On Monday, September 28, 2023, the Supreme Court of Minnesota issued an order suspending lawyer John B. Person from practicing law for 4 months, with reinstatement allowed after that period without needing to petition the court. The suspension will take effect 14 days from the date of the order.
The case is entitled “In the Matter of John B. person,” with case number A23-0669.
According to the filing, Person violated the Minnesota Rules of Professional Conduct by failing to provide competent representation to his clients, in violation of Rule 1.1, abiding by their decisions concerning the objectives of the representation even when they involved illegal or unethical conduct, in violation of Rule 1.2(d), making false statements of material fact or law to third parties, in violation of Rule 4.1, knowingly assisting or inducing another person to violate the rules of professional conduct, in violation of Rule 8.4(a), and engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation, in violation of Rule 8.4(c).
Person’s suspension is a direct consequence of a petition submitted by the Director of the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility, accusing him of engaging in professional misconduct. Specifically, the Director alleged that in one matter, Person failed to exhibit proper preparedness, thoroughness, and legal knowledge; assisted a client engaging in fraudulent conduct; and made false statements furthering that conduct. This relates to Person preparing a certificate of trust falsely identifying his client as the sole trustee empowered to act alone, which enabled transferring property without the consent of the co-trustee. The client then executed the certificate and trustee’s deed, which Person recorded.
In another matter, Person allegedly failed to properly communicate his fees and expenses to a client.
Person waived his procedural rights and unconditionally admitted to the allegations. Originally, the parties recommended a 60-day suspension as discipline. However, the Court ordered the parties to explain why more serious discipline would not be appropriate given the misconduct admitted.
In their explanations, the parties noted mitigating factors including that Person’s dishonest actions were meant to protect a vulnerable client rather than for personal gain. The Court found these arguments somewhat persuasive, but still felt a 60-day suspension insufficient given the seriousness of Person deliberately harming his client’s co-trustee through knowingly false documents.
The Court ordered that Person’s suspension will be for a minimum of 4 months. Person must comply with rules requiring notifying clients, opposing counsel, and tribunals of his suspension. He must also pay $900 in costs. The Court waived the requirement that Person petition for reinstatement after the suspension expires. However, upon reinstatement, Person will be placed on unsupervised probation for 2 years. He must also retake and pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination within 1 year.
A copy of the original filing can be found here.