In re Petition for Disciplinary Action Against Tucker Joseph Hummel, No. A11–2072.

CourtSupreme Court of Minnesota (US)
Writing for the CourtPER CURIAM.
Citation839 N.W.2d 78
PartiesIn re Petition for DISCIPLINARY ACTION AGAINST Tucker Joseph HUMMEL, a Minnesota Attorney, Registration No. 286230.
Docket NumberNo. A11–2072.
Decision Date06 November 2013

839 N.W.2d 78

In re Petition for DISCIPLINARY ACTION AGAINST Tucker Joseph HUMMEL, a Minnesota Attorney, Registration No. 286230.

No. A11–2072.

Supreme Court of Minnesota.

Nov. 6, 2013.


[839 N.W.2d 79]



Syllabus by the Court

Disbarment is the appropriate sanction for an attorney who misappropriated client funds, failed to keep required trust account books and records, made false statements to the Director, and failed to cooperate with the disciplinary investigation.


Original Jurisdiction.

Martin A. Cole, Director, Craig D. Klausing, Senior Assistant Director, Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility, Saint Paul, Minnesota, for petitioner.

Tucker Joseph Hummel, Hopkins, Minnesota, pro se.


OPINION

PER CURIAM.

The Director of the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility (Director) filed two petitions for disciplinary action against respondent Tucker Joseph Hummel. In these petitions, the Director alleges that Hummel intentionally misappropriated client funds, failed to maintain required trust account books and records, made false statements to the Director, and failed to cooperate with the disciplinary investigation. We referred the matter to a referee. The referee found that Hummel committed the professional misconduct alleged in the petitions and recommended disbarment as the appropriate discipline. Because of the referee's recommendation, we temporarily suspended Hummel from the practice of law pending final resolution of this matter. SeeRule 16(e), Rules on Lawyers Professional Responsibility (RLPR). Based on the professional misconduct that Hummel committed, we conclude that disbarment is the appropriate sanction.

I.

The misconduct in this case falls into three general categories: intentional misappropriation of client funds, trust account violations, and misrepresentation to and failure to cooperate with the Director. We discuss the referee's findings and conclusions with respect to each of these categories in turn.

Misappropriation. Hummel represented G.R. in her capacity as personal representative of her mother's estate. On April 4, 2011, Hummel received a check for $10,794.04 on G.R.'s behalf. The check represented the proceeds from the sale of G.R.'s mother's house and was an asset of her mother's estate, in which G.R.'s brother held a partial interest. Hummel deposited the check in his client trust account. On nine separate occasions between April 15 and April 22, 2011, Hummel misappropriated more than $10,000 of G.R.'s funds by initiating transfers and writing checks to himself from the trust account. Hummel also failed to respond to G.R.'s numerous attempts to contact him regarding the distribution of her mother's estate. The referee found that Hummel's misappropriation of G.R.'s funds and failure to communicate with G.R. violated Rules 1.41 and

[839 N.W.2d 80]

8.4(c),2 Minnesota Rules of Professional Conduct (MRPC).

Trust Account Violations. Hummel's client trust account was overdrawn on January 20, 2011. The bank reported the overdraft to the Director, and the Director wrote to Hummel requesting an explanation for the overdraft and copies of related trust account books and records. Hummel provided the Director with client ledgers and trust account statements that revealed shortages in Hummel's trust account for the period between November 17, 2010, and February 17, 2011. The Director notified Hummel of the shortages. Hummel denied that the account was short, but he was unable either to explain the shortages or to produce accurate trust account books and records.

While investigating the January 20, 2011 overdraft, the Director received notice that Hummel's trust account was overdrawn a second time on April 22, 2011. The referee found that Hummel's failure to maintain required trust account books and records violated Rules 1.15(c)(3)3 and 1.15(h), MRPC, and Appendix 1 thereto.4

Misrepresentation to and Failure to Cooperate with the Director. After the Director requested Hummel's explanation for the second trust account overdraft, Hummel wrote a letter to the Director, stating in part:

I just cannot provide the information you are requesting as my books are messed up due to the loss of data as explained, and frankly because I just really don't have a good handle on the accounting program I am using. With that I again want to stress the issues I have is [sic] 100% related to those issues and not related to abuse of funds.

This statement was false. The second overdraft of Hummel's trust account was a direct result of his misappropriation of G.R.'s funds.


Since March 24, 2011, the Director has repeatedly requested documents from Hummel related to the overdrafts of his trust account and G.R.'s complaint. Hummel has not provided any of this information, and he has not responded to any communications related to the disciplinary charges against him since November 2011. Hummel also did not participate in the evidentiary hearing before the referee.

The referee found that Hummel's false statement to the Director violated Rules 8.1(a)5 and 8.4(c), MRPC. The referee also found that Hummel's failure to cooperate

[839 N.W.2d 81]

with the Director's investigations of G.R.'s complaint and overdrafts in his trust account violated Rule 8.1(b), 6 MRPC, and Rule 25, RLPR.7

II.

The appropriate discipline to impose for Hummel's misconduct is the only issue before us. Because neither Hummel nor the Director ordered a transcript of the evidentiary hearing, the referee's findings of fact and conclusions drawn from those facts are conclusive. In re Nathanson, 812 N.W.2d 70, 78 (Minn.2012); accordRule 14(e), RLPR. The Director...

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12 practice notes
  • In re Petition for Disciplinary Action Against Severson, No. A13–1382.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • February 18, 2015
    ...third parties. Severson's multiple acts of misconduct over a period of years suggest more than a brief lapse in judgment. In re Hummel, 839 N.W.2d 78, 82 (Minn.2013) (concluding that an attorney's misconduct was not caused by a brief lapse in judgment because the misconduct occurred over se......
  • In re Siders, A17-0514
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • October 27, 2017
    ...of the misconduct, the cumulative weight of the violations, the harm to the public, and the harm to the legal profession." In re Hummel, 839 N.W.2d 78, 81 (Minn. 2013). "Because we strive for consistency in attorney discipline, we look to similar cases for guidance in setting the proper san......
  • In re Swanson, A20-1027
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • December 22, 2021
    ...in this case.[16] I. The respondent in a discipline case has the burden of alleging and proving any mitigating factors. In re Hummel, 839 N.W.2d 78, 82 (Minn. 2013). Because Swanson ordered a transcript, the referee's findings of fact and conclusions are not binding. Rule 14(e), RLPR. But t......
  • In re Petition for Disciplinary Action Against Linda A. Brost, No. A13–2307.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • July 23, 2014
    ...671, 681 (Minn.2013). We have disbarred attorneys for misappropriating far less than $40,000 of client funds. See, e.g., In re Hummel, 839 N.W.2d 78, 81–82 (Minn.2013) (disbarring attorney who misappropriated more than $10,000 in client funds, failed to maintain required trust account recor......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
12 cases
  • In re Petition for Disciplinary Action Against Severson, No. A13–1382.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • February 18, 2015
    ...third parties. Severson's multiple acts of misconduct over a period of years suggest more than a brief lapse in judgment. In re Hummel, 839 N.W.2d 78, 82 (Minn.2013) (concluding that an attorney's misconduct was not caused by a brief lapse in judgment because the misconduct occurred over se......
  • In re Swanson, A20-1027
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • December 22, 2021
    ...in this case.[16] I. The respondent in a discipline case has the burden of alleging and proving any mitigating factors. In re Hummel, 839 N.W.2d 78, 82 (Minn. 2013). Because Swanson ordered a transcript, the referee's findings of fact and conclusions are not binding. Rule 14(e), RLPR. But t......
  • In re Siders, A17-0514
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • October 27, 2017
    ...of the misconduct, the cumulative weight of the violations, the harm to the public, and the harm to the legal profession." In re Hummel, 839 N.W.2d 78, 81 (Minn. 2013). "Because we strive for consistency in attorney discipline, we look to similar cases for guidance in setting the proper san......
  • In re Petition for Disciplinary Action Against Linda A. Brost, No. A13–2307.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • July 23, 2014
    ...671, 681 (Minn.2013). We have disbarred attorneys for misappropriating far less than $40,000 of client funds. See, e.g., In re Hummel, 839 N.W.2d 78, 81–82 (Minn.2013) (disbarring attorney who misappropriated more than $10,000 in client funds, failed to maintain required trust account recor......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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