• July 1, 2016

HourglassUpdate (July 1, 2016): The trail of alleged betrayal, lies, thievery, and deceit of Minnesota lawyer, Ron Resnik, will not be made into a major motion picture (notwithstanding a screenplay-sized complaint containing 13 counts of alleged unethical conduct). Stealing a few hundred dollars or even a few thousand dollars from Minnesotans in need of a lawyer over several years won’t even make it onto the local news.

But the long track record of Mr. Resnik’s alleged brazen misconduct highlights the importance of speeding the attorney discipline system in our state. It is clear that investigators need time to review claims of alleged wrong-doing; it is clear that accused lawyers must have the right to respond to claims; it is clear that accused lawyers must have a fair opportunity to explain and defend themselves. What is unclear is why, after all of these processes have run their courses, the Minnesota Supreme Court still takes several months and sometimes more than half a year to issue rulings on attorney discipline cases.

By the way, it is not only prospective victims of bad-behaving lawyers whose interests are at stake. Do not forget that most Minnesota lawyers are honest, hard-working, trustworthy, and competent. The profession’s reputation generally is tarnished when its worst practitioners are allowed to squander and burn even after the alarm bell’s been rung on their misdeeds (sometimes repeatedly).Fire Alarm2 And, while not the most sympathetic of all interested stakeholders, some disciplined Minnesota lawyers admit their errors, express remorse, and accept their discipline. They are eager to accept the consequences of their misconduct and move on. Some have to wait  an indeterminate amount of time in administrative limbo while the system, for whatever reason, delays its final ruling on pending disciplinary matters.

Incidentally, note that lawyers like Mr. Resnik seem to exploit the “doughnut hole” of Minnesota civil litigation that Minnesota lawyers and judges have been concerned about for years. That is, most Minnesotans cannot afford Minnesota lawyers and so they are vulnerable to shysters offering legal services nothing but headaches for extremely little money. The “doughnut hole” problem is widely recognized. No one seems to have solutions. Stay tuned to this website, though. I am working on a potential solution to this enormous problem.

Finally, I note that the subject line of this post comes from three Avvo “reviews” of Mr. Resnik.

Avvo is toxic. How long will our culture permit the extraordinary proliferation of illegitimate and pernicious purveyors of misinformation? Is this simply an instance of “caveat emptor,” a downside to the First Amendment and the free market, or is there a way to eradicate the invasive species of pseudo-endorsements by which wrongdoers trap the unwary while information about decent lawyers is buried in this digital dung heap?

Original post (May 6, 2016) (under the headline Delayed Ethics Investigations Can Impose a Devastating Toll): Here’s hoping Susan Humiston, the new direct of Minnesota’s Board of Professional Responsibility can fix the serious problems of Board in terms of its backlog of investigations of alleged wrong-doing by Minnesota lawyers.

With each passing day, delays in investigations and prosecutions of claims expose to dire consequences unwitting Minnesotans who have unfortunately relied upon one of a few terribly destructive Minnesota lawyers (or suspended Minnesota lawyers who practice while suspended).

Unethical, incompetent, overwhelmed, chemically compromised, and dishonest lawyers continue to practice, continue to harm Minnesotans, while ethics complaints against some of them take years to become public and to deter the misconduct.

Furthermore, many victims of attorney wrongdoing do not understand that ethics complaints do not toll statutes of limitation in cases of professional malpractice. Some people, after making their ethics complaints, patiently await the outcome of the investigation (not informed that this could take years); as they wait for the Board of Professional Responsibility to act, some lose the right to bring their legal malpractice claims.

What is the problem here? Is this a matter of funding? Is this the result of a state bar that relies on itself to regulate itself? Can someone do something?

I had the misfortune of first-hand experience this week — a consultation with a victim of attorney dishonesty and incompetence — someone who relied on the Board of Professional Responsibility to vindicate the client’s claims of a lawyer’s unethical and dishonest conduct. As the client waited years for the Board to conclude its investigation (which found many instances of unethical and dishonest conduct by the lawyer), the facially strong legal malpractice claims evaporated due to the statute of limitation.

Maybe there should be legislation that an ethics complaint tolls the statute of limitation? Maybe, at a minimum, the BPR should consider putting complainants on notice in bold-face underline font that

This investigation may take several months or even more than one year. This ethics investigation will not result in a recovery of money for you even if your lawyer is found to have violated ethics rules. Consult a lawyer if you wish to bring such an action. Note that there is a time limit (a statute of limitation) after which you might not be able to bring such an action.

This would impart a little more information than what the BPR currently gives people:

BPR Notice to Complainant

[Editor’s Note (added May 9, 2016): A commenter has pointed out that “the file aging problem and [the new Director’s] ‘top priority’ approach have been very well publicized in the last month or so, below; it wouldn’t have been a waste of words to acknowledge that [the OLPR] has acknowledged the problem.”  This is a fair point and let’s hope that we’re on the path to recovery of what has been a poorly functioning system.]


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