Can a court appointed attorney stop working on your case after you are convicted and sent to jail because you have not paid the bill?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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Can a court appointed attorney stop working on your case after you are convicted and sent to jail because you have not paid the bill?

My brother was appointed an attorney by the court to represent him and at sentencing he was expecting to be released on probation but the judge ordered 3 to 6 months in jail and he did not pay the lawyer his bill.

We asked the lawyer to file the petition after three months for him to be released on house arrest as the judge stated he would consider this after 90 days and it took him two weeks to respond by text and when he did he said he hasn’t been paid but he will send it in. I explained to him that I am not in the position to pay him and obviously his client can not pay while he is incarcerated but has every intention to when he gets out and works again.

He has since not responded to any calls and we do not know if he actually filed the petition, he does not respond to me.
Is this allowed or does a lawyer have to tell you that they are no longer representing you? Can they just quit and not tell you, he was court appointed.

Asked on September 28, 2016 under Criminal Law, New Jersey


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

Typically, a court appointed attorney is appointed for a specific purpose--such as the main trial or an appeal. They are not given an open ended assignment to help the accused as long as and however the accused needs help. If your brother was convicted (or pled guilty) and was sentenced, that "phase" would be over and an attorney representing him during trial and/or at sentencing would not have to file a petition for house arrest. Also, the legal ethical codes specifically allow lawyers to not work  for clients for fail to pay them (no one expects a plumber to work without being paid--why should an attorney?). So based on what you write, this lawyer does not need to do this work.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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