Minneapolis defense lawyer faces disbarment

  • Article by: ABBY SIMONS
  • Star Tribune
  • November 15, 2011 - 11:19 PM

A well-known Minneapolis defense attorney and self-described life coach stands accused of multiple counts of professional misconduct, including dodging taxes, failing to represent paying clients and not cooperating with an investigation into his actions, according to a petition for his disbarment filed this week.

The Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility filed the complaint Monday against Barry V. Voss, 59, who in a 33-year career has represented defendants in several high-profile criminal cases. He represented Derick Holliday, convicted of murder for a random shooting at Block E in 2006. He's currently representing Joseph Robert "Big Joe" Gustafson, alleged leader of the "Beat-Down Posse," in an upcoming trial on racketeering, attempted murder and other charges. Voss also describes himself as a public speaker and author.

The complaint accuses Voss of 15 counts of misconduct, several of them related to clients who paid Voss, then allegedly received subpar representation or none at all.

According to the complaint:

Voss would not return the clients' money or respond to multiple telephone messages. In one case, he withdrew from serving as an attorney for a defendant because of a conflict of interest, but allegedly would not return a $9,000 retainer. In another, he failed to file a post-conviction petition on behalf of a client, then would not refund that client's $15,000.

In yet another, he did not file a timely appeal on behalf of a client. The complaint also accuses Voss of failing to pay employer withholding taxes from 2008 to 2010.

When the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility contacted Voss to request additional information regarding the various complaints against him, he did not respond or took several months to supply the requested information, according to the complaint.

Voss, who said he did not learn of the allegations against him until he was contacted by a reporter, claims that he never withheld any money from his clients and that some of the complaints against him range from incidents such as standing at a lectern with a blank legal pad, leading his client to believe he wasn't doing any work. He hired a new accountant to clear up the tax allegations, and he contends that he sent more than 100 pages of responses to the board's inquiries.

Discipline against Voss, if any, can range from suspension to disbarment. The final decision rests with the Minnesota Supreme Court. Voss has 20 days to respond to the allegations. He said he has retained an attorney and plans to respond.

Martin Cole, director of the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility, said that the complaint reflects fair treatment of Voss and that he will be treated fairly as things proceed. Voss was previously disciplined with a private admonition on three occasions.

Abby Simons 612-673-4921

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