April 15, 2010
The Minnesota Supreme Court has reinstated subject to a two year probation an attorney who was suspended for six months with fitness in 2008. The attorney had been a high court judge in Ethiopia who had fled Ethiopia in 1995 and was granted asylum in the United States. He attended law school and was admitted to practice in 2001. He was a solo practicioner with primarily a personal injury practice.
He abused his wife and then sued family friends who had sheltered her from his abuse for defamation. The suit was deemed meritless. Further, he obstructed his own deposition and compelled his wife to sign a false affidavit recanting the truthful abuse charges. They were divorced in 2005.
The Director of Office of Lawyer Professional Responsibility began an investigation after a trust account overdraft. Charges were filed for trust violations, obstruction of access to evidence in the defamation case and knowingly presenting a false affidavit in that case.
At the reinstatement hearing, the petitioner:
admitted in his testimony that when he and his ex-wife had arguments, he would regularly grab and hit her. He testified that in [his] culture, such behavior is considered "natural and normal" and is "not considered as abuse. " He stated that although he did not consider his actions to be physical abuse at the time, he now understands that he "made a mistake" and "shouldn't have done that." He "realized slowly, gradually," since the time of his suspension that hitting one's wife [is] considered physical abuse in this system." [He] further admits that he had falsely denied the abuse at his disciplinary hearing.
The panel that considered the petition had recommended against reinstatement. The court held that the panel had focused on the petitioner's earlier state of mind rather than his present character and concluded that he had demonstrated the moral regeneration required for reinstatement. (Mike Frisch)
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