On Wednesday, January 11, 2023, the Supreme Court of the State of Minnesota ruled on the disciplinary charges against Minneapolis attorney Peter James Nickitas alleging misconduct.

The case is styled ‘In the Matter of Peter James Nickitas’ and was brought by the Director of the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility, with case no. A20-1529.

The charges cited Minnesota Rules of Professional Conduct 1.1, 1.3, 4.4(a), 8.2(a), and 8.4(d), which state:

A lawyer shall provide competent representation to a client. Competent representation requires the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness, and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation.

A lawyer shall act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client.

In representing a client, a lawyer shall not use means that have no substantial purpose other than to embarrass, delay, or burden a third person, or use methods of obtaining evidence that violate the legal rights of such a person.

A lawyer shall not make a statement that the lawyer knows to be false or with reckless disregard as to its truth or falsity concerning the qualifications or integrity of a judge.

It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to…engage in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice.

The Minnesota Rules of Professional Conduct can be found here.

Nickitas was alleged to have engaged in misconduct in two separate client matters by failing to competently represent a client, using abusive and obscene language and conduct toward court staff, and knowingly making false statements about the qualifications or integrity of a judge. Nickitas was further alleged to have attempted to improperly pressure a court.

The filing states:

‘In May 2018, Nickitas sought to address H.B.’s lapsed IFP status. Nickitas called Ramsey County court administration and spoke with a court operations supervisor to discuss filing a supplemental IFP order for the matter. The court operations supervisor testified that he likely informed Nickitas that a new IFP application would need to be submitted on H.B.’s behalf before the court could consider an order to proceed IFP. During the phone call, Nickitas became belligerent and used obscene and offensive language while describing his frustrations with the court’s process for considering and granting IFP applications and the court’s apparent unwillingness to simply approve the supplemental order to proceed IFP.’

The filing continues:

‘On or about April 12, 2019, Nickitas called the courthouse to inquire about the status of L.A.’s IFP application and spoke with the civil division lead worker. Nickitasimmediately, and without provocation, began speaking to the civil division lead worker in a “heated tone.” While on the phone with the civil division lead worker, Nickitas screamed loudly and used the word “fuck” multiple times to express his discontent over the court’s denial of L.A.’s IFP application.’

The filing further alleges:

‘Despite the civil division lead worker’s calm manner, Nickitas spoke loudly enough that her supervisor, who was seated approximately 10 feet away, heard Nickitas’s voice coming from the phone. The supervisor understood, even from that distance, that Nickitas’s tone and volume was offensive and abusive. When prompted to rate Nickitas’s call on a scale with zero or one as the least intense and ten as the most intense, the civil division lead worker emphatically testified that she categorized the call as a ten and stated that Nickitas’s call was “the worst one ever.”

The filing additionally notes:

‘On April 29, 2019, still unaware that L.A’s IFP petition had been granted, Nickitase-filed another letter to the Judge about L.A. In the letter, Nickitas accused the judge of discriminating against L.A.He asserted that she failed to grant L.A.’s IFP application despite his compliance with what he deemed were the “plain words of the statutes.” At the top of the letter, the request was bolded and in red font. The letter contained three pointed questions and statements to the Judge: “Why are you discriminating against [L.A.] because he receives means-tested public assistance?”; “Is this how [L.A.], a disabled, honorably discharged veteran, is thanked by the courts for his service?”; and “Your prejudicial delay is preventing [L.A.] from obtaining his due process and a fair go in court.”’

After a hearing was conducted, the referee concluded that Nickitas’ conduct violated the above-cited rules of professional conduct and recommended that Nickitas be suspended from the practice of law indefinitely, with no right to petition for reinstatement until his fulfillment of a minimum suspension period of 120 days. The referee further recommended that if practicable, the suspension be served in a staggered fashion.

Both the Director and Nickitas believed that staggered suspensions are impractical. The Director asked the Court to impose a 120-day suspension with a condition that Nickitas shall seek reinstatement from the Court before he resumes law practice. Nickitas, on the other hand, argued that probation is sufficient discipline.

With the foregoing facts and discussions, the Court favored the findings and recommendation of the referee and concluded that the appropriate sanction against Nickitas is a minimum of 120-day suspension with a requirement of a petition for reinstatement following suspension.

The disposition reads:

“Respondent Peter James Nickitas is indefinitely suspended from the practice of law, effective 14 days from the date of this opinion, with no right to petition for reinstatement for 120 days.”

Nickitas was also ordered to pay costs amounting to $900 pursuant to Rule 24, RLPR.

Prior to the suspension, Mr. Nickitas practiced in Minneapolis, Minnesota. According to Avvo, he has been admitted to both the Minnesota and Wisconsin bars.

A copy of the original filing can be found here.