• July 17, 2012

There is a widespread but not universal social consensus that stealing is wrong, even when the thief is selflessly stealing to feed the poor or stealing for even more sympathetic beneficiaries (say, stealing for the benefit of innocent and hungry victims of widespread government-led oppression (e.g., Robin Hood)).

On the other hand, most of us have qualms about harsh discipline for relatively low-level wrong-doing that had selfless altruism at its core.

Fortunately for suspended Minnesota attorney, Stephen Grigsby, a slight majority of the Minnesota Supreme Court seems to have felt that way in his latest disciplinary run-in with the Board of Professional Responsibility.  

When representing a DUI criminal defendant, Grigsby was suspended from the practice of law.  Grigsby notified his client that he, Grigsby, had been benched.  The timing was less than ideal for Grigsby’s “former client” because he had an appellate brief due.

Grigsby tried to line up alternate counsel without success so he wrote his client’s brief, signed the client’s name, filed the brief as “pro se” (i.e., not represented by legal counsel) and Grigsby’s uncompensated brief won the day for his former client.

Nevertheless, Grigsby’s acts included some fairly obvious ethical violations — e.g., signing someone else’s name on a brief and practicing law when he had been suspended from the practice.

A majority of the Minnesota Supreme Court, however, reached out to lessen the sanction that the disciplinary body had meted out to Grigsby.  A minority of the Court, however, the more “law and order” wing of the Court, arguably, dissented.  The rules are the rules.  Grigsby violated them and the disciplinary authority should not be second-guessed, Minnesota Supreme Court Associate Justice Christopher J. Dietzen argued (with the concurrences of Justices Gildea (C.J.) and Stras).

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