Protecting Your Business And Your IP

Wedlawk® Wins a Hard-Fought Victory on Appeal: Navigating the Complexities of Attorney Withdrawals and Continuances

On Behalf of | Oct 23, 2023 | Firm News

In a case that epitomizes the challenges of complex civil litigation, Wedlawk® is proud to announce a recent victory that reflects our commitment to tackling complex legal challenges and fighting for our clients.

The Case

On October 10, 2023, the Sixth Court of Appeals for the State of Texas issued a final mandate in McGowen v. Vanderbilt Mortgage & Fin., Inc., No. 06-22-00047-CV, 2023 WL 4854833 (Tex. App.—Texarkana July 31, 2023, no pet. H.), reversing a trial court’s ruling that granted Vanderbilt Mortgage & Finance, Inc’s (“Vanderbilt”) motion for summary judgment while simultaneously allowing the defendants’ counsel to withdraw and rejecting the defendants’ request for a continuance.

The Underlying Lawsuit

In June 2020, Vanderbilt filed a lawsuit against multiple parties (“Defendants” or “Appellants”), seeking to reform two real estate deeds that predated Vanderbilt’s Deed of Trust by at least two decades. At all times in the lower court, Defendants vigorously defended against the lawsuit pro se while searching for legal representation, arguing that Vanderbilt’s claim was barred by an applicable four-year statute of limitations.

The Defendants managed to secure legal counsel, but the complexities of the case escalated when their initial counsel failed, unbeknownst to them, to timely oppose Vanderbilt’s summary-judgment motion and then abruptly moved to withdraw just before a scheduled hearing on the motion. The trial court granted this withdrawal without much scrutiny and did not allow adequate time for the defendants to secure new legal representation before granting Vanderbilt’s motion for summary judgment. Unsurprisingly, this led to an unfavorable entry of summary judgment against the Defendants. Wedlawk was retained to assist with appealing the trial court’s erroneous ruling.

The Appeal

On appeal, we asserted several points of error, focusing primarily on the trial court’s decision to allow the defendants’ prior counsel to withdraw without granting a continuance moments before the scheduled hearing. We argued that no “good cause” was demonstrated for the withdrawal, and we emphasized the trial court’s lack of thorough inquiry into whether the motion to withdraw complied with the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure and the Code of Professional Responsibility. Specifically, we successfully argued that the defendants were left without counsel through no fault of their own and had promptly notified the court that their prior counsel’s withdrawal was conducted without their prior knowledge.

Moreover, we pointed out that the affidavit submitted by the withdrawing attorney was glaringly insufficient. It failed to detail any attempts to work through disagreements with the defendants, and it failed to provide a substantial rationale for the necessity to withdraw at such a critical stage in the litigation. Furthermore, the record indicated that the trial court did not adequately consider the ramifications of such a sudden withdrawal on the proceedings, where there was no hearing or transcript of the summary judgment and/or withdrawal hearing.

The Victory

Given these factors, the Appellate Court agreed with our stance, setting a precedent for what constitutes an insufficient withdrawal and the trial court’s responsibilities in such situations. In a well-reasoned opinion issued by Chief Justice Scott E. Stevens, the Appellate Court found that the trial court erred in its decision to allow the attorney’s withdrawal without adequately investigating whether there was “good cause” for the withdrawal. The Appellate Court was concerned that the trial court didn’t exercise its “inherent power” to protect the Appellants from prejudice resulting from the sudden withdrawal of their counsel right before a critical summary judgment hearing.

The court reasoned, among other things, that no “good cause” was shown where the prior counsel’s affidavit lacked specific details, merely stating that there were “irreconcilable differences” without elaborating on what those differences were; the affidavit did not discuss or make any provisions for the potential adverse impact of the counsel’s withdrawal on the Defendants; and the affidavit did not explicitly state that it complied with the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure and/or the Code of Professional Responsibility.

The court also examined the cumulative effect of the Defendants’ behavior and history of representation throughout the litigation. While the Defendants had represented themselves pro se for most of the case and had some issues with complying with court procedures, they had made efforts to secure legal representation. Therefore, the court concluded that they were not at fault for their lack of counsel and should not be penalized for it.

Because the trial court failed to consider these factors, the Appellate Court found that the lower court had abused its discretion. The Appellate Court thus remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings.


The Appellate Court’s opinion underscores the critical need for withdrawing attorneys to take reasonable steps to protect their clients, especially near crucial deadlines. It also highlights the responsibility of the trial court to thoroughly investigate such matters to prevent an abuse of discretion and to mitigate the adverse effects on parties involved.

While the legal proceedings are still pending, this successful appeal reflects our firm’s commitment to navigating complex legal and procedural issues, ensuring our clients are not adversely affected.


Effective Representation Matters: This case highlights the importance of experienced legal counsel, especially in complicated appeals involving multiple procedural hurdles.

Understand Procedural Nuances: The Appellants were faced with a complex set of rules, making it critical for legal professionals to dissect these rules effectively to benefit the client.

Fight for Fairness: The system is designed to provide justice for all. This case serves as an example that the courts will listen when procedural fairness is called into question, provided you have the right representation

Stay tuned for more updates on this case.

Disclaimer: This blog post is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice.

Emily E.G. Bradford

Emily is a business, IP, and employment lawyer based in Houston, TX. She has over 5 years of experience working with a variety of businesses in Texas and throughout the U.S. She previously served as the Managing Editor of Oklahoma City University School of Law’s Law Review and was named to the Texas Super Lawyers list of Rising Stars for 2022. No more than 2.5 percent of the young lawyers in Texas are selected to receive the Rising Stars honor.

As the founder of WedLawk, and being an entrepreneur herself, she is especially passionate about helping startups succeed. To learn more about Emily, visit the “About” page.