Articles Posted in Legal Ethics

by
In a reciprocal discipline case, the identical discipline in Minnesota to “exclusion from practice” before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is an indefinite suspension from the practice of law with no right to petition for reinstatement for a minimum of five years. In this case, the USPTO imposed on Alan Stewart, a Minnesota attorney, what its regulations call “exclusion from practice” for misappropriating unearned fees, among other things. The Director of the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility petitioned to impose reciprocal discipline in Minnesota and argued that the identical discipline in Minnesota was disbarment. The Supreme Court indefinitely suspended Stewart with no right to petition for reinstatement for a minimum of five years, holding that the USPTO’s discipline procedures were fundamentally fair and that a five-year suspension would not be unjust or substantially different from the discipline warranted in Minnesota. View "In re Petition for Disciplinary Action against Alan Richard Stewart" on Justia Law

Posted in: Legal Ethics

by
The Minnesota Board on Judicial Standards brought a formal complaint against Hon. Alan F. Pendleton, Judge of the District Court of the Tenth Judicial District, alleging that Pendleton violated the Code of Judicial Conduct and the Minnesota Constitution. A panel appointed by the Supreme Court concluded that Judge Pendleton violated several sections of the Code of Judicial Conduct and Minn. Const. art. VI, 4 and recommended that the judge be censured and suspended from judicial office without pay for at least six months. Judge Pendleton appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Board proved by clear and convincing evidence that Judge Pendleton failed to reside within his judicial district during his continuation in office and that he made a knowingly false statement regarding his residency in his affidavit of candidacy; (2) Judge Pendleton was not denied due process of law by irregularities in the proceedings before the Board and the panel; and (3) the appropriate judicial discipline is removal from office. View "Inquiry into the Conduct of Hon. Alan F. Pendleton" on Justia Law

Posted in: Legal Ethics

by
Appellant argued that he is entitled to a new trial because the court found that the judge who presided over his conviction and sentencing failed to reside in her judicial district from July 1, 2009, to September 30, 2009. The court held that Minn. Stat. 351.02(4) does not apply to a district court judge residing in Minnesota but outside her judicial district because a district court judge does not hold a "local" office as that term is used in the statute. Accordingly, because this portion of the statute does not apply to the judge in this case, the court affirmed. View "State v. Irby" on Justia Law

by
In 2010, the State retained Covington & Burling, LLP (“Covington”) to represent it in a natural resource damages case against 3M Company (“3M”) involving the manufacture and disposal of perfluorochemicals, which are a subset of all fluorochemicals. In 2012, 3M moved to disqualify Covington as counsel for the State because Covington had previously represented 3M in legal and regulatory matters related to 3M’s fluorochemicals business from 1992 to 2006. The district court granted 3M’s disqualification motion. Both the State and Covington appealed. The court of appeals dismissed Covington’s appeal for lack of standing and affirmed the disqualification of Covington. The Supreme Court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded, holding (1) an attorney has standing to appeal when a district court finds that the attorney violated the rules of professional conduct and disqualifies the attorney from the representation, and therefore, Covington had standing to appeal the disqualification order; (2) the district failed to use the proper legal standard in disqualifying Covington under Minn. R. Prof. Conduct 1.9(a); and (3) remand was required to permit the district court to make the necessary factual findings and determine whether 3M waived the right to seek disqualification of Covington. View "State v. 3M Co." on Justia Law

by
After the Minnesota Board on Judicial Standards issued a formal complaint against Judge George Perez, a former judge of the Minnesota Tax Court, a three-member fact-finding panel found that Judge Perez had violated the Code of Judicial Conduct and Minnesota law by failing to issue decisions in a timely manner, making false certifications, and making false statements in his decisions. Shortly after the panel issued its findings, the Minnesota Senate refused to confirm Judge Perez’s appointment, thereby immediately ending his judgeship. Both Judge Perez and the Board appealed the panel’s decision. The Supreme Court (1) denied Judge Perez’s motion to dismiss; (2) upheld the panel’s finding that the Board proved that Judge Perez committed misconduct; and (3) concluded that the appropriate discipline was public censure, referral to the Wisconsin Office of Lawyer Regulation, and supervision by the Court of any application for admission to the Minnesota Bar that Judge Perez may file in the future. View "Inquiry into the Conduct of Judge Perez" on Justia Law

Posted in: Legal Ethics

by
Following a jury trial, Appellant Marlon Pratt was convicted of seventeen counts of theft by swindle and two counts of racketeering. On appeal, the court of appeals affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for resentencing. This appeal followed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) there was sufficient evidence to support Pratt's theft-by-swindle convictions; but (2) the judge who presided over Pratt's trial was disqualified from doing so under the Code of Judicial Conduct because the judge was retained by the county attorney's office to be an expert witness in an unrelated case, while at the same time presiding over Pratt's trial, which would cause a reasonable examiner to question the judge's impartiality. Remanded for a new trial. View "State v. Pratt" on Justia Law

by
The Minnesota Board on Judicial Standards filed a formal complaint against Judge Patricia Karasov, judge of a district court, alleging violations of the Rules of the Code of Judicial Conduct and the Minnesota Constitution. A three-member panel appointed by the Supreme Court (1) found that Judge Karasov failed to reside within her judicial district during her continuance in office and failed to cooperate and be candid and honest with respect to the Board's investigation of her residency status, and (2) recommended that Judge Karasov be censured and suspended from judicial office for ninety days without pay. Both Judge Karasov and the Board appealed. The Supreme Court concluded (1) the Board proved by clear and convincing evidence that Judge Karasov committed judicial misconduct by clear and convincing evidence; (2) Judge Karasov's claim that she was denied due process of law by irregularities in the proceedings lacked merit; and (3) the appropriate judicial discipline was censure and suspension from judicial duties for six months without pay. View "In re Conduct of Judge Karasov" on Justia Law

by
The Board on Judicial Standards charged Judge Gregory Galler with creating an appearance of impropriety during an omnibus hearing in a DWI case, asserting, among other claims, that Judge Galler ordered a criminal defense attorney to write a letter of apology for allegedly impugning the integrity of a police officer during the attorney's oral argument at the omnibus hearing. A hearing panel appointed by the chief justice (1) dismissed the complaint against Judge Galler, finding that the Board failed to prove the allegations by clear and convincing evidence, and (2) denied Judge Galler's motion for attorney fees and costs under Minn. R. Civ. P. 11. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the panel had the authority to dismiss the case after the Board rested, and the panel did not err in dismissing the complaint; and (2) the panel did not err when it denied Judge Galler's motion for attorney fees and costs. View "In re Judge Galler" on Justia Law