Wednesday, July 22, 2020

A Small Amount Of Money

The Minnesota Supreme Court affirmed a finding that an attorney had engaged in misappropriation

Here, two clients were affected by Quinn’s behavior. R.F. was financially harmed by Quinn’s misconduct. Although a relatively small amount of money was involved and R.F. was not permanently deprived of his funds, it took the filing of a disciplinary complaint and more than 4 years before Quinn refunded the filing fee. Quinn’s harm to C.L., however, was minimal. His lack of communication did not affect the substantive merits of her claim, and the record shows that she did receive notice of her bankruptcy discharge from the court.

Sanction

Here, Quinn misappropriated only a small amount of money, which he eventually repaid to the client—although he took over 4 years to do so—and no other client was harmed by his misconduct. Considering the nature and extent of Quinn’s misconduct and the aggravating factors present, we conclude that the appropriate discipline is an indefinite suspension with no right to petition for reinstatement for 18 months.

A dissent on the length of suspension from Justice Thissen

I also disagree with the referee’s legal conclusion that Quinn’s discipline should be enhanced because he “declined to acknowledge the wrongfulness of his misconduct and exhibited no remorse.” The court reasons that we should discipline Quinn more harshly than other lawyers who may have engaged in the same misconduct because Quinn did not concede that he violated the Rules in the disciplinary proceeding but rather attempted to explain his actions and apportion responsibility to others while defending himself.

We live in a nuanced world and it is basic human nature to want to explain oneself. Indeed, it is one of the reasons we hold hearings. We are disciplining Quinn for what the referee ultimately determined to be violations of the Rules of Professional Responsibility. Should his discipline for those violations also be enhanced because Quinn tried to defend himself?

Justice Anderson agreed. (Mike Frisch)

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/legal_profession/2020/07/the-minnesota-supreme-court-affirmed-a-finding-that-an-attorney-had-misappropriated-a-304-advanced-filing-fee-a-dissent-on.html

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