Disciplinary Action Against Strid, In re, No. C4-88-1993

CourtSupreme Court of Minnesota (US)
Writing for the CourtPER CURIAM
Citation551 N.W.2d 212
Decision Date03 July 1996
Docket NumberNo. C4-88-1993
PartiesIn re Petition for DISCIPLINARY ACTION AGAINST Dennis W. STRID, an Attorney at Law of the State of Minnesota.

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551 N.W.2d 212
In re Petition for DISCIPLINARY ACTION AGAINST Dennis W.
STRID, an Attorney at Law of the State of Minnesota.
No. C4-88-1993.
Supreme Court of Minnesota.
July 3, 1996.

Syllabus by the Court

In disciplinary proceedings, the allegations of the Director of the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility must be supported by clear and convincing evidence.

The facts of this case do not justify a finding that respondent attorney made false statements or misrepresentations in violation of Minnesota Rules of Professional Conduct 3.3(a)(1), 4.1 and 8.4(c).

Marcia A. Johnson, Director, Craig D. Klausing, Asst. Director, St. Paul, for Appellant.

Dennis W. Strid, Pro se.

OPINION

PER CURIAM.

The Director of the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility filed a petition for disciplinary action alleging that respondent, Dennis W. Strid, committed professional misconduct. The Director alleges that Strid misrepresented the total amount of his attorney fees to the Department of Labor and Industry and collected fees in excess of the total fees as represented to the Department. After a hearing on the petition, the referee concluded that the Director had failed to show by clear and convincing evidence that Strid had violated the Minnesota Rules of Professional Conduct. The referee recommended that the Director's petition be dismissed. The Director disputes the referee's recommendation and argues that Strid should be indefinitely suspended from the practice of law for a minimum period of two years. We affirm the referee's findings of fact, conclusions of law, and recommendation, and order that the Director's petition be dismissed.

Respondent, Dennis W. Strid, was admitted to practice law in Minnesota in 1962. His practice consisted primarily of workers' compensation cases, employment and business litigation. In 1981, Laurence E. Olson

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sought Strid's representation in a workers' compensation matter, seeking temporary partial disability benefits for a back injury he sustained in 1979. Olson had previously obtained workers' compensation benefits from his employer; however, in 1981, Olson's employer discharged him and notified him that his workers' compensation benefits would be discontinued. Strid filed a workers' compensation claim on behalf of Olson with the Department of Labor and Industry (DOLI), seeking additional temporary partial disability benefits. After a hearing, Olson's former employer was required to reinstate the disability benefits. Five years later, in October 1987, Strid commenced a suit on Olson's behalf against Olson's former employer alleging that the employer unlawfully conspired to discharge Olson and deprive him of workers' compensation benefits. This wrongful discharge claim is based on Minnesota Statutes section 176.82, which provides that an employee has a civil cause of action for damages resulting from the discharge from employment, threatened discharge or intentional obstruction of the employee who seeks workers' compensation benefits.

In December 1987, the attorney for the employer's workers' compensation insurer submitted discovery requests in the section 176.82 matter, which included two sets of requests for production of documents, a request for production of statements, and two sets of interrogatories. Strid responded to the discovery requests, objecting to the first request for production of documents as cumulative and burdensome, and submitting answers to the first set of interrogatories. In September 1988, the insurer's attorney submitted a proposal to settle both the workers' compensation claim and the section 176.82 action, and in March 1989, both claims were settled by stipulation. DOLI approved the settlement agreement the following month.

This disciplinary action arises out of a dispute over the amount of attorney fees received by Strid for legal services in settling Olson's claims. Strid and Olson had some discussion about the settlement proposals, and this discussion included the matter of Strid's attorney fees 1. At the disciplinary hearing, Strid introduced a document describing the proposed settlement: $160,300 in periodic payments; $20,000 up front payment to Olson; and $6,500 in attorney fees to Strid for the workers' compensation action. This document also contained the notation that "Larry will pay bal[ance] of $9,200."

The settlement stipulation resolved both the workers' compensation claim and the section 176.82 claim, and provided that the employer and insurer would pay the $6,500 in attorney fees directly to Strid. The stipulation provided that the $6,500 "shall constitute a full, final and complete settlement of any and all claims for attorney's fees pursuant to this Stipulation for Settlement," and further provided that the civil suit would be dismissed. The stipulation was filed with DOLI, and was reviewed by a compensation judge, who determined that it was in accord with the terms and provisions of Minnesota's workers' compensation statute. The judge ordered payment of the $6,500 to Strid for attorney fees.

On March 28, 1989, Olson signed a release of all claims in the section 176.82 action. Neither the stipulation nor the release allocated the settlement proceeds between the workers' compensation claim and the section 176.82 action. The stipulation did not reference the additional $9,200 which Strid claimed as attorney fees for his representation in the section 176.82 action. Strid claimed that Olson had agreed to the $9,200 fee. At the disciplinary hearing, Olson admitted that he had agreed to pay the $9,200 in attorney fees to Strid out of the settlement proceeds. Olson in fact wrote two checks to Strid for attorney fees. The first check, in the amount of $600, is dated March 30, 1989, two days after the date of the stipulation, and it bears the notation "balance due $8,600."

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The second check, in the amount of $8,600, is dated April 26, 1989.

On February 23, 1995, nearly six years after the settlement and payment of the attorney fees, the Director filed charges of unprofessional conduct against Strid, alleging that Strid charged an unreasonable fee, did not communicate the basis of his fee, failed to have a written contingent fee agreement, provided no written statement showing how the fee was determined, and made false representations to DOLI regarding the fee. The Director charged that Strid violated Minnesota Rules of Professional Conduct 1.4, 1.5, 3.3(a)(1), 4.1 and 8.4(c). A hearing was held before a panel of the Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board, and a petition for public discipline was authorized only on the basis of Strid's alleged misrepresentations violating Minnesota Rules of Professional Conduct 3.3(a)(1), 4.1 and 8.4(c), which relate to false statements and misrepresentation.

On October 12, 1995, a referee appointed by the Minnesota Supreme Court heard testimony from Olson, Strid and from two experts in workers' compensation practice. The Director's expert opined that the stipulation for settlement was misleading regarding the total amount of attorney fees because the compensation judge, in order to determine whether the settlement is fair and reasonable, must look at the total recovery. The Director's expert believed that the stipulation seemed to say that Olson would receive a $20,000 lump sum payment, plus $160,000 in annuity payments, and that Strid's attorney fees would be paid separately by the employer and were in the total amount of $6,500. The Director's expert opined that Olson would not receive all of the $20,000 because he would be obligated to pay Strid additional attorney fees, the $9,200, out of the $20,000. But the Director's expert did testify that the workers'...

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21 practice notes
  • In re Bonner, A15-1813
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • May 31, 2017
    ...(Minn. 2010). The Director must, in other words, prove the allegations by " ‘cogent and compelling evidence.’ " In re Strid , 551 N.W.2d 212, 215 (Minn. 1996) (quoting 896 N.W.2d 106In re Schmidt , 402 N.W.2d 544, 545 (Minn. 1987) ).Rule 19, RLPR, provides that a "lawyer's cr......
  • In re Klotz, A16-1631
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • March 21, 2018
    ...and firm conviction that a mistake has been made.’ " In re Wentzell , 656 N.W.2d 402, 405 (Minn. 2003) (quoting In re Strid , 551 N.W.2d 212, 215 (Minn. 1996) ).A. Klotz’s misconduct includes lying to the Director, not cooperating with the Director’s investigation, creating a false and......
  • IN RE DISCIPLINARY ACTION AGAINST ALBRECHT, No. A08-2082.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • March 18, 2010
    ...conviction that a mistake has been made'" to conclude that a referee's findings were clearly erroneous. Id. (quoting In re Strid, 551 N.W.2d 212, 215 (Minn.1996)). Where "the referee's findings are supported by the evidence, they will be upheld." In re Erickson, 653 N.W.2d 18......
  • In re Lieber, A19-0048
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • February 19, 2020
    ...clearly erroneous when they leave us " ‘with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been made.’ " In re Strid , 551 N.W.2d 212, 215 (Minn. 1996) (quoting Gjovik v. Strope , 401 N.W.2d 664, 667 (Minn. 1987) ).A. We first examine the nature of Lieber’s misconduct. Liebe......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
21 cases
  • In re Bonner, A15-1813
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • May 31, 2017
    ...629, 635 (Minn. 2010). The Director must, in other words, prove the allegations by " ‘cogent and compelling evidence.’ " In re Strid , 551 N.W.2d 212, 215 (Minn. 1996) (quoting 896 N.W.2d 106In re Schmidt , 402 N.W.2d 544, 545 (Minn. 1987) ).Rule 19, RLPR, provides that a "lawyer's criminal......
  • In re Klotz, A16-1631
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • March 21, 2018
    ...definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been made.’ " In re Wentzell , 656 N.W.2d 402, 405 (Minn. 2003) (quoting In re Strid , 551 N.W.2d 212, 215 (Minn. 1996) ).A. Klotz’s misconduct includes lying to the Director, not cooperating with the Director’s investigation, creating a false......
  • IN RE DISCIPLINARY ACTION AGAINST ALBRECHT, No. A08-2082.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • March 18, 2010
    ...firm conviction that a mistake has been made'" to conclude that a referee's findings were clearly erroneous. Id. (quoting In re Strid, 551 N.W.2d 212, 215 (Minn.1996)). Where "the referee's findings are supported by the evidence, they will be upheld." In re Erickson, 653 N.W.2d 184, 189 (Mi......
  • In re Disciplinary Action against Wentzel, No. A05-846.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • April 6, 2006
    ...firm conviction that a mistake has been made" before determining a referee's findings to be clearly erroneous. Id. (quoting In re Strid, 551 N.W.2d 212, 215 We first address Wentzel's challenge to the referee's finding. Wentzel argues that the referee's finding that Wentzel lacks insight in......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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