. v. Aerospace Distribs. Inc., 102 F.Supp.3d 734, 737 (D.Md. 2015). The process to withdraw from representing an individual is similar, but an individual has the option, after notifying the Clerk, to proceed without counsel. See Local Rule 101.2.a.
Here, it is clear that Mr. Smith has not withdrawn his appearance in this action. He has not complied with any of the dictates of Local Rule 101.2 and has seemingly made no efforts to withdraw formally. Moreover, if Mr. Smith were to withdraw, all Defendants other than Mr. Offiah would be unable to proceed without counsel. Mr. Smith’s assertions to Plaintiffs’ counsel and in the response to Plaintiffs’ motion are not sufficient ...