Friday, November 16, 2007
The Minnesota Supreme Court disbarred an attorney for his participation in two shady real estate investment deals in which his client was left without recourse to protect the investment. In one matter, the lawyer had converted rental income and misled the client to believe there was a refinancing when in fact the property was being sold. The second property also was sold, and to the same purchaser. The lawyer was charged with dishonesty and a prohibited business transaction with a client.
The lawyer did not file a timely answer to the charges and then sought to vacate the determination that the misconduct be deemed admitted. The court rejected his untimely attempt to defend on the basis of a general denial:
"An attorney against whom a petition for disciplinary action has been filed has 20 days after service of the petition to file an answer. Rule 13(a), RLPR. If the attorney fails to file an answer within the 20-day period, the allegations in the petition “shall be deemed admitted.” Rule 13(b), RLPR. Respondent filed his motion to vacate and proposed answer after we had granted the Director’s motion for summary relief and more than eight weeks after respondent was served with the petition. Neither respondent nor the Director cites any authority for vacating, over the objection of the Director, an order of this court deeming facts to be admitted as a result of a failure to answer in a timely manner. In addition to failing to offer a credible explanation for his delay, respondent’s proposed answer is effectively a general denial and provides no response to the detailed and disturbing facts alleged by the Director. Under these circumstances, we decline to vacate our order for summary relief, and we accept the facts as stated in the Director’s petition as controlling."
The court also rejected the lawyer's attempt to place the blame on another attorney who happens to be his wife. She is charged in a separate bar proceeding. (Mike Frisch)