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In re Petition for Disciplinary Action against Clark

Supreme Court of Minnesota

July 24, 2013

In re Petition for Disciplinary Action against Jill Eleanor Clark, a Minnesota Attorney, Registration No. 196988.

Office of Appellate Courts Original Jurisdiction

Martin A. Cole, Director, Craig D. Klausing, Senior Assistant Director, Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility, Saint Paul, Minnesota, for petitioner.

Jill Eleanor Clark, Golden Valley, Minnesota, pro se.

SYLLABUS

Transfer to disability inactive status is appropriate when an attorney is unable to competently represent clients because of mental health issues.

OPINION

PER CURIAM

The issue presented in this case is whether respondent Jill Clark should be transferred to disability inactive status. A referee appointed by this court made findings and recommended that Clark be transferred to disability inactive status. Because Clark is unable to competently represent clients due to mental health issues, we transfer Clark to disability inactive status.

I.

The Director of the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility filed a petition for disciplinary action against respondent Jill Clark. We referred the matter to a referee. Shortly before the evidentiary hearing was scheduled to begin in June 2012, Clark, through her husband, asked that the hearing be postponed because Clark was in the hospital. After receiving submissions from the parties regarding how to proceed, the referee filed a recommendation to transfer Clark to disability inactive status, stay the disciplinary proceedings, and refer the matter to the referee to make findings regarding Clark's disability.[1]

On October 26, 2012, we referred the matter back to the referee to make additional findings and recommendations on the nature of Clark's disability, whether she could assist in her defense, and whether she could competently represent clients. We also ordered Clark to submit to an independent medical examination and that any of Clark's medical records would be marked as confidential and not disclosed to the public.

According to the referee, Clark "marginal[ly]" complied with the requirement to submit to an independent medical examination. Clark met with the appointed expert, Dr. Mary Kenning. Clark, however, did not present herself on December 4, 2012, to take the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory II (MMPI-II) because she was scheduled to have oral surgery and told Dr. Kenning that she anticipated a lengthy recovery. Despite telling Dr. Kenning this, Clark was able to be interviewed by her chosen expert on three different days during this same time period and to complete an MMPI-II administered by her expert on December 5, 2012.

The referee held an evidentiary hearing on December 7, 2012. On December 20, 2012, the referee filed findings and recommendations relating to Clark's disability. The referee found that Clark was disabled because of mental health issues and that she could not competently represent clients as of December 7, 2012, and continuing for the foreseeable future.

The referee made extensive findings about the serious mental health issues that Clark experienced during 2012 and how her mental health issues impacted her life, her cognitive abilities, and her emotional state.[2] The referee found that Clark "began to experience emotional or mental health issues at least, by her own admission, by January 2012." Clark's symptoms worsened during the spring. Beginning on June 21, 2012, Clark was hospitalized for several days.

Neither Clark nor her attorney participated in a June 21, 2012, telephone conference with the referee. Instead, Clark's husband participated. He informed the referee about Clark's hospitalization. Clark's husband told the referee that he was concerned for Clark's physical and emotional well-being. He explained that Clark had not slept in 7 days and that he had locked Clark out of her e-mail accounts and computers and had restricted her business telephone access so that she would not be able to deal with clients. In a June 27, 2012, written submission to the referee, Clark stated that in mid-June she began to experience "extreme symptoms" ...


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