Unpublished Disposition, 872 F.2d 426 (9th Cir. 1989)

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U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit - 872 F.2d 426 (9th Cir. 1989)

In re: Roger AMMANN, dba Banker's Appraisal Service, Debtor,STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY, an Illinoscorporation; Farmers Insurane Exchange, aReciprocal Inter insurance exchangeauthorized to do business inCalifornia, Appellees,v.Roger AMMANN, Appellant.

No. 89-55002.

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.

Argued and Submitted April 4, 1989.Decided April 7, 1989.

Before EUGENE A. WRIGHT, FARRIS and NELSON, Circuit Judges.


We consider whether a district court erred in compelling bankruptcy counsel to represent a former client in consolidated civil RICO and bankruptcy proceedings pending before that court. This appeal has been expedited and the proceedings below have been stayed pending our decision.

Appellees, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company and Farmers Insurers Exchange, filed a civil RICO and fraud action against Roger Ammann in district court in October 1985. Ammann, a law school graduate and former attorney, pursued in pro per settlement negotiations with appellees. At the same time, he retained Moneymaker & Kelley (M & K), a small Los Angeles firm specializing in bankruptcy, to file a voluntary petition for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Neither the appellees nor the district court received notice of the bankruptcy. In November 1988, the bankruptcy court ordered the release of Ammann from all dischargeable debts.

After receiving notice of this order, appellees filed an adversary complaint with the bankruptcy court and informed the district court of their filing. They requested the district court to consolidate the adversary matter with the RICO and fraud action. They moved to withdraw reference from the bankruptcy court of the adversary proceeding.

After a hearing, the district court ordered the withdrawal of the reference of the adversary proceeding in bankruptcy court, consolidating it with the RICO and fraud action and required M & K to serve as counsel of Ammann in those consolidated proceedings. This appeal involves only the latter order.

Ammann, who chose to represent himself in pro per in the district court proceedings, did not request the court to appoint counsel for him. At oral argument before this court, he said that he does not need counsel and wishes to continue representing himself in district court. The record does not indicate that he is incompetent to represent himself.

M & K does not wish to represent Ammann in district court. The firm specializes in bankruptcy matters and has no experience defending civil RICO actions.

We need not decide whether a district judge has the power to appoint an attorney to represent a client in any civil proceeding, whether or not the client is prepared to pay for those services. See Mallard v. United States Dist. Court, No. 87-1490, 57 U.S.L.W. 3611, 3611-12 (U.S. Mar. 21, 1989); United States v. 30.64 Acres of Land, 795 F.2d 796, 798-804 (9th Cir. 1986). We hold only that the court here used its discretion unwisely when it ordered the law firm to represent a civil litigant over the objection of the client.

We reverse the order of the district court, vacate the stay by this court, and remand. The parties will bear their own costs in this appeal. The clerk will issue the mandate today.