Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Neglectful Former City Attorney Suspended

The Minnesota Supreme Court has rejected a proposed public reprimand and suspended a former city attorney for 30 days

The admitted allegations of the petition establish that between 1989 and 2019, respondent worked as the city attorney for the City of Fairmont. Beginning in 2012, respondent’s previously full-time legal assistant started taking on other duties, affecting respondent’s ability to efficiently process criminal cases within the City’s jurisdiction. After the City decided in 2019 to terminate respondent’s employment (for reasons unrelated to the misconduct described in the petition), it became evident that she had not resolved, by making a charging decision, a large number of police reports—over 135. Some 51 of those cases were at that point time-barred, including 26 that could otherwise have been charged out or further investigated. In addition, 27 of the time-barred cases were domestic assault cases, with respect to which a prosecutor has a duty under Minn. Stat. § 611A.0315, to notify the victim that the prosecutor has decided to decline prosecution or to dismiss the criminal charges against a defendant, and to inform the victim of information relating to orders for protection and restraining orders. Because of her failure to take action on these matters, respondent failed to comply with the requirements of the statute. Therefore, respondent’s misconduct involved a lack of diligence, in violation of Minn. R. Prof. Conduct 1.3, and conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice, in violation of Minn. R. Prof. Conduct 8.4(d).


in determining the appropriate discipline, we consider four factors, as well as any aggravating and mitigating factors. Here, the nature of the misconduct is serious; the cumulative weight of the disciplinary violations is consequential; and the harm to the public and to the legal profession is substantial. Although we consider respondent’s remorse to be a mitigating factor, we believe that even when that mitigation is taken into account, a public reprimand is an insufficiently serious sanction for respondent’s misconduct. Accordingly, we reject the parties’ stipulated discipline and impose a 30-day suspension.

(Mike Frisch)

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