In re Nathanson, No. A10–0684.

CourtSupreme Court of Minnesota (US)
Writing for the CourtPER CURIAM.
Citation812 N.W.2d 70
Docket NumberNo. A10–0684.
Decision Date29 February 2012
PartiesIn re Petition for DISCIPLINARY ACTION AGAINST Stanley H. NATHANSON, a Minnesota Attorney, Registration No. 144046.

812 N.W.2d 70

In re Petition for DISCIPLINARY ACTION AGAINST Stanley H. NATHANSON, a Minnesota Attorney, Registration No. 144046.

No. A10–0684.

Supreme Court of Minnesota.

Feb. 29, 2012.


[812 N.W.2d 72]



Syllabus by the Court

Indefinite suspension with no right to petition for reinstatement for a minimum

[812 N.W.2d 73]

of 90 days, with conditions for reinstatement, is the appropriate discipline when a lawyer failed to act with reasonable competence and reasonable diligence, failed to communicate with his clients and obtain informed consent, pursued appeals that were frivolous, knowingly disobeyed tribunal rules, engaged in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice, and knowingly failed to cooperate with the disciplinary proceedings.


Martin A. Cole, Director, Kevin T. Slator, Assistant Director, Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility, St. Paul, Minnesota, for petitioner.

Stanley H. Nathanson, Scottsdale, Arizona, pro se.


OPINION

PER CURIAM.

The Director of the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility (Director) filed a petition for disciplinary action alleging that respondent Stanley H. Nathanson's conduct in numerous client matters, including his failure to act with reasonable competence and reasonable diligence, failure to obtain informed consent and communicate with his clients, pursuit of appeals that were frivolous or not meritorious, knowing disobedience of tribunal rules, and engagement in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice, violated Minn. R. Prof. Conduct 1.1,11.3,21.4(a)(1) 3 and (3)4, 3.1,53.4(c),6 and 8.4(d). 7 The petition also alleged that Nathanson knowingly failed to respond to the Director's request for information in violation of Rule 25, Rules on Lawyers Professional Responsibility (RLPR),8 and Minn. R. Prof. Conduct 8.1(b).9 Following an evidentiary hearing, the referee concluded that Nathanson committed the violations as alleged and recommended that he be indefinitely suspended from the practice of law for a minimum of 90 days and that reinstatement, if any, be subject to the hearing provided for by Rule 18(d), RLPR. We adopt the referee's

[812 N.W.2d 74]

conclusions and recommended discipline that Nathanson be indefinitely suspended from the practice of law for a minimum of 90 days, with conditions for reinstatement.

I.

Nathanson was admitted to the practice of law in Minnesota on October 15, 1982. Nathanson resides in Arizona and currently does not practice law in Minnesota.10

In April 2010, the Director filed a petition for disciplinary action alleging that Nathanson violated ethics rules in his handling of numerous client matters between 2003 and 2009 and in his conduct during the Director's investigation. Nathanson answered the petition by generally admitting the facts, with some qualifications. Nathanson subsequently brought a motion to dismiss three of the four counts in the petition. Before the referee ruled on the motion, Nathanson requested a continuance due to financial hardship. The Director agreed to a 6–month continuance on the condition that Nathanson stipulate to the suspension of his license to practice law in Minnesota pending the outcome of these proceedings. We approved the stipulation and ordered Nathanson's license temporarily suspended. In re Nathanson, 788 N.W.2d 891, 891–92 (Minn.2010).

The hearing was held on April 1, 2011. At the hearing, the Director presented testimony and submitted numerous exhibits, but Nathanson did not appear and presented no evidence. On April 25, 2011, the referee filed findings of fact, conclusions of law, and a recommendation for discipline with this court. The referee did not expressly rule on Nathanson's motion to dismiss, but implicitly denied it by making findings and conclusions on all four counts in the petition.11 The referee's findings are set forth herein.12

A. The Client Complaint

A former client, D.C., filed a complaint regarding Nathanson's handling of his cases. In February 2005, D.C. retained Nathanson to sue three police officers for use of excessive force while pursuing and arresting him. In 2006, the Minneapolis Police Department internal affairs investigation sustained these allegations, but Nathanson failed to inform D.C. of that decision. In January 2007, Nathanson filed a lawsuit in Hennepin County District Court (Hennepin Case) against two of the police officers and the Minneapolis Police Department, and a lawsuit in Anoka County District Court (Anoka Case) against the third officer and the Spring Lake Park Police Department.

The Hennepin Case proceeded to arbitration, and in September 2007, the arbitrator awarded D.C. $25,000. Nathanson's co-counsel handled the arbitration, but neither he nor Nathanson informed D.C. of the arbitration award. As a result, the award was not accepted, and in January 2008, the Hennepin Case went to trial. During the trial, D.C. noticed the arbitration award in Nathanson's file and asked

[812 N.W.2d 75]

why he had not been told about it. Nathanson indicated that he felt the award was insufficient and wanted to try the case. On January 11, 2008, the jury returned a verdict for defendants and against D.C. In May 2008, without consulting D.C. and against D.C.'s wishes, Nathanson appealed D.C.'s case to the court of appeals. Nathanson, however, failed to order a transcript in the allotted time and failed to submit a $500 filing fee or seek an in forma pauperis (IFP) order. Subsequently, the court of appeals issued an order instructing him to submit the fee or seek an IFP order, or face dismissal of the case. Nathanson did not inform D.C. of the order or comply with it, and the case was dismissed.

In October 2008, the Anoka Case went to trial. Nathanson failed to comply with the district court's pretrial order regarding witness and exhibit lists, and failed to respond to discovery requests. As a result, the court limited D.C.'s witnesses and their testimony. After trial, the judge dismissed all of D.C.'s claims. In March 2009, without consulting D.C. and against D.C.'s wishes, Nathanson appealed the Anoka Case but did not file a statement of the case or certified copies of the judgment, and failed to submit a $500 filing fee or seek an IFP order. In April 2009, the court of appeals dismissed the appeal because Nathanson failed to remedy the filing deficiencies but allowed him a time-limited opportunity to reinstate the appeal by filing a motion accompanied by the missing documents. Nathanson took no further action in the case and failed to tell D.C. about the dismissal. Subsequently, the district court sanctioned Nathanson and ordered him to pay attorney fees of $4,883.60 to the defendant within 60 days. He has not complied with that order.

B. Other Appellate Matters

Pursuant to D.C.'s complaint, the Director also investigated Nathanson's conduct in other appellate matters. In July 2007, T.R. retained Nathanson to appeal her conviction for possession of a firearm by an ineligible person by seeking a new trial or reduced sentence. T.R. gave Nathanson a signed retainer agreement, an advance retainer fee of $2,000, and an application for IFP status. Nathanson filed the appeal but failed to file a statement of the case and did not submit T.R.'s IFP application or the $500 filing fee. The court of appeals ordered Nathanson to remedy the filing deficiencies or face possible sanctions, including dismissal of the appeal. Nathanson filed a statement of the case but did not submit T.R.'s IFP application or a filing fee. The court of appeals questioned whether it had jurisdiction over the appeal and ordered the parties to submit memoranda. Additionally, the court ordered Nathanson to pay the filing fee or seek an IFP order. He failed to comply with the order.

Subsequently, Nathanson filed a motion and memorandum in the district court to convert T.R.'s guilty plea into a Lothenbach plea.13 The district court denied the motion, and Nathanson appealed. He submitted a statement of the case indicating that a transcript was necessary, but failed to file a transcript certificate. In June 2008, the court of appeals ordered him to file a transcript certificate or face possible sanctions, including dismissal of the appeal. Nathanson failed to comply, and the court dismissed T.R.'s appeal. He

[812 N.W.2d 76]

did not inform T.R. that her appeal had been dismissed. Instead, T.R. learned of the dismissal when she wrote to the state public defender's office to inquire about the status of her case.

Between 2003 and late 2009, Nathanson also mishandled 11 other cases for 8 other clients. The similarity of his conduct in these cases makes it unnecessary to recount each instance separately. Briefly, Nathanson failed, in one case, to respond to requests for admissions and to appear at the hearing on opposing counsel's motion to compel. He failed, in numerous cases, to submit a filing fee or seek an IFP order, or to file a statement of the case, transcript, or copy of the judgment or order from which an appeal was taken. Subsequently, he failed to comply with requests from the clerk of appellate courts to remedy these filing deficiencies, failed to comply with court of appeals orders regarding filing deficiencies and failure to file briefs, and filed untimely motions to reinstate dismissed appeals.

This conduct frequently drew sanctions, including dismissal of the appeal in seven cases and denial of the opportunity to present oral argument in three cases.14 Additionally, in one case, unanswered requests for admissions were deemed admitted, resulting in forfeiture of the client's vehicle.

C. Cooperation with Disciplinary Proceedings

In June 2009, Nathanson voluntarily appeared at the Director's office to discuss the disciplinary investigation but did not bring his files related to the D.C. and T.R. matters. The next day, the Director's office wrote to Nathanson with several follow-up questions. In early July, the Director agreed to Nathanson's requested extension of the deadline...

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30 practice notes
  • In re Disciplinary Action Against Sea, A17-1548
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • August 7, 2019
    ...give the referee’s findings significant deference, we have the ultimate discretion as to the imposition of discipline. In re Nathanson , 812 N.W.2d 70, 78 (Minn. 2012). "The purpose of discipline for professional misconduct is not to punish the attorney but to protect the public and the jud......
  • In re Petition for Disciplinary Action Against Randall D. B. Tigue, No. A13–0519.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • March 12, 2014
    ...to impose, we consider similar cases to “ensure that our disciplinary decision is consistent with prior sanctions.” In re Nathanson, 812 N.W.2d 70, 80 (Minn.2012). The Director cites several cases to support his position that a suspension is warranted: In re Johnson, 712 N.W.2d 178 (Minn.20......
  • In re Michael, No. A12–1101.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • September 18, 2013
    ...that the facts presented here do not warrant requiring Michael to petition for reinstatement. Cf. [836 N.W.2d 768]In re Nathanson, 812 N.W.2d 70, 78–81 (Minn.2012) (requiring attorney to petition for reinstatement when attorney mishandled numerous client matters over several years and had a......
  • In re Swanson, A20-1027
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • December 22, 2021
    ...for failing to meet court deadlines. See, e.g., In re Walsh, 872 N.W.2d 741, 750 (Minn. 2015) 15 (6-month suspension); In re Nathanson, 812 N.W.2d 70, 81 (Minn. 2012) (90-day suspension). Swanson repeatedly failed to comply with court scheduling orders by missing expert witness and mediatio......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
31 cases
  • In re Disciplinary Action Against Sea, A17-1548
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • August 7, 2019
    ...give the referee’s findings significant deference, we have the ultimate discretion as to the imposition of discipline. In re Nathanson , 812 N.W.2d 70, 78 (Minn. 2012). "The purpose of discipline for professional misconduct is not to punish the attorney but to protect the public and the jud......
  • In re Petition for Disciplinary Action Against Randall D. B. Tigue, No. A13–0519.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • March 12, 2014
    ...to impose, we consider similar cases to “ensure that our disciplinary decision is consistent with prior sanctions.” In re Nathanson, 812 N.W.2d 70, 80 (Minn.2012). The Director cites several cases to support his position that a suspension is warranted: In re Johnson, 712 N.W.2d 178 (Minn.20......
  • In re Michael, No. A12–1101.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • September 18, 2013
    ...that the facts presented here do not warrant requiring Michael to petition for reinstatement. Cf. [836 N.W.2d 768]In re Nathanson, 812 N.W.2d 70, 78–81 (Minn.2012) (requiring attorney to petition for reinstatement when attorney mishandled numerous client matters over several years and had a......
  • In re Swanson, A20-1027
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • December 22, 2021
    ...for failing to meet court deadlines. See, e.g., In re Walsh, 872 N.W.2d 741, 750 (Minn. 2015) 15 (6-month suspension); In re Nathanson, 812 N.W.2d 70, 81 (Minn. 2012) (90-day suspension). Swanson repeatedly failed to comply with court scheduling orders by missing expert witness and mediatio......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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