In re Hoffman, No. 20050162.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of North Dakota
Writing for the CourtPER CURIAM.
Citation704 N.W.2d 810,2005 ND 171
Docket NumberNo. 20050162.
Decision Date18 October 2005
PartiesIn the Matter of the Application for Reinstatement of Randall L. HOFFMAN. Randall L. Hoffman, Petitioner v. Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of the State of North Dakota, Respondent.

704 N.W.2d 810
2005 ND 171

In the Matter of the Application for Reinstatement of Randall L. HOFFMAN.
Randall L. Hoffman, Petitioner
v.
Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of the State of North Dakota, Respondent

No. 20050162.

Supreme Court of North Dakota.

October 18, 2005.


704 N.W.2d 811
Randall L. Hoffman (pro se), Elgin, N.D

Paul W. Jacobson, Bismarck, N.D. for respondent.

PER CURIAM.

[¶ 1] Randall L. Hoffman petitioned for reinstatement to the bar and challenged the Disciplinary Board's recommendation that he not be admitted to the bar at this time. We adopt the recommendation of the Board and deny Hoffman's petition for reinstatement.

I

[¶ 2] On October 23, 2003, this Court suspended Hoffman from the practice of law for one year beginning December 1, 2003, and ordered that he pay the costs of the disciplinary proceeding because of his violations of N.D.R. Prof. Conduct 1.12(a), 3.4(d), 4.2 and 4.4. See In re Hoffman, 2003 ND 161, ¶ 33, 670 N.W.2d 500. The disciplinary action was based on three incidents of attorney misconduct. In the first incident, the Toltzman matter, Hoffman, while sitting as a district judge, granted a default judgment in favor of the wife in a divorce action. Id. at ¶ 2. After Hoffman resigned as district judge, he represented

704 N.W.2d 812
the husband in the Toltzman divorce action without the consent of the wife and moved to amend the divorce judgment. Id. at ¶ 3. In the second incident, Hoffman attempted to settle a visitation dispute with Ray Remmick, the father of the child of Hoffman's fiancée without Remmick's consent to the discussion being held outside the presence of his attorney. Id. at ¶¶ 4, 5. Hoffman threatened that if Remmick did not sign a document indicating his consent and discuss visitation without his attorney being present, Remmick would not receive visitation with the child that night. Id. at ¶ 5. When Remmick refused, he was denied visitation. Id. In the third incident, Hoffman harassed Remmick with numerous discovery requests in the visitation proceedings seeking facts intimate to his sexual relationship with Hoffman's fiancée

[¶ 3] In October 2004, Hoffman filed a petition for reinstatement under N.D.R. Lawyer Discipl. 4.5. Following a March 11, 2005, hearing before a hearing panel appointed by the Board, the Board recommended that Hoffman not be currently reinstated to the practice of law because he had failed to meet his burden of demonstrating his qualifications for reinstatement under N.D.R. Lawyer Discipl. 4.5(F)(3) and (5). The Board also recommended that Hoffman pay the costs of the reinstatement proceeding in the amount of $1,558.10.

II

[¶ 4] Hoffman raises numerous challenges to the Board's findings, conclusions and recommendation.

[¶ 5] "A court which has the power to suspend or disbar an attorney also has the power to reinstate, upon proper and satisfactory proof that, as a result of his discipline, he has become a fit and proper person to be intrusted with the office of an attorney." Application of Christianson, 202 N.W.2d 756 Syll. ¶ 1 (N.D.1972). Reinstatement is not a matter of right. Application of Christianson, 253 N.W.2d 410, 413 (N.D.1977). Rather, the petitioner has the burden of establishing the averments of his application for reinstatement or readmission by clear and convincing evidence, and the proof must be "of a satisfactory character 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 recommendations of the hearing panel as adopted by the Board. In re Montgomery, 2000 ND 127, ¶ 5, 612 N.W.2d 278. Each case must be judged on its own facts and merits. In re Montgomery, 1997 ND 148, ¶ 5, 566 N.W.2d 426.

[¶ 6] The Board determined that Hoffman failed to demonstrate he met the qualifications for reinstatement listed under N.D.R. Lawyer Discipl. 4.5(F)(3) and (5), which provide:

3. The petitioner has not engaged or attempted to engage in the unauthorized practice of law during the period of suspension or disbarment;
. . . .
5. The petitioner recognizes the wrongfulness and seriousness of the misconduct for which the petitioner was suspended or disbarred.

[¶ 7] The Board made the following relevant findings and conclusions in support of its recommendation to deny Hoffman's petition for reinstatement:

2.
In large part, the conduct which led to Hoffman's suspension concerned his involvement in a visitation dispute between his then fiancé[e] (now wife) and the father of her child. During the time of his suspension, Hoffman engaged in
704 N.W.2d 813
communication with the father and the father's wife through entries in Hoffman's [I]nternet Yahoo Member Directory profile. These communications were disparaging and demeaning.
3.
During the time of Hoffman's suspension, the litigation between Hoffman's wife and the father of her child continued. Among other things, there were filings with the District Court and an appeal to the Supreme Court of North Dakota. Hoffman's wife, a non-lawyer, purportedly represented herself in all of the proceedings. Hoffman admitted that he assisted his wife in the litigation but stated his assistance was limited to matters of grammar, spelling and syntax.
4.
Hoffman testified that he recognized the wrongfulness and seriousness of the misconduct for which he was originally suspended. His statements, however, appear to be a recitation of the conclusions of the North Dakota Supreme Court and did not reflect contrition or sincerity.
. . . .
2.
The panel concludes that Hoffman likely engaged in the unauthorized practice of law during his suspension by virtue of his participation in the various filings purportedly made pro se by his wife in the visitation dispute between her and the father of [her] child (Rule 4.5F(3), NDRLD). The North Dakota Supreme Court has stated that an "attorney suspended shall refrain, during such suspension, from all aspects of the ordinary law practice. . . ." Disciplinary Board v. Larson, 485 N.W.2d 345 (N.D.1992). Hoffman's admitted participation with his wife in the preparation of filings with the District Court and the Supreme Court runs afoul of this Rule. Hoffman's reliance on Rule 5.5 of the North Dakota Rules of Professional Conduct that a lawyer may counsel non-lawyers who wish to represent themselves misses the mark as, at all relevant times, Hoffman was suspended from the practice of law and should have refrained from providing any legal advice or assistance to his wife in connection with the pleadings and filings in connection with the visitation dispute. Hoffman has failed to meet his burden with respect to Rule 4.5F(3).
3.
While his words may have suggested that Hoffman recognizes the wrongfulness and seriousness of the misconduct for which he was suspended, his demeanor during the course of the hearing suggested otherwise. Moreover, his admitted participation in the visitation dispute between his wife and the father of her child, even if such conduct does not rise to the unauthorized practice of law, constitutes further evidence that he does not fully recognize the wrongfulness and seriousness of his misconduct. As such, Hoffman has failed to meet his burden with respect to Rule 4.5F(5).

A

[¶ 8] Hoffman challenges the Board's finding that he engaged in disparaging and demeaning communications over the Internet with Remmick and his wife during the period of his suspension.

[¶ 9] Hoffman argues that his involvement in the visitation...

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3 practice notes
  • Stensland v. Disciplinary Bd. of the Supreme Court of State (In re Application for Reinstatement of Stensland), No. 20130008.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of North Dakota
    • December 19, 2013
    ...be [853 N.W.2d 541judged on its own facts and merits. In re Montgomery, 1997 ND 148, ¶ 5, 566 N.W.2d 426.Hoffman v. Disciplinary Board, 2005 ND 171, ¶ 5, 704 N.W.2d 810.¶ 9] The panel found Stensland has not demonstrated his qualifications for reinstatement to the practice of law under N.D.......
  • In re Reinstatement of Ellis, No. 20060081.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of North Dakota
    • September 13, 2006
    ...and satisfactory proof that the attorney has become a fit and proper person to be entrusted with the office of an attorney. In re Hoffman, 2005 ND 171, ¶ 5, 704 N.W.2d 810; In re Christianson, 202 N.W.2d 756, Syllabus No. 1 (N.D.1972); see N.D.R. Lawyer Discipl. 4.5. Reinstatement following......
  • Disciplinary Bd. of the Supreme Court of N.D. v. Hoffman (In re Hoffman), No. 20120284.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of North Dakota
    • August 29, 2012
    ...to establish by clear and convincing evidence that he should be reinstated to the practice of law in any capacity. See In re Hoffman, 2005 ND 171, ¶ 23, 704 N.W.2d 810. Hoffman has been suspended from the practice of law since that time. [¶ 3] On April 3, 2012, Hoffman admitted service of a......
3 cases
  • Stensland v. Disciplinary Bd. of the Supreme Court of State (In re Application for Reinstatement of Stensland), No. 20130008.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of North Dakota
    • December 19, 2013
    ...be [853 N.W.2d 541judged on its own facts and merits. In re Montgomery, 1997 ND 148, ¶ 5, 566 N.W.2d 426.Hoffman v. Disciplinary Board, 2005 ND 171, ¶ 5, 704 N.W.2d 810.¶ 9] The panel found Stensland has not demonstrated his qualifications for reinstatement to the practice of law under N.D.......
  • In re Reinstatement of Ellis, No. 20060081.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of North Dakota
    • September 13, 2006
    ...and satisfactory proof that the attorney has become a fit and proper person to be entrusted with the office of an attorney. In re Hoffman, 2005 ND 171, ¶ 5, 704 N.W.2d 810; In re Christianson, 202 N.W.2d 756, Syllabus No. 1 (N.D.1972); see N.D.R. Lawyer Discipl. 4.5. Reinstatement following......
  • Disciplinary Bd. of the Supreme Court of N.D. v. Hoffman (In re Hoffman), No. 20120284.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of North Dakota
    • August 29, 2012
    ...to establish by clear and convincing evidence that he should be reinstated to the practice of law in any capacity. See In re Hoffman, 2005 ND 171, ¶ 23, 704 N.W.2d 810. Hoffman has been suspended from the practice of law since that time. [¶ 3] On April 3, 2012, Hoffman admitted service of a......

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