IN RE DISCIPLINARY ACTION AGAINST EDIN, No. 20050010

Citation697 N.W.2d 727,2005 ND 109
Decision Date07 June 2005
Docket Number No. 20050010, No. 20050011.
PartiesIn the Matter of the Application for DISCIPLINARY ACTION AGAINST Charles T. EDIN, a Person Admitted to the Bar of the State of North Dakota Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of the State of North Dakota, Petitioner v. Charles T. Edin, Respondent.
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of North Dakota

Paul W. Jacobson, Disciplinary Counsel, Bismarck, N.D., for petitioner.

Charles T. Edin, pro se.

PER CURIAM.

[¶ 1] Disciplinary Counsel of the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court filed objections to a hearing panel's report, which concluded Charles T. Edin violated N.D.R. Prof. Conduct 1.3, 1.4, and 1.16 because he failed to act diligently in handling his client's cases; he did not promptly respond to his client's reasonable requests for information; and his abrupt withdrawal of representation adversely affected his clients. The hearing panel recommended Edin be suspended from the practice of law for six months and pay the costs of the disciplinary proceeding. Edin admitted each of the alleged violations. We decline to fully adopt the hearing panel's recommendation. We order Edin suspended from the practice of law from the date of his original interim suspension, September 24, 2003, to the date this opinion is filed. We further order him to pay the costs and attorney's fees for the disciplinary proceeding.

I

[¶ 2] Charles Edin was admitted to practice as an attorney at law in the courts of North Dakota on April 16, 1984, and his name has appeared since that date on the roll of attorneys admitted to the North Dakota Bar, as maintained by the Supreme Court. Edin was placed on interim suspension from the practice of law on September 24, 2003, under Rule 3.4(b), N.D.R. Lawyer Discipl. Disciplinary Board v. Edin, 2003 ND 152, 669 N.W.2d 118. Under N.D.R. Lawyer Discipl. 3.4(b), a trustee was appointed to protect Edin's clients' interests on September 30, 2003. See N.D.R. Lawyer Discipl. 6.4.

[¶ 3] On October 1, 2003, in compliance with N.D.R. Lawyer Discipl. 6.3, which requires an attorney placed on interim suspension to give notice to "[a]ll clients being represented in pending matters," this Court received a letter from Edin with several attachments indicating he had complied with the rule and offering an explanation for his actions. The Court then informed Edin that his reinstatement would be considered upon receipt of an assessment from his physician of his ability to function as a practicing attorney.

[¶ 4] On January 30, 2004, Edin filed a letter and attachment requesting the Court lift the interim suspension. On February 4, 2004, Disciplinary Counsel responded, asserting the interim suspension should remain in effect. On February 18, 2004, this Court ordered the matter referred to the Disciplinary Board for expeditious hearing under N.D.R. Lawyer Discipl. 5.1(c) and a determination be made in conjunction with any other matters presently pending with the Disciplinary Board. A Notice of Appointment of Hearing Panel was filed on February 24, 2004, and served on Edin March 1, 2004. Edin filed his Answer to Petition for Hearing on August 11, 2004. A Notice of Hearing was served on Edin September 13, 2004, and the hearing was held on November 19, 2004.

[¶ 5] The hearing panel heard the testimony of Jolene Samuelson, Kary Hoff, and Julie and Gerard Feist, all former clients of Edin. The hearing panel report, filed January 10, 2005, concluded Edin violated N.D.R. Prof. Conduct 1.3, Diligence, because he did not act with reasonable diligence in his representation of either Hoff or the Feists; N.D.R. Prof. Conduct 1.4, Communication, because he did not make a reasonable effort to keep Hoff, the Feists, or Samuelson reasonably informed of the status of their respective cases; and N.D.R. Prof. Conduct 1.16, Declining or Terminating Representation, because he abruptly ended his representation of Samuelson while her matter was unresolved. The hearing panel also found "[o]ther clients ... would be willing and happy to have Edin do legal work for them in the future."

[¶ 6] Edin admitted to the alleged violations, asserting his actions resulted from his disappointment in the legal system over another case in which he was involved and from depression caused by that case.

[¶ 7] The hearing panel noted, in deciding an appropriate sanction, they considered Standard 9.32(c) and (h), North Dakota Standards for Imposing Lawyer Sanctions, which expressly include "personal or emotional problems" and "mental disability or impairment" as mitigating factors. The hearing panel also considered 9.32(a), absence of prior disciplinary record; 9.32(e), full and free disclosure and cooperative attitude; and 9.32(g), character or reputation, as mitigating factors. Standard 9.22(I), substantial experience in the practice of law, was considered as an aggravating factor. The hearing panel further noted that Edin's "demeanor and testimony at the hearing reflects remorse and an understanding of the nature of the misconduct." The hearing panel recommended that Edin be suspended from the practice of law for six months, with credit for time served under his interim suspension, and that he pay the costs and attorney's fees for the disciplinary proceeding.

[¶ 8] On January 27, 2005, Disciplinary Counsel objected to the hearing panel's recommendation, arguing Edin be suspended from the practice of law for two years, with credit for time served under interim suspension; Edin be required to pay restitution to certain former clients in the total amount of $20,000; and Edin be required to pay the costs and attorney's fees for the disciplinary proceeding.

II

[¶ 9] We review disciplinary proceedings de novo on the record. In re Disciplinary Action Against McKechnie, 2003 ND 170, ¶ 7, 670 N.W.2d 864. We accord due weight to the hearing panel's findings, conclusions, and recommendations, but we do not act as a mere rubber stamp of the hearing panel's decision. Id. Disciplinary Counsel bears the burden of proving each alleged violation of the disciplinary rules by clear and convincing evidence. Id. Each disciplinary case must be considered upon its own facts to decide what discipline, if any, is warranted. Id.

III

[¶ 10] Disciplinary Counsel argues the hearing panel's recommended sanctions are not appropriate. Disciplinary Counsel contends the hearing panel should have recommended that Edin be suspended for two years and that he pay restitution to his injured clients.

A

[¶ 11] In determining the appropriate sanctions for violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct, we are guided by the North Dakota Standards for Imposing Lawyer Sanctions. In re Disciplinary Action Against Edwardson, 2002 ND 106, ¶ 21, 647 N.W.2d 126. Under N.D. Stds. Imposing Lawyer Sanctions 2.0, potential sanctions which may be imposed include suspension, restitution, and assessment of costs. We consider the following factors in imposing sanctions: "(a) the duty violated; (b) the lawyer's mental state; (c) the potential or actual injury caused by the lawyer's misconduct; and (d) the existence of aggravating or mitigating factors." N.D. Stds. Imposing Lawyer Sanctions 3.0.

[¶ 12] Disciplinary Counsel argues that under Standard 4.41(a) or 4.42, North Dakota Standards for Imposing Lawyer Sanctions, Edin's ethical violations amount to abandonment of his practice warranting a two-year suspension. Standard 4.41 provides:

Disbarment is generally appropriate when:
(a) a lawyer abandons the practice and
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    • United States State Supreme Court of North Dakota
    • May 16, 2006
    ...counsel bears the burden of proving each alleged violation of the disciplinary rules by clear and convincing evidence. Disciplinary Bd. v. Edin, 2005 ND 109, ¶ 9, 697 N.W.2d 727. Each disciplinary case must be considered upon its own facts to decide what discipline, if any, is warranted. Di......
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    ...paragraph A of the Recommendation for Suspension.”II [¶ 7] We review the record in a disciplinary proceeding de novo. In re Disciplinary Action Against Edin, 2005 ND 109, ¶ 9, 697 N.W.2d 727. Although due weight is accorded to the hearing panel's findings, conclusions, and recommendations, ......
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    • April 13, 2006
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