In re Reinstatement of Singer, No. A05-1136.

CourtSupreme Court of Minnesota (US)
Writing for the CourtPer Curiam
Citation735 N.W.2d 698
Decision Date26 July 2007
Docket NumberNo. A05-1136.
PartiesIn re Petition for REINSTATEMENT OF David A. SINGER, a Minnesota Attorney, Registration No. 101473.
735 N.W.2d 698
In re Petition for REINSTATEMENT OF David A. SINGER, a Minnesota Attorney, Registration No. 101473.
No. A05-1136.
Supreme Court of Minnesota.
July 26, 2007.

[735 N.W.2d 699]

David A. Singer, St. Louis Park, MN, Appellant Pro Se.

Martin A. Cole, Director of the Office of Lawyers, Professional Responsibility, Timothy M. Burke, Senior Assistant Director, St. Paul, MN, for Respondent.

Heard, considered, and decided by the court en banc.

OPINION

PER CURIAM.


David A. Singer filed a petition for reinstatement following his indefinite suspension from the practice of law. A panel of the Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board recommended against Singer's reinstatement, concluding that Singer had failed to provide clear and convincing evidence that he has satisfactorily addressed his wrongful conduct or the motivations for that conduct. The panel also concluded that Singer failed to provide clear and convincing evidence that, if reinstated, misconduct is not likely to occur. The Director of the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility supports the panel's recommendation. We conclude that Singer has not shown by clear and convincing evidence that he is entitled to be reinstated to the practice of law; therefore, we deny his petition for reinstatement.

In April 1974, petitioner David A. Singer was admitted to practice law in Minnesota. After his admission, Singer practiced with several small law firms in a variety of practice areas, including personal injury, employment, family, and appellate law. In 1995, Singer began a solo practice, which he maintained until 2001, when he was suspended from the practice of law.

Singer's disciplinary history began in 1990, when he was admonished for failing to return a client's phone calls. In 1993, he was admonished a second time for failing to communicate with clients for several months and failing to represent those clients diligently. The circumstances leading to Singer's suspension began in November 1998, when one of Singer's clients filed a complaint against him with the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility. Pursuant to an investigation, the Director of the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility requested Singer's client trust account records, dating back to 1995. When Singer provided the records, he identified several inappropriate

735 N.W.2d 700

withdrawals he made from his client trust account.

Following an audit of Singer's client trust account, the Director found that Singer had inappropriately withdrawn over $50,000 since 1995, with individual withdrawals ranging from $150 to $5,000. The Director found that Singer had engaged in a pattern of taking client funds and using them for periods of days to weeks or more, and then repaying the trust account by depositing other clients' settlements into the account or leaving all or a portion of his earned fees in the account to rectify the amount he had taken. During the audit period, there was a continuous shortage in Singer's trust account, ranging from $450 to over $16,000. Among the client funds Singer misused was a $22,500 settlement belonging to his aunt, in which Medicare claimed a subrogation interest. Although Singer's action never resulted in a trust account deficit, he misappropriated his aunt's settlement funds for over one year and the portion of the funds later determined to belong to Medicare for over three years. In addition to his pattern of misappropriation, Singer failed to keep and provide proper records for his trust account, including monthly trial balances and reconciliations. Despite the foregoing conduct, Singer certified on his annual registration statements that he properly maintained his trust account books and records.

The Director's investigation led to state and federal criminal charges against Singer. Singer subsequently pleaded guilty to felony theft in state court for misappropriating client funds in connection with his use of his aunt's settlement proceeds. In federal court, he pleaded guilty to three counts of failing to file federal individual income tax returns for the years 1996-98. Singer also failed to timely file Minnesota individual income tax returns for those same years, eventually filing his state taxes together in December 2000. Singer admitted to the Director that his conviction for misappropriation of client funds and the foregoing state and federal tax violations breached the Minnesota Rules of Professional Conduct. As a result of these violations, Singer stipulated with the Director to an indefinite suspension from the practice of law with no right to apply for reinstatement for three years. We accepted this recommended disposition. In re Singer, 630 N.W.2d 404, 404-05 (Minn. 2001).

Since his suspension, Singer has engaged in both legal and non-legal employment. Nine different lawyers have hired Singer to perform temporary, non-attorney legal work on separate occasions, predominantly consisting of drafting, but not signing, appellate briefs. Singer disclosed to each of these employers that he was suspended from the practice of law. Singer has most recently been employed outside the legal field.

In June 2005, almost four years after his suspension, Singer filed a petition for reinstatement. Following a hearing, a panel of the Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board concluded that Singer had met many of the conditions to reinstatement imposed by our court: completion of state and federal criminal probation; compliance with Rule 26, Rules on Lawyers Professional Responsibility (RLPR); completion of the professional responsibility examination; satisfaction of the continuing legal education requirements; proof of timely filing of state and federal tax returns since 2000 and payment of prior overdue income taxes; and payment of costs imposed by this court. The panel also concluded that Singer proved by clear and convincing evidence that he possesses current legal skill and knowledge.

735 N.W.2d 701

Regarding the final condition imposed by our court, proof of Singer's psychological fitness to practice law, Singer had been previously diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder and bipolar disorder but stated that he has been symptom free for some months and fully functional for at least three years. Singer further stated that his medications for treating these disorders are effective, and he remains under the care of several doctors to continue to manage the disorders. The panel concluded that Singer's bipolar and generalized anxiety disorders are in full remission.

At the hearing, Singer testified that he accepted responsibility for his past actions, admitting that he made a conscious decision to steal money. Singer stated that he had previously tried to rationalize and minimize what he had done, knowing that he could replace the money in the trust account when it became due, but after his prosecution in federal court, he understood that what he did constituted theft. After engaging in conversations with family members and attending seminars that dealt with lawyer misconduct and mental illness, Singer testified that he has become a moral person. Singer stated that he can no longer rationalize his misconduct.

Singer presented the testimony of four witnesses who knew about his past actions leading to his suspension. Each of these witnesses recommended that Singer be reinstated. One witness had been Singer's client at various times since the late 1970s. This witness testified that he considered Singer to be an honest person despite having stolen money in the past and noted that Singer had accepted responsibility for what he had done and expressed remorse.

Two of Singer's witnesses were lawyers who had hired Singer to assist them with legal work during Singer's suspension. The first lawyer hired Singer to write briefs in workers' compensation cases and testified that Singer's work was very good and that he would not hesitate to hire Singer in the future. The second lawyer testified that she met Singer when Singer was helping to wind up the law practice of a mutual friend, who had died shortly before Singer was suspended. The lawyer stated that Singer did an excellent job taking care of their friend's practice and that she later hired Singer to work on a brief, which resulted in a satisfactory work product.

Singer's fourth witnesses was E.W., a lawyer recruiter. E.W. testified that she shared a mutual friend with Singer, and the friend had recently died in a nursing home. E.W. testified that before the mutual friend's death, Singer volunteered to help manage the friend's personal affairs and also assumed power of attorney at the friend's request. E.W. testified that she was impressed by Singer's diligence and willingness to help and as a result, recommended that he be reinstated.

As an exhibit for the panel's consideration, Singer submitted a May 2000 transcript from his disciplinary hearing which contained testimony given by a fellow lawyer. The lawyer represented a party opposing Singer's client on a case that began in the late 1970s and continued for almost a decade. The lawyer described Singer...

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12 practice notes
  • In re Sand, A18-1795
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • December 16, 2020
    ...851, 856 (Minn. 2017). To determine whether reinstatement is appropriate, "[w]e independently review the entire record." In re Singer , 735 N.W.2d 698, 703 (Minn. 2007). Although the panel's recommendations are considered, they are not binding. See, e.g. , In re Williams , 433 N.W.2d 104, 1......
  • In re Siders, A17-0514
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • October 27, 2017
    ...undergone such a moral change as now to render him a fit person to enjoy the public confidence and trust once forfeited." In re Singer, 735 N.W.2d 698, 703 (Minn. 2007) (quoting In re Jellinger, 728 N.W.2d 917, 922 (Minn. 2007) ) (internal quotation marks omitted). Under these circumstances......
  • In re Reinstatement of Mose, No. A07-0437.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • August 7, 2008
    ...conclusive). Accordingly, we independently review the entire record to determine whether a petitioner should be reinstated. In re Singer, 735 N.W.2d 698, 703 (Minn.2007). But we will uphold the panel's factual findings if they have evidentiary support in the record and are not clearly erron......
  • In re Severson, A17-0895
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • February 13, 2019
    ...868, 870 (Minn. 1999). To determine whether reinstatement is appropriate, "[w]e independently review the entire record." In re Singer , 735 N.W.2d 698, 703 (Minn. 2007). Although we consider the panel’s recommendations, we are not bound by them. Id. Where, as here, a transcript has been ord......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
12 cases
  • In re Sand, A18-1795
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • December 16, 2020
    ...851, 856 (Minn. 2017). To determine whether reinstatement is appropriate, "[w]e independently review the entire record." In re Singer , 735 N.W.2d 698, 703 (Minn. 2007). Although the panel's recommendations are considered, they are not binding. See, e.g. , In re Williams , 433 N.W.2d 104, 1......
  • In re Siders, A17-0514
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • October 27, 2017
    ...undergone such a moral change as now to render him a fit person to enjoy the public confidence and trust once forfeited." In re Singer, 735 N.W.2d 698, 703 (Minn. 2007) (quoting In re Jellinger, 728 N.W.2d 917, 922 (Minn. 2007) ) (internal quotation marks omitted). Under these circumstances......
  • In re Reinstatement of Mose, No. A07-0437.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • August 7, 2008
    ...conclusive). Accordingly, we independently review the entire record to determine whether a petitioner should be reinstated. In re Singer, 735 N.W.2d 698, 703 (Minn.2007). But we will uphold the panel's factual findings if they have evidentiary support in the record and are not clearly erron......
  • In re Severson, A17-0895
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • February 13, 2019
    ...868, 870 (Minn. 1999). To determine whether reinstatement is appropriate, "[w]e independently review the entire record." In re Singer , 735 N.W.2d 698, 703 (Minn. 2007). Although we consider the panel’s recommendations, we are not bound by them. Id. Where, as here, a transcript has been ord......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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