ROBERTSON, JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT
The world is much with today's lawyer. His overhead is ever soaring. Litigation is becoming increasingly complex. These developments juxtaposed against the need to provide adequately for one's self and one's family have placed his traditional role in a great tension. Uncooperative and unattractive clients are viewed by some as no more than necessary evils. The romance has gone out of the practice of law.
Still, there are obligations a lawyer may not shirk no matter how inconvenient he may find them. As much as ever, today's lawyer shoulders dual and sometimes conflicting responsibilities of fidelity and service to his clients and to the court. Lawyers differ on the ever present controversy which of these has priority over the other. One thing is certain: both outrank the lawyer's personal whim or convenience.
We are confronted here with a lawyer who has without apology defaulted in his obligation to this Court. His explanation, if it may be called such: an uncooperative client, a steadfast determination not to work without fee, and personal inconvenience.
Our Rule 40 provides that
"An attorney who perfects an appeal to this Court on behalf of the appellant shall continue to prosecute the appeal by filing an assignment of errors and brief when due, unless the Court permits such attorney to withdraw from the case."
Cullen C. Taylor, attorney at law, of Brandon, Mississippi, perfected an appeal on behalf of Lenzie Allison. *fn1 Mr. Taylor entered his appearance in this Court for all purposes. He then proceeded to do nothing. Without filing a motion for leave to withdraw, a by your leave or whatever, Mr. Taylor has defaulted in his obligations under Rule 40. He is in contempt of this Court.
In May of 1982 Lenzie Allison was put to trial in the Circuit Court of Rankin County, Mississippi, on a charge of manslaughter. Prior thereto Taylor had been engaged to serve as defense counsel. Taylor did in fact represent Allison at his trial which resulted in a manslaughter conviction on May 20, 1982. Allison was given a 20 year sentence.
Thereafter, Taylor, acting as counsel for Allison, took the necessary steps to perfect an appeal to this Court. By virtue thereof, Taylor assumed the duty under Rule 40 to prosecute the appeal. We emphasize that this was not merely a duty to his client, Allison, but equally and independently a duty Taylor owed to this Court.
From the papers Taylor has filed with this Court we accept as true Taylor's version of what happened thereafter. *fn2 Taylor advised Allison that he was perfecting the appeal in order to assure that this right was not lost to Allison. Before he would actually prosecute the appeal, however, an acceptable fee arrangement would have to be made.
In due course, Taylor advised Allison that his fee for handling the appeal would be $3,000. Allison did not respond. On November 18, 1982, Taylor wrote Allison and advised him that the transcript had been prepared. *fn3 He reiterated that his fee would be $3,000. He told Allison that, if he wished to employ another lawyer, he (Taylor) would be happy to turn over his file to the new attorney. Taylor emphasized to Allison that he needed to act immediately.
Again, on December 1, 1982, Taylor wrote to Allison emphasizing that it was imperative that Allison employ someone to prosecute the appeal. *fn4
It may be fairly said that Taylor discharged his duties to his client, Lenzie Allison. Without charge and because the time was short, he perfected the appeal. He arranged for the preparation of the transcript and the trial record. He advised Allison what his fee would be for handling the appeal and assured Allison that he was free to select other counsel ...