What Is a Motion To Withdraw?

In legal proceedings, there are a number of reasons an attorney may file a motion to withdraw.
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  • Written By: Jan Hill
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 10 March 2014
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Whenever a party to a lawsuit wants the court to do something specific, he typically needs to make a formal written request to the court, which is called a motion. A motion to withdraw is asking the court to make a formal order allowing a party to withdraw, or take back, something. The motion usually includes supporting documents, such as a citation to the rule or law that authorizes the making of the motion, various affidavits, exhibits, and a written statement or brief explaining the reasons for the motion and why it should be granted. If the court requires a hearing on the motion, both parties will usually submit oral arguments regarding it. After considering the arguments, the court issues a ruling, and one of the attorneys typically prepares an order that provides documentation of the court's decision.

Such a motion may be filed in a variety of legal circumstances. When an attorney wishes to have no further involvement in a legal matter, such as a case in which a conflict of interest has arisen, he may file a motion to withdraw appearance. If a court-appointed attorney has reason to believe that a case is frivolous and without merit, he may motion the court for permission to withdraw appearance, but if the court finds that his petition is without merit, the attorney may be ordered to proceed with the case.


Another motion to terminate an existing attorney-client relationship is a motion to withdraw representation. This motion might be filed by an attorney if he and the client he represents do not agree regarding legal strategy, or simply because of ineffective communication. If the client does not agree with the motion, the court typically provides him with an opportunity to explain why his attorney should remain on the case. Favorable rulings are often challenging because the attorney must be careful to provide sufficient information to the court to satisfy the motion without breaching client confidentiality rules.

In criminal cases, a defendant may plead guilty to a crime in exchange for something that will help him, such as being charged with a lesser offense or the promise of a lighter sentence. Sometimes, however, a defendant will receive the court's permission to use a conditional plea, which reserves his right to appeal certain issues before his plea is entered. If a defendant is allowed to use a conditional plea, he may ask to withdraw his guilty or no contest plea and instead go to trial. If the defendant loses the appeal, the guilty plea typically is enforced.

In bankruptcy actions, the party filing bankruptcy may have the opportunity to have a jury trial rather than have the matter decided by a bankruptcy judge. This is usually done by filing a motion to withdraw reference, which requests that the matter be transferred from bankruptcy court to a court where it will be tried in front of a jury. As with other motions, cause typically must be shown regarding why the matter should be transferred.

Similar motions are often used in lawsuit cases as well. If the plaintiff, or party that initiated a lawsuit, changes his mind about going forward with the case, he may file a motion to withdraw the complaint. If the court is satisfied that good cause has been shown to do so, a favorable ruling normally is issued.


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Post 2

You don't have to serve motions. Simply certified mailing the motion to the client is sufficient in most states. Usually you know if your attorney is dropping you.

A motion to withdraw as counsel can be done when an attorney has done his job and what he was paid for, but the case could be ongoing or open and the attorney is not being paid to continue with it. It doesn't always have to be a frivolous lawsuit.

I did this in a case where I was representing myself and needed an attorney for one hearing, then continued on my own. He just sent the motion to me via regular mail.

Post 1

On a motion to withdraw representation, does this make the attorney a party to the motion and prevent him from personally serving the "motion to withdraw representation"? Is this a separate action within the main court action? When this is so, what legal points make it so?

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