July 11, 2012
A False Dilemma
The Minnesota Supreme Court has imposed a 60 day suspension of an attorney for practicing while serving a 60 day suspension.
The attorney was suspended for 60 days in April 2009 and has not been reinstated. He had an appellate brief due when the suspension went into effect. He tried but failed to get another attorney to file the brief.
He then completed the brief and signed the client's name as a pro se litigant. The opposing Assistant County Attorney believed he had written the brief and reported his concerns. Disciplinary charges were filed over two years later.
The court rejected the attorney's claim that his conduct was justified and did not run afoul of ethics rules:
We need not, and do not, address [the attorney's] novel interpretation of the Rules of Professional Conduct because we conclude that, even if Rule 1.16(d) could offer a defense in some circumstances, it does not excuse [his] conduct here. Simply put, [he] had alternatives, other than writing and filing a brief while suspended from the practice of law, which would have satisfied the requirement under [the Rule] to protect [the client's] interests...[He] is essentially asserting a false dilemma and we reject his justifications for his actions.
Dissenting justices would require the attorney to petition for reinstatement. (Mike Frisch)
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