Application of Christianson, Nos. 8520

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of North Dakota
Writing for the CourtVOGEL; Brower; Simmons; ERICKSTAD
Citation215 N.W.2d 920
PartiesApplication of Elmo T. CHRISTIANSON for Reinstatement to the Bar of the State of North Dakota.
Docket NumberNos. 8520,8761
Decision Date31 January 1974

Page 920

215 N.W.2d 920
Application of Elmo T. CHRISTIANSON for Reinstatement to the
Bar of the State of North Dakota.
Nos. 8520, 8761.
Supreme Court of North Dakota.
Jan. 31, 1974.

Syllabus by the Court

1. A suspended attorney has the burden of clearly establishing his qualifications for reinstatement by sufficient proof to overcome the prior adverse judgment leading to his suspension.

2. A suspended attorney who draws and supervises the execution of a will and

Page 921

obtains articles of incorporation for another is engaged in the unauthorized practice of law.

3. A disbarred or suspended attorney engages in the unauthorized practice of law when he performs services customarily performed by licensed attorneys which require legal expertise, even though such acts may lawfully be performed by laymen in some circumstances, unless his qualifications to perform such services derive from sources other than his law training and law experience.

4. A disbarred or suspended attorney may be employed as a law clerk by a licensed attorney.

Elmo T. Christianson, pro se.

Donald J. Olson, Grand Forks, for Grievance Commission of the Supreme Court.

VOGEL, Judge.

The petitioner was suspended from practice as an attorney at law in this State on September 18, 1956, upon conviction of a felony in Federal Court. See Christianson v. United States, 226 F.2d 646 (CA8 1955), cert. denied 350 U.S. 994, 76 S.Ct. 543, 100 L.Ed. 859 (1956). On May 16, 1957, his right to practice was reinstated.

On February 13, 1970, he was suspended for reasons which appear in In re Christianson, 175 N.W.2d 8 (N.D.1970). The decision provided that the petitioner would 'have the privilege of applying for reinstatement of a certificate of admission to the bar one year after the entry of this order, on a showing that he has made restitution . . . and that he is otherwise qualified to be reinstated as a member of the bar of the state of North Dakota.'

On March 2, 1971, he applied for reinstatement as an attorney at law. The matter was referred to the appropriate grievance committee of the State Bar Association which, upon investigation, found that certain complaints were made against the conduct of the petitioner. The Grievance Commission of this court held a hearing on the complaints, as well as upon the petition for reinstatement, and filed its report with this court. In April 1972, a hearing was held on the report and recommendations of the Grievance Commission, and on May 5, 1972, this court ordered 'that the certificate of admission of Elmo T. Christianson to the bar of the State of North Dakota shall remain suspended, with a provision that the said Elmo T. Christianson may reapply for reinstatement after January 1, 1973, and may be reinstated upon a proper showing at that time.' Application of Christianson, 202 N.W.2d 756 (N.D.1972).

By application dated January 8, 1973, the petitioner again applied for reinstatement. The matter was again referred to the grievance committee, again further complaints developed, again they were investigated, and again the Grievance Commission conducted an investigation and made its recommendation. The findings of fact and conclusions of law and recommendation of the Grievance Commission are as follows:

FINDINGS OF FACT

'1. That the certificate of admission of Elmo T. Christianson to the Bar of the State of North Dakota was suspended in 1970 by action of the Supreme Court of North Dakota as reported in 175 N.W.2d 8.

'2. That suspension thereof was continued by action of the Supreme Court of North Dakota as reported in 202 N.W.2d 756.

'3. That under Rule XIII of the Supreme Court Rules of Disciplinary Procedure, the burden is upon an applicant seeking reinstatement to establish the averments of his application by clear and convincing evidence.

Page 922

'4. That the petitioner in his petition stated, in part:

'1) that petitioner has observed the mandate of the Court in every respect and has not practiced law since its order of suspension. . . .'

'5. That the petitioner during the suspension of his certificate of admission to the Bar of North Dakota prepared a Will for one Rosa Johnson.

'6. That during the period of suspension, the petitioner incorporated The Par Bar and received check No. 3020 dated October 31 in the amount of $55.00 for his work in forming the said corporation.

'7. That during the period of suspension, the petitioner incorporated J & R Automotive Jobbers, Inc. and received therefor check No. 101 dated March 9, 1973 in the amount of.$442.95 bearing the notation 'corporation tax and records', a part of which represented fees for his work in setting up the corporation.

'8. That the petitioner in his statement to Grievance Committee No. 1 on March 24, 1973 falsely denied having received any money in connection with the incorporation of J & R Automotive Jobbers, Inc. when in fact he had received the check referred to in paragraph 7 hereof on or about the date it bears, namely March 9, 1973.

'9. That the petitioner during the period of suspension actively undertook with Attorney Robert Fiedler (sic) of Grand Forks the representation of one Robert A. Blackburn in a criminal case; that the petitioner participated in every aspect of the case except actual court room appearances, and that his work included investigation and preparation of pre-trial motions, trial briefs and closing argument.

'10. That for his work, the petitioner received payment from Robert Blackburn in the total sum of $250.00 by checks as follows:

Check No. 459 dated April 3, 1972 $ 50.00

Check No. 289 dated March 10, 1972 $100.00

Check No. 297 dated March 18, 1972 $ 50.00

Check No. 409 dated April 28, 1972 $ 50.00

'11. That the petitioner falsely stated to the Grievance Committee No. 1 on March 24, 1973, that he had not received any money from Blackburns and that he had been paid for his work by Attorney Fiedler (sic).

'The Grievance Commission further reaches the following:

'CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

'1. That the petitioner, in violation of the mandate of the Supreme Court and the statutes of the State of North Dakota has engaged in the unauthorized practice of law during a period when his certificate of admission to the Bar was suspended.

'2. That the petitioner has wholly failed to sustain the burden of showing that he is entitled to reinstatement to the Bar of the State of North Dakota.

'3. That the petitioner has not established the averments of his application by clear and convincing evidence.

'RECOMMENDATION

'The Grievance Commission unanimously recommends that the suspension of petitioner's certificate of admission to the Bar of the State of North Dakota be continued indefinitely, and that the petitioner be assessed actual costs as determined by the Clerk of the Supreme Court.'

The petitioner admits that he prepared the will of Rosa Johnson, that he incorporated the Par Bar, that he incorporated J & R Automotive Jobbers, Inc., and that he assisted Attorney Robert Feidler in representing Robert A. Blackburn in a criminal case.

Page 923

He attempts to excuse the drafting of the will by stating that Mrs. Johnson was hospitalized and afraid she would soon die; that she was talking in Icelandic and that a member of the hospital staff called the petitioner, who speaks Icelandic, and asked the petitioner to talk to her; and particularly that in drafting the will the petitioner was acting as the clerk of a practicing attorney, Wesley Argue, of Hamilton, North Dakota. He also denies receipt of a fee for incorporating the Par Bar.

Apparently neither Mrs. Johnson, who is still living, nor Mr. Argue was interviewed by representatives of the grievance committee or the Grievance Commission. Mr. Argue's affidavit is submitted on behalf of the petitioner, but it makes no reference whatever to the matter of the drafting of Mrs. Johnson's will. It states only that Mr. Argue 'knows of no instance where Mr. Elmo T. Christianson has engaged in the practice of law since the time of the suspension of his license' and 'that the affiant has no knowledge of any unauthorized practice of law by Mr. Elmo T. Christianson during the period of time when his license to practice law was suspended.' It is totally silent as to whether Mr. Christianson ever acted as clerk for Mr. Argue.

We discussed the difficulty of defining the term 'practice of law' at some length in Cain...

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23 practice notes
  • Practice and procedure: Patent and trademark cases rules of practice; representation of others before Patent and Trademark Office,
    • United States
    • Federal Register December 12, 2003
    • December 12, 2003
    ...These provisions were derived from the same cases considered when current Sec. 10.158(c) was proposed, including In re Christianson, 215 N.W. 2d 920 (N.D. 1974); In re Hawkins, 503 P.2d 95 (Wash. 1972); Florida Bar v. Thomson, 354 So.2d 3000 (Fla. 1975); In re Kraus, 670 P.2d 1012 (Ore. 198......
  • Part II
    • United States
    • Federal Register December 12, 2003
    • December 12, 2003
    ...These provisions were derived from the same cases considered when current Sec. 10.158(c) was proposed, including In re Christianson, 215 N.W. 2d 920 (N.D. 1974); In re Hawkins, 503 P.2d 95 (Wash. 1972); Florida Bar v. Thomson, 354 So.2d 3000 (Fla. 1975); In re Kraus, 670 P.2d 1012 (Ore. 198......
  • Mitchell, In re, Nos. 86-8018
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • December 27, 1989
    ...the practice of law, and that his work and his opinions are presumably more valuable on that account." Application of Christianson, 215 N.W.2d 920, 925 (N.D.1974). See also Matter of Discipline of Jorissen, 391 N.W.2d 822, 825 (Minn.1986) ("Where the individual charged with unauth......
  • In re Blake, SCBD No. 6237.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Oklahoma
    • March 22, 2016
    ...pleadings he drafted for his clients, or that he had not entered an appearance in any court.”).13 See also Application of Christianson, 215 N.W.2d 920, 925 (N.D.1974) (“[t]he public knows that [a disbarred lawyer] has a legal education, that he has engaged in the practice of law, and that h......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
21 cases
  • Mitchell, In re, Nos. 86-8018
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • December 27, 1989
    ...the practice of law, and that his work and his opinions are presumably more valuable on that account." Application of Christianson, 215 N.W.2d 920, 925 (N.D.1974). See also Matter of Discipline of Jorissen, 391 N.W.2d 822, 825 (Minn.1986) ("Where the individual charged with unauth......
  • In re Blake, SCBD No. 6237.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Oklahoma
    • March 22, 2016
    ...pleadings he drafted for his clients, or that he had not entered an appearance in any court.”).13 See also Application of Christianson, 215 N.W.2d 920, 925 (N.D.1974) (“[t]he public knows that [a disbarred lawyer] has a legal education, that he has engaged in the practice of law, and that h......
  • In re Hoffman, No. 20050162.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of North Dakota
    • October 18, 2005
    ...and of sufficient weight to overcome the former adverse judgment as to the petitioner's character." Application of Christianson, 215 N.W.2d 920, 923 (N.D.1974). We review proceedings for reinstatement de novo on the record and accord due weight to the findings, conclusions, and recomme......
  • Ranta v. McCarney, No. 11033
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of North Dakota
    • July 16, 1986
    ...compensation for his or her services. There are, however, two North Dakota cases which are analogous. Application of Christianson, 215 N.W.2d 920 (N.D.1974), involved legal work performed by a suspended lawyer Page 164 which, the lawyer alleged, could be lawfully performed by a layperson. T......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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