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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:The relator, El Paso Healthcare Systems Ltd. d/b/a Las Palmas Medical Center, seeks a writ of mandamus directing the trial court judge to vacate an order requiring Las Palmas to retain local counsel within seven days from the order or else respondent will appoint local counsel. HOLDING:The court conditionally grants the relief sought. The court observes that the El Paso County Local Rules contain no local rule requiring out-of-town licensed Texas attorneys to appear with local counsel in order to practice law before a state court in El Paso County. There is also no local rule that authorizes a trial court to appoint local counsel for a party that is already represented by an attorney who is duly licensed to practice law in the state of Texas. Rather, El Paso County Local Rule 10.01 states that “[i]n the absence of a section or subsection, interested persons may assume there is no local rule covering the described subject.” Therefore, the respondent’s order is not supported by any published local rule that has been approved by the Supreme Court. As a general matter, a litigant has a right to be represented by the attorney of his choice. The court agrees with the respondent that Texas Government Code �24.016 authorizes a district judge to appoint counsel for indigents in criminal and civil actions. However, the order in this case was not based on a concern for indigent representation. It is undisputed that Las Palmas is not an indigent litigant in the civil action, and it never requested appointment of counsel. Under such circumstances, the court finds no statutory authority that would enable the respondent to appoint counsel, or for that matter, local co-counsel, for Las Palmas. Under Gibson v. Tolbert, 102 S.W.3d 710 (Tex. 2003), it is readily apparent that a trial court’s inherent power to appoint counsel is necessarily contingent on a party’s indigent status and on the existence of exceptional circumstances. Neither factor can be said to exist in this case; therefore, the court concludes that the respondent’s order is not supported by any express grant of authority nor by any inherent power to appoint counsel in a civil case. The court addresses the respondent’s claim of inherent authority to require Las Palmas to retain local co-counsel because of the alleged unwillingness of its lead counsel to provide indigent representation. No subordinate court has the power to usurp the Texas Supreme Court’s authority or responsibility to regulate the practice of law. The Texas Supreme Court has exclusive authority to regulate the practice of law in Texas. State Bar of Texas v. Gomez, 891 S.W.2d 243 (Tex. 1994). The respondent relies on Gomez to support his argument that district courts possess inherent authority to regulate the practice of law. The court states that the respondent’s reliance on Gomez is misplaced because the Gomez court clearly limited its discussion of inherent judicial powers to those exclusively held by the Supreme Court. “We have serious concerns that this issue may become recurrent, but that it would otherwise prove elusive through an appeal from a final judgment. Thus, we believe this issue fits well within the types of issues for which mandamus review is not only appropriate but necessary.” OPINION:Chew, J.; Barajas, C.J., McClure and Chew, JJ. McClure, J., not participating

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