A split Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that a Rochester attorney be suspended from practicing law after upholding a referee’s findings that the man misappropriated client funds and failed to adequately communicate with two clients.
Attorney Michael J. Quinn was ordered to be indefinitely suspended with no right to petition for reinstatement for 18 months. The suspension goes into effect 14 days after the high court’s Wednesday ruling. If Quinn applies for reinstatement, he must successfully complete a written test on the subject of professional responsibility.
The Director of the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility filed a petition for disciplinary action alleging Quinn misappropriated a client’s filing fee, failed to safeguard the filing fee, failed to promptly return the filing fee to the client, failed to adequately communicate with two clients, and failed to fully cooperate with the director’s investigations, according to the ruling.
Following a hearing, a referee concluded that Quinn committed the alleged misconduct and recommended an indefinite suspension with no right to petition for reinstatement for 18 months.
Quinn did not immediately return a $306 filing fee to a client after the client decided not to file a bankruptcy petition. It took about four years for the money to be returned to the client. He was also found to have not communicated with a client about a bankruptcy filing he did on her behalf. The woman did learn of her case’s resolution through the bankruptcy court and a trustee.
Justice Paul C. Thissen disagreed with the minimum 18-month suspension and wrote that he would impose a suspension of six months.
“After reviewing the record, I conclude that an 18-month suspension is excessive and not necessary to either protect the public from this attorney or deter future misconduct which is highly unlikely to recur,” Thissen wrote. “I further do not see how Quinn’s conduct seriously threatens the functioning of the judicial system. Rather, such a lengthy suspension is punitive and that is not a proper purpose for imposing discipline.”
Thissen did agree with findings that Quinn misappropriated the filing fee, failed to communicate with a client and failed to cooperate with the investigation. Justice G. Barry Anderson joined in the concurrence and dissent of Thissen.