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Citing “irreparable differences” with her client, defense lawyer Michele Roberts is looking to withdraw as counsel to one of the convicted defendants in the Washington Teachers’ Union embezzlement case. The move comes just weeks before her client, former union Treasurer James Baxter, is to be sentenced. Those differences “have seriously eroded the attorney-client relationship,” wrote Roberts, a partner with Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, in a March 16 motion. Roberts would not elaborate on the rift, suggesting Baxter’s new attorney, Elmer Douglas Ellis, might. But Ellis, a solo practitioner in Washington, said he wouldn’t talk about it. Given that she is one of D.C.’s premier litigators, one possible reason could be Roberts’ fee. Although Baxter has retained Ellis, U.S. District Judge Richard Leon has not yet ruled on Roberts’ request. Roberts began representing Baxter shortly after his arrest and indictment in November 2003 on conspiracy, fraud, embezzlement, and money laundering charges in connection with the theft of nearly $5 million in union funds. Baxter and Gwendolyn Hemphill were convicted in August following a three-month trial. Baxter, who is scheduled to be sentenced on May 12, faces a prison term of between 10 and 15 years.
Sarah Kelley can be contacted at [email protected].

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