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In re Petition for Disciplinary Action against Ulanowski

Supreme Court of Minnesota

July 31, 2013

In re Petition for Disciplinary Action against Lawrence Walter Ulanowski, a Minnesota Attorney, Registration No. 316015.

Original Jurisdiction Office of Appellate Courts

Martin A. Cole, Director, Timothy M. Burke, Senior Assistant Director, Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility, Saint Paul, Minnesota, for petitioner.

Lawrence Walter Ulanowski, Brainerd, Minnesota, pro se.

Took no part, Lillehaug, J.

SYLLABUS

Disbarment is the appropriate discipline for an attorney who, while indefinitely suspended from the practice of law for prior misconduct, fails to refund unearned money to two clients, to communicate with his clients, to satisfy a law-related judgment, and to cooperate with the Director's disciplinary investigation.

OPINION

PER CURIAM

The Director of the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility ("the Director") filed a petition for disciplinary action against respondent Lawrence Walter Ulanowski, alleging that Ulanowski failed to return unearned money to two clients, to communicate with his clients, to satisfy a law-related judgment, and to cooperate with the Director's disciplinary investigation. We agree with the Director that the facts and circumstances of this case warrant disbarment.

I.

Ulanowski has been disciplined five times since he was admitted to the practice of law in 2001. He has received four admonitions—one in April 2008, two in August 2011, and one in October 2011—for various acts of misconduct, including his failure to cooperate with the Director. On August 3, 2011, we indefinitely suspended Ulanowski with no right to petition for reinstatement for a minimum of 1 year for misrepresenting facts to a court, filing frivolous claims, violating court rules, harassing opposing counsel, improperly withdrawing as counsel, threatening criminal prosecution against a client of his firm, failing to tell a client about a settlement offer, declining to return client materials, making misrepresentations to the Director, and refusing to cooperate in the Director's investigation. In re Ulanowski, 800 N.W.2d 785, 788-92 (Minn. 2011). Ulanowski remains suspended from the practice of law.

The current petition for disciplinary action alleges additional misconduct by Ulanowski that has not been the subject of prior discipline. In the first matter, S.M.K. agreed to pay Ulanowski a flat fee retainer of $1, 200 and an additional $299 to cover filing fees in a personal bankruptcy case. S.M.K. paid Ulanowski a total of $1, 449 pursuant to a payment plan. However, Ulanowski did not perform any legal services for S.M.K. One week after we suspended Ulanowski in August 2011, Ulanowski sent a letter to S.M.K. in which he notified her of his suspension and advised her to contact his office to retrieve her file and to obtain a refund of any balance that remained in Ulanowski's trust account. Following receipt of that letter, S.M.K. attempted to contact Ulanowski multiple times through various methods—including by telephone, e-mail, and fax—but Ulanowski has neither responded to any of S.M.K.'s communications nor refunded any of her money.

In the second matter, F.P. agreed to pay Ulanowski a $1, 400 flat fee retainer in installments to represent him in a bankruptcy case. As of the date of Ulanowski's suspension, F.P. had paid Ulanowski a total of $800. Like the S.M.K. matter, Ulanowski failed to perform any legal services for F.P. One week after we suspended Ulanowski, he sent a letter to F.P. in which he notified F.P. of his suspension and instructed F.P. to contact his office to obtain his file and a refund of his money. F.P. attempted to contact Ulanowski on multiple occasions to request a refund of the retainer, but Ulanowski failed to respond to any of F.P.'s communications. In September 2011, F.P. filed a conciliation court action against Ulanowski to recover the $800 he had paid to Ulanowski, plus an additional $75 for conciliation court filing fees and costs. When Ulanowski failed to appear for the hearing, the court awarded $875 to F.P. Ulanowski has failed to make any payments toward that judgment.

The final count in the petition relates to Ulanowski's refusal to cooperate with the Director's investigation into the S.M.K. and F.P. matters. S.M.K. filed a complaint against Ulanowski with the Director, and then the Director mailed a notice of investigation to Ulanowski's address of record with the Minnesota Attorney Registration System. The notice of investigation asked Ulanowski to provide a complete written response and a copy of S.M.K.'s file within 14 days. Ulanowski failed to respond to the notice of investigation. The Director mailed Ulanowski two additional letters requesting the same information as the notice of investigation. The Director mailed the third letter both to Ulanowski's address of record and to his home address. The Director received no response from Ulanowski. The post office returned the Director's two follow-up letters with the notations "RETURN TO SENDER, " "REFUSED" or "UNCLAIMED, " and "UNABLE TO FORWARD."

After F.P. filed a complaint with the Director, the Director mailed a notice of investigation to Ulanowski's address of record and to his home address on January 19, 2012. The notice of investigation asked Ulanowski to provide a complete written response and a copy of F.P.'s file within 14 days. The post office returned both copies of the January notice of investigation. One of the ...


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