June 27, 2011
The Classic Sense
An attorney was suspended for one year as a result of conduct described by the North Dakota Supreme Court:
[The attorney's] course of conduct, including at least two instances of fraudulently affixing a client's name to a document and filing it with a court, failure to properly notify clients of a prior suspension, falsely certifying to this Court compliance with the notification requirements, repeated and flagrant failure to communicate with clients, and mishandling and refusing to return unearned client funds, all suggest a pattern of dishonesty to the courts and flagrant disregard of his clients' welfare. Under these circumstances, a significant suspension is warranted...
The court rejected the attorney's claim that assistant disciplinary counsel had violated a sequestration agreement by talking to witnesses after lunch:
[The attorney] contends he did not receive a fair hearing, because the assistant disciplinary counsel violated a sequestration agreement by communicating with witnesses after a lunch break. [He] provides no details or factual background regarding what occurred, but alleges in broad generalities that the assistant disciplinary counsel provided a "refresher course" for certain witnesses and that the witnesses were influenced and less favorable to [him] because of the communication. The hearing panel in its report acknowledged that the parties had informed the panel there was a sequestration agreement.
[He] provided no details regarding the specifics of the parties' agreement, and concedes in his appellate brief "that the sequestration of witnesses was not violated in the classic sense of the rule." Nor does [he] cite any supporting authority suggesting that a sequestration agreement or order precludes an attorney from communicating with witnesses during a break in the proceedings.
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