July 17, 2008
Spousal Abuse Evidence Properly Admitted In Bar Case
The Minnesota Supreme Court ordered an attorney indefinitely suspended for a minimum of six months. The attorney and his wife had emigrated from Ethiopia and he was admitted in 2001, focusing on personal injury law. The wife sought a civil protection order against him; he denied that any abuse had taken place. He then sued three former friends for defamation, alleging that they had encouraged the wife to seek the protection order. The court dismissed the action but did not impose sanctions on the lawyer.
Two years later, the bar received notice of a trust account overdraft. The wife met with an attorney who was conducting the bar investigation. Charges of trust account violations were filed and admitted, but the lawyer denied misconduct in the defamation case and denied that he had filed a false affidavit concerning the alleged abuse. The wife, her mother and her daughter testified in the bar case. The referee found the other charged violations.
On review, the court held that evidence concerning the spousal relationship was relevant and properly admitted on the issue of whether or not the lawyer had falsely denied the abuse and as impeachment. The proposed sanction was appropriate for negligent misappropriation and lack of truthfulness and candor. (Mike Frisch)
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