Wednesday, July 1, 2020
The Minnesota Supreme Court has suspended an attorney for at least three years
The sole issue before us is the appropriate discipline to impose on respondent Ignatius Chukwuemeka Udeani for his wide-ranging misconduct that caused substantial harm to multiple clients. The Director of the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility filed a petition and a supplementary petition for disciplinary action against Udeani.
Following a hearing, a referee found that Udeani committed numerous and varied acts of misconduct. Udeani’s misconduct involved: engaging in a pattern of incompetent representation, neglect, failure to communicate with clients, and failure to return unearned fees; failing to properly supervise a non-lawyer assistant and take reasonable steps to prevent the known misconduct of this assistant that resulted in the theft of client funds; failing to safeguard client funds and maintain all trust-account related records; representing a client with a conflict of interest; and failing to cooperate in multiple disciplinary investigations. The referee also found multiple aggravating factors and no mitigating factors. We conclude that the appropriate discipline is an indefinite suspension with no right to petition for reinstatement for 3 years.
MCKEIG, Justice (dissenting).
Because disbarment is the appropriate discipline for respondent Ignatius Chukwuemeka Udeani based on the incalculable harm he has inflicted upon his clients, I respectfully dissent.
The overwhelming majority of the 24 clients and client family members harmed by Udeani’s misconduct are immigrants. Immigrants face substantial obstacles in seeking adequate legal representation, including communication barriers, financial burdens, and limited opportunities for self-protection...
Immigration proceedings come with strict deadlines and filing requirements, and the consequences for missteps are severe. Faced with the most important legal proceedings of their lives, immigration clients think that they are being responsible by hiring an attorney like Udeani. Udeani’s clients made significant sacrifices to save the necessary funds to retain him. They worked multiple jobs, opened their homes to renters, borrowed from family members, and even went without medication and treatment. They placed this money, and their trust, in Udeani’s care. Udeani then wholly abused that trust, performing nominal or no work on most of these cases.