Duluth attorney suspended by Minnesota Supreme Court for misconductA Duluth lawyer has been indefinitely suspended from the practice of law by the state Supreme Court for a minimum of four months for misconduct.
A Duluth lawyer has been indefinitely suspended from the practice of law by the state Supreme Court for a minimum of four months for misconduct.
The action was taken after the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility filed a petition for disciplinary action against William Paul in 2009. The director of OLPR alleged that Paul committed numerous violations of the Minnesota Rules of Professional Conduct and one violation of the Rules on Lawyers Professional Responsibility.
The Supreme Court appointed a referee to make findings of fact and conclusions of law and to recommend appropriate discipline. After evidentiary hearings in 2010 and 2011, the referee concluded that Paul violated Minnesota Rules of Professional Conduct and Rules on Lawyers Professional Responsibility.
“I will abide by the order of the court,” Paul said when reached by phone Wednesday night. He declined further public comment.
Paul is also a businessman. He owns the Wendy’s restaurants in Duluth and Cloquet.
The referee determined that Paul failed to make reasonable efforts to expedite litigation; failed to provide competent representation; failed to act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client; failed to obey court rules; engaged in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice; failed to attend a hearing and improperly told his client not to appear; and failed to cooperate with disciplinary investigations.
The referee recommended that Paul be indefinitely suspended for a minimum of six months.
In an opinion released Wednesday, the Supreme Court said that a minimum of four months is the appropriate sanction for Paul before he can petition for reinstatement. He is ordered to inform his clients and opposing counsel of his suspension and must pay $900 in costs.
The referee said that Paul’s new violations and his response to them “demonstrate a continuing and heightened lack of insight, a lack of an appropriate legal and moral compass” and “ability to rationalize any failure of his duty to his client as somehow benefitting the client.” The Supreme Court said it agreed with the referee’s finding.
Paul was admitted to practice law in Minnesota in 1985. During the past 20 years he has received five admonitions and one public reprimand and has been placed on supervised probation twice.
According to the Supreme Court opinion, Paul’s prior misconduct includes failing to handle a matter with adequate diligence and promptness; failing to communicate with clients; failing to pay a valid, law-related judgment entered against him; failing to promptly return a file to a client; engaging in a pattern of improperly depositing fee and cost advances in his business account; failing to safeguard client funds; failing to cooperate with a disciplinary investigation; failing to provide an accounting of his attorney fees upon request of a client; and conditioning a refund of attorney fees upon a client agreeing not to file a professional responsibility complaint.