A Rochester attorney was ordered suspended for 90 days after he was found to have failed to remain current on tax obligations and meet the terms of his probation.
The Minnesota Supreme Court ordered on July 1 that attorney Daniel J. Moulton be suspended for 90 days with a requirement to petition for reinstatement.
The Director of the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility filed a petition for disciplinary action against Moulton alleging that he had violated the Minnesota Rules of Professional Conduct by failing to file and pay his taxes and failing to affirmatively report his tax compliance as required by the terms of his probation, according to the Supreme Court decision.
An evidentiary hearing was held and a referee concluded that Moulton violated the rules and recommended a 90-day suspension from practicing law and that he be required to petition for reinstatement. The Minnesota Supreme Court confirmed the ruling and found that Moulton was afforded a fair hearing and that the suspension was appropriate discipline.
Moulton was placed on probation in June 2010 after he was found to have failed to file and timely pay state and federal employer withholding tax returns from 1998 through 2005, according to court documents. He owned, operated and was the sole corporate officer of a trucking company. He was on probation until he had fully paid all past-due employer withholding tax liabilities. He has since satisfied his outstanding tax liabilities.
As a condition of his reinstatement to practice law, Moulton was required to “affirmatively report to the Director, on or before the due date of the required return, his compliance with tax filing and payment.”
Moulton challenged the referee’s findings that he failed to report as required by the conditions of his probation. He did not dispute that he failed on numerous occasions to directly report to the director about his taxes and provide copies of the required tax returns but argued that he complied with his obligations by providing the information and documents to his attorney with the expectation that his attorney would forward it to the director. The high court rejected the argument.
Moulton also argued that he did not receive a fair disciplinary hearing and that his due process rights were violated during the hearing with the referee. The high court rejected those arguments as well.
Moulton also argued that the referee fell asleep during his hearing, but he himself did not see it happen. His view of the referee may have been obstructed during the hearing. The high court rejected that argument saying that a review of the transcript shows the referee was actively involved in the hearing.
The suspension is effective 14 days from the date of the July 1 opinion.