Lawyers losing licenses for misconduct

  • Article by: JANE FRIEDMANN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 31, 2010 - 9:41 AM

One lawyer stole at least $1 million from his firm. Another used at least $750 in client funds to buy illegal drugs. They and two others were disbarred by the Supreme Court in the first half of 2010. Five more were suspended for their unprofessional conduct.

These nine lawyers are a tiny fraction of the more than 26,000 currently holding an active license in the state. In 2009, the Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board, appointed by the court to investigate complaints, looked into 1,206 complaints. Of those, 32 resulted in public discipline and 132 involved private discipline.

I researched rulings by the state Supreme Court and petitions and orders from the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility to compile the list. Disbarred lawyers are ranked by the amount of money they were accused of taking. Suspended lawyers are ranked by the length of suspension.

1 Michael S. Margulies, Minneapolis, disbarred April 27.

Margulies, who worked for Lindquist & Vennum for 26 years, admitted embezzling at least $1 million in funds from clients and his law firm through double billing and submitting false expense reports. A Ramsey County lawsuit alleges Margulies spent most of the money on renovating his St. Paul mansion.

2 Lisa Jane Mayne, St. Paul, disbarred June 10.

Mayne was convicted in 2008 of financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult, a felony, for stealing about $60,000 from her father. Mayne also had power of attorney and failed to pay $45,000 in bills from her father's care facilities.

3 Thomas Allen Rothstein, Minneapolis, disbarred Jan. 6.

Rothstein was convicted in October 2009 of theft by swindle of at least $35,000 from Halberg Criminal Defense, a firm he helped found. He concealed a number of payments to himself for items such as flowers, jewelry and a personal trainer.

4 Juan Jesus Rodriguez, Minneapolis, disbarred June 14.

Rodriguez used at least $750 in funds from low-income clients to buy illegal drugs. Rodriguez worked for an organization that provided low-cost legal services. He told clients they owed more than their contracts stated and diverted money to himself.

5 Alan J. Albrecht, Brooklyn Center, suspended April 1 for at least two years.

Albrecht was suspended after being disciplined 14 times for misconduct, including neglecting client matters, failing to comply with the terms of his probation and failing to properly handle client funds.

6 Bent Karlsen, Detroit Lakes, suspended Feb. 11 for at least one year.

Karlsen was suspending after mishandling immigration matters for eight clients over a two-year period, making false and misleading statements to clients and in an affidavit filed with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and failing to communicate with clients. He was disbarred in North Dakota on Dec. 23, 2008.

7 Thomas John Lyons, Jr., Vadnais Heights, suspended April 8 for at least one year.

Lyons failed to tell other lawyers his client had died and instead proceeded to negotiate a settlement of the client's case. Since 1998, Lyons has been disciplined eight times.

8 Jill M. Waite, Minneapolis, suspended June 17 for at least five months.

Waite failed to file income tax returns from 1993 to 2004, a period of 12 years. She filed those returns in 2005 and 2006 and told the court her conduct did not violate any rule of professional conduct.

9 Bonnie J. Askew, Fargo, suspended May 19 for two months. Reinstated Aug. 11.

Askew allowed a divorce case to languish unresolved for almost two years and failed to communicate with her client. Her license was also suspended in North Dakota over the matter.

Each week, Hard Data digs into public records and puts a spotlight on rule breakers in the Twin Cities and Minnesota. You can contact me at jfriedmann@startribune.com.

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