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There were two decisions -- actually, one decision and one order -- on attorney discipline from the Minnesota Supreme Court.  The decision is noteworthy because two of the Justices, including the Chief Justice, dissented.  The order stands for the proposition that attorneys should not violate the Rules of Professional Conduct while on probation for a prior disciplinary offense.

A13-1382, In re Petition for Disciplinary Action against Larry S. Severson, a Minnesota Attorney, Registration No. 99363

The respondent attorney engaged in misconduct by entering into an investment agreement, which amounted to an unsecured $500,000 loan, and several related business transactions with a client in violation of his obligations under the rules of professional conduct regarding conflicts of interest. The attorney also made misrepresentations to a client and opposing counsel in the course of a civil lawsuit, and to the Director during the disciplinary investigation, caused harm to his client, and did not demonstrate genuine remorse for the misconduct.  Based upon these violations of the rules of professional conduct, the appropriate discipline is an indefinite suspension from the practice of law with no right to petition for reinstatement for 1 year.

The dissent argued that the Minnesota Supreme Court should have imposed a 3-month suspension, as recommended by the referee, because a longer suspension is warranted only when the attorney intentionally commits an act of dishonesty.  The dissent wrote:

A lawyer’s first responsibility is to represent his client’s interests. There is great peril for both lawyer and client when, as here, the client’s interests and the lawyer’s interests are intertwined. Severson’s failure to make his client’s interests the paramount concern necessitates discipline. Given the unique facts in this record, however, I would suspend Severson from the practice of law for 3 months as recommended by the referee.

 However, the dissent is in the minority, and the longer suspension carries the day.

A14-2158, In re Petition for Disciplinary Action against Shannon M. Fitzpatrick, a Minnesota Attorney, Registration No. 345349.

The Director of the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility filed a petition for disciplinary action alleging that respondent Shannon M. Fitzpatrick committed professional misconduct, namely, that while on disciplinary probation, respondent cut and pasted a client's signature from another document to a stipulation for an order, with
that client's knowledge, notarized the signature, and filed the document with the district court, in violation ofMinn. R. Prof. Conduct 8.4(c) and (d).Respondent waived her procedural rights under Rule 14, Rules on Lawyers
Professional Responsibility (RLPR), and unconditionally admitted the allegations of the petition. In a stipulation for discipline, the parties jointly recommended that the appropriate discipline is a 30-day suspension and 2 years of probation. After filing the stipulation for discipline, respondent asked the court to make her suspension retroactive
to January 1, 2015, or in the alternative, to impose a 30-day stayed suspension.  The Minnesota Supreme Court imposed the agreed-upon discipline: a 30-day suspension.

Tim represents attorneys facing professional discipline, and consults with attorneys about whether a particular situation or proposed course of conduct implicates the Rules of Professional Conduct.  When faced with a situation that may implicate the Rules of Professional Conduct, Tim always recommends that an attorney seek an advisory opinion from the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility. 

WARNING: The information contained in this blog post does not constitute legal advice and may not be applicable to your situation.  Reading this blog post does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Baland Law Office, P.L.L.C.  Also, Tim is licensed only in state and federal courts in Minnesota.  As such, any information provided in this blog post pertains only to those jurisdictions.  Further, you should always discuss your situation with an attorney before taking any action based on what you may read in this blog.  To that end, please call (763) 450-9494 to set up an appointment to discuss your situation.

 


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