In re Case No. 23236, No. A06-1400.

CourtSupreme Court of Minnesota (US)
Writing for the CourtPer Curiam
Citation728 N.W.2d 254
PartiesIn re CHARGES OF UNPROFESSIONAL CONDUCT IN PANEL CASE NO. 23236.
Decision Date08 March 2007
Docket NumberNo. A06-1400.
728 N.W.2d 254
In re CHARGES OF UNPROFESSIONAL CONDUCT IN PANEL CASE NO. 23236.
No. A06-1400.
Supreme Court of Minnesota.
March 8, 2007.

[728 N.W.2d 256]

Allen I. Saeks, Minneapolis, MN, for Appellant.

Martin A. Cole, Director, Craig D. Klausing, Senior Assistant Director, Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility, St. Paul, MN, for Respondent.

Considered and decided by the court en banc without oral argument.

OPINION

PER CURIAM.


This case presents the issue of whether a supervising lawyer has a duty to disclose to a client that another lawyer at the law firm, working on a matter for the client, had not been authorized to practice law for more than two years. This case also asks whether it is a violation of the Minnesota Rules of Professional Conduct for a law firm to bill a client at a contractually agreed upon rate for lawyer services when the lawyer provided these services during a time when the lawyer was not authorized to practice law.

The following facts were found by a panel of the Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board and are essentially undisputed. Appellant lawyer (hereinafter Appellant) was admitted to practice law in Minnesota in 1977 and currently is a shareholder in a Minneapolis law firm (hereinafter Law Firm). As a lawyer with the Law Firm, Appellant represented a government entity (hereinafter Client). Another lawyer in the Law Firm (hereinafter Restricted Lawyer) worked with Appellant in providing representation to the Client.

On August 27, 2002, Restricted Lawyer, who is not a subject of this disciplinary matter, was placed on CLE restricted status pursuant to Rule 12, Rules of the Minnesota Board of Continuing Legal Education, for failure to comply with Minnesota's CLE requirements.1 Appellant was unaware of Restricted Lawyer's failure to comply with the CLE requirements or that he was not authorized to practice law. On January 21, 2005, Appellant learned of Restricted Lawyer's status and at that time the Law Firm notified Restricted Lawyer that he was prohibited from engaging in the practice of law or representing any person or entity on behalf of the Law Firm in the State of Minnesota. However, Appellant did not inform the Client of Restricted Lawyer's status. Appellant continued working with Restricted Lawyer as a "non-lawyer assistant" in a supervisory capacity. In late January 2005, the Human Resources Manager of the Law Firm removed the reference in the Law Firm's website that Restricted Lawyer was authorized to practice law.

In late February 2005, the Client discovered that Restricted Lawyer's profile had been changed on the Law Firm's website and that the website no longer indicated that Restricted Lawyer was licensed to practice law in Minnesota. On February 22, 2005, the Client contacted Appellant and asked why Restricted Lawyer's profile

728 N.W.2d 257

had changed on the Law Firm's website. Appellant did not acknowledge that she was then aware that Restricted Lawyer had not been authorized to practice law for almost two and one-half years. Appellant told the Client that she would look into the matter and get back to the Client.

On February 23, 2005, Appellant telephoned the Client and for the first time acknowledged Restricted Lawyer's noncompliance with CLE requirements. However, Appellant did not tell the Client that Restricted Lawyer had been on involuntary restricted status and had not been authorized to practice law since 2002, a period during which Restricted Lawyer was providing legal services to the Client although not authorized to do so.

On April 13, 2005, Appellant submitted a statement for services rendered to the Client by the Law Firm. The statement included charges for work performed by Restricted Lawyer while he was not authorized to practice law, but neither the cover letter nor the bill stated that Restricted Lawyer was not authorized to practice law at the time the services were rendered. Moreover, Restricted Lawyer's services were billed at $205 per hour, the rate charged for work done by lawyers for the Client.

On July 14, 2005, the Client e-mailed Appellant and inquired about the time period that Restricted Lawyer was without a license and whether the Client was billed for Restricted Lawyer's time when he was not authorized to practice law. Appellant responded that Restricted Lawyer had been on involuntary restricted status since August 27, 2002, and sent the Client a second billing statement. In the second billing statement, Appellant removed all of the charges for time she had personally billed to the Client, eliminating accidental double billing for administrative time she had spent supervising Restricted Lawyer. However, the second billing statement continued to reflect a $205 per hour charge for Restricted Lawyer's services.

The Client objected to being billed for Restricted Lawyer's time while he was not authorized to practice law. Eventually, the Law Firm refunded to the Client all fees paid for Restricted Lawyer's time during the period he was not authorized to practice law. The Client then filed an ethics complaint with the Director of the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility.

After investigating the complaint, the Director concluded that Appellant had committed ethical violations of an "isolated and non-serious nature" and privately admonished Appellant for violating Minn. R. Prof. Conduct 1.4(b) by failing to inform the Client that Restricted Lawyer was not authorized to practice law and for violating Minn. R. Prof. Conduct 1.5(a) for billing the Client for Restricted Lawyer's time at the Law Firm's lawyer rate during the period that Restricted Lawyer was suspended from the practice of law.

Pursuant to Rule 8(d)(2)(iii), Rules on Lawyers Professional Responsibility (RLPR), Appellant demanded that the Director present the charges to a panel of the Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board for de novo consideration. The panel conducted a hearing and determined that Appellant had violated Rules 1.4(b) and 1.5 and that this violation warranted issuing an admonition. The panel further concluded that the decision of other lawyers in the Law Firm not to disclose the status of Restricted Lawyer's license did not impact Appellant's obligation to comply with the rules.

Findings made in lawyer discipline cases are reviewed under a clearly erroneous standard. In re Panel File Number 99-5, 607 N.W.2d 429, 431 (Minn.

728 N.W.2d 258

2000); see also In re X.Y., 529 N.W.2d 688, 689-90...

To continue reading

Request your trial
4 practice notes
  • In Re Petition For Disciplinary Action v. Donald W. Fett, No. A09-1862.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • November 24, 2010
    ...reasonably necessary to permit the client to make informed decisions regarding the representation.” See In re Panel Case No. 23236, 728 N.W.2d 254, 258-60 (Minn.2007) (concluding that a supervising attorney violated Minn. R. Prof. Conduct 1.4(b) when she failed to inform her client that the......
  • In re Charges Unprofessional Conduct in Panel File No. 39302, No. A15–2078.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • August 31, 2016
    ...violated Rule 5.5(a). We review findings made in lawyer discipline cases under a clearly erroneous standard. In re Panel Case No. 23236, 728 N.W.2d 254, 257–58 (Minn.2007). We “will uphold the panel's factual findings if they have evidentiary support in the record and are not clearly errone......
  • Reider v. Anoka-Hennepin School Dist., No. A06-1344.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • March 8, 2007
    ...and is problematic in its implementation.11 The rule in this state is that a conflict in expert medical testimony must be resolved 728 N.W.2d 254 by the factfinder. Nord v. City of Cook, 360 N.W.2d 337, 342 (Minn.1985). The neutral-physician examination statute was therefore designed to ves......
  • In re Petition for Disciplinary Action Against A.B., No. A13–1856.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • October 8, 2014
    ...and nonserious nature.” Rule 9(j)(1)(iii), RLPR. We review the findings made by a panel for clear error, In re Panel Case No. 23236, 728 N.W.2d 254, 257–58 (Minn.2007), but we have “the final responsibility for determining appropriate discipline for violations of the rules of professional c......
4 cases
  • In Re Petition For Disciplinary Action v. Donald W. Fett, No. A09-1862.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • November 24, 2010
    ...reasonably necessary to permit the client to make informed decisions regarding the representation.” See In re Panel Case No. 23236, 728 N.W.2d 254, 258-60 (Minn.2007) (concluding that a supervising attorney violated Minn. R. Prof. Conduct 1.4(b) when she failed to inform her client that the......
  • In re Charges Unprofessional Conduct in Panel File No. 39302, No. A15–2078.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • August 31, 2016
    ...violated Rule 5.5(a). We review findings made in lawyer discipline cases under a clearly erroneous standard. In re Panel Case No. 23236, 728 N.W.2d 254, 257–58 (Minn.2007). We “will uphold the panel's factual findings if they have evidentiary support in the record and are not clearly errone......
  • Reider v. Anoka-Hennepin School Dist., No. A06-1344.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • March 8, 2007
    ...and is problematic in its implementation.11 The rule in this state is that a conflict in expert medical testimony must be resolved 728 N.W.2d 254 by the factfinder. Nord v. City of Cook, 360 N.W.2d 337, 342 (Minn.1985). The neutral-physician examination statute was therefore designed to ves......
  • In re Petition for Disciplinary Action Against A.B., No. A13–1856.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • October 8, 2014
    ...and nonserious nature.” Rule 9(j)(1)(iii), RLPR. We review the findings made by a panel for clear error, In re Panel Case No. 23236, 728 N.W.2d 254, 257–58 (Minn.2007), but we have “the final responsibility for determining appropriate discipline for violations of the rules of professional c......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT