A Federal District Court judge told former State Senator Pedro Espada Jr. and his estranged lawyer on Thursday that they must continue to work together even though both men had asked him to dissolve the relationship.
Mr. Espada was convicted in May of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Soundview Healthcare Network, an organization in the Bronx that he founded and led. He is still facing a tax evasion trial in Federal District Court in Manhattan.
His lawyer in the tax case, Daniel A. Hochheiser, had asked Judge William H. Pauley III to allow him to withdraw from the case, saying Mr. Espada had not paid him the agreed-upon amounts. Mr. Espada countered in court on Wednesday that Mr. Hochheiser had not represented him correctly.
After a brief proceeding on Thursday, Judge Pauley told the two that they would have to find a way to get through the trial together.
“Mr. Espada’s complaints about his counsel are not credible,” Judge Pauley said, adding that a fee dispute of the sort described by Mr. Hochheiser did not absolve a lawyer’s responsibility to defend a client.
Both men said that they accepted the judge’s decision and would begin preparing for the trial, which is scheduled to begin Nov. 5.
But it remains to be seen how the lawyer and the client will function after two days of exchanging accusations, with Mr. Hochheiser at one point indicating Mr. Espada and telling Judge Pauley, “Now I consider him my adversary,” and Mr. Espada telling the judge that the two had experienced “a total breakdown in our relationship.”
Mr. Espada said Mr. Hochheiser had failed to inform him of a plea offer from prosecutors and had not met with him frequently enough.
Mr. Hochheiser told the judge that he had told Mr. Espada about the plea offer and described his client as difficult to communicate with.
“He tends to filibuster at meetings,” he said. “It is very difficult to keep Mr. Espada focused on the facts at issue.”
A few moments later, Mr. Hochheiser told the judge that he had been in close contact with his client, even arranging meetings at his home in Westchester County to accommodate Mr. Espada, who, he said, “used to be a V.I.P.”
At that, Mr. Espada rose from his chair and objected.
“I take exception to this ‘used to be,’” he said, before being interrupted by Judge Pauley, who sternly instructed him to sit down and cease speaking.