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Agriprocessors attorneys withdraw as counsel, cite non-payment
Attorneys with a Des Moines-based law firm have filed and been granted motions to withdraw from two cases in which their former client, Agriprocessors, is the defendant. In one of the two cases, a primary reason for seeking release was an unmet financial obligation by Agriprocessors.
On May 20 Creative Source Group, a graphic design firm previously contracted by Agriprocessors, brought suit against the meatpacking company in federal court for nearly $300,000 in unpaid invoices. The complaint filed by Creative Source Group was answered on June 16 by attorneys Jay Eaton and Patrick White of the Nyemaster, Goode, West, Hansell & O’Brien law firm. The same attorneys filed a motion to withdraw as counsel for Agriprocessors on Sept. 11. The motion was granted by U.S. Magistrate Judge Jon Stuart Scoles on Sept. 22.
“The client has stopped paying counsel for its services and, as such, has failed to substantially fulfill its obligations to counsel,” wrote the Nyemaster Goode attorneys in their motion with the court. “Counsel has given reasonable warning to the client that counsel will withdraw unless the client fulfills its obligations. The client has continued to fail to fulfill its obligations.”
Agriprocessors has been given 21 days to obtain substitute counsel. To date no substitute counsel has filed on behalf of Agriprocessors with the court.
“Agriprocessors is advised that if it fails to obtain substitute counsel by Oct. 13, 2008, then it will be in default and judgement may enter against it,” Scoles wrote in his order.
Although attorneys for the Creative Source Group argued against the motion to withdrawal, they were ultimately unsuccessful in convincing the judge that the change would cause a severe time delay in the case. The case currently has a trail ready date of May 18, 2009.
The Nyemaster Goode law firm was also listed as counsel for Agriprocessors and three members of plant management in a wrongful termination and slander lawsuit brought by former plant supervisor Orlando Rodriguez Perez. Thomas Cunningham, an attorney with Nyemaster Goode, notified the court on Sept. 24 of the firm’s non-representation, citing the filing in the Creative Source Group vs. Agriprocessors case.
The Rodriquez Perez suit names the company as well as Heshy Rubashkin, vice president of operations, marketing and sales, Gary Norris, operations manager and Neal Rawley, warehouse and shipping manager. The three individuals as well as Chaim Abrahams, a representative for Agriprocessors, were sent a letter by Jay Eaton of the Nyemaster Goode law firm in mid-September.
“This letter is to notify you that our firm will not be representing any of you or filing an appearance on your behalf in this action,” wrote Eaton. “The date by which each defendant must answer or file a pre-answer motion is September 29, 2008. Accordingly, we urge you to immediately retain counsel to defend you in this action. Failure to file an answer or pre-answer motion can result in a default judgment filed against you.”
On Sept. 29, attorneys with the Des Moines-based Belin Lamson McCormick Zumbach Flynn law firm notified the court that they would be representing the defendants and also filed an extension on the previous deadline. Judge Scoles granted their request Tuesday and set a new answer date of Oct. 29.
Agriprocessors runs a kosher meatpacking plant in Postville and was the nation’s largest supplier of kosher meat prior to a massive May 12 federal immigration raid. Since that time the company has come under scrutiny on a wide variety of issues including possible safety violations, humane slaughtering violations, child labor law violations and wage discrepancies.