The lead attorney for alleged serial bomber Eric Rudolph (search) unexpectedly withdrew from the case Monday, and a judge appointed a lawyer who represented the Unabomber to take his place.

Richard Jaffe (search), a death penalty specialist appointed to represent Rudolph shortly after his arrest last year, was granted permission to withdraw from the defense along with two members of his firm and a third local lawyer.

Federal Judge Lynwood Smith said Jaffe would be replaced by Judy Clarke, who had already been working on the case, but had not been lead counsel. Clarke represented Unabomber Ted Kaczynski (search) and helped Susan Smith avoid the death penalty for the murder of her sons in South Carolina.

Jaffe cited no reason for his withdrawal, and the judge did not divulge the reason for the change in a brief order filed an hour later — an unusually quick response in the closely watched case.

Court records show Jaffe's withdrawal came after a motion filed under seal by Rudolph or his attorneys. It could not be ascertained from court files whether the two events were connected, or exactly which member of the defense filed the sealed motion.

In his order, the judge said Jaffe and the other attorneys leaving the case must hand over all their files on Rudolph immediately. He also ordered them to deliver any government-owned computers or other equipment to a location designated by Clark and another defense lawyer.

Rudolph is scheduled for trial next spring on death penalty charges in the fatal bombing of a Birmingham abortion clinic (search) in January 1998. He also is charged in the fatal bombing at Atlanta's Olympic park in 1996 and a pair of bombings in Atlanta in 1997.

Rudolph remains jailed without bond. U.S. Attorney Alice Martin said the government would oppose any further delay in his trial.

Neither Jaffe nor Clarke immediately returned telephone calls seeking comment.