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In re Petition for Disciplinary Action against Pearson

Supreme Court of Minnesota

December 21, 2016

In re Petition for Disciplinary Action against Todd Curtis Pearson, a Minnesota Attorney, Registration No. 0230935

         Original Jurisdiction Office of Appellate Courts

          Susan M. Humiston, Director, Cassie Hanson, Senior Assistant Director, Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility, for petitioner.

          Todd Curtis Pearson, Wayzata, Minnesota, pro se.

         SYLLABUS

         A public reprimand and 1 year of unsupervised probation is warranted for an attorney who did not keep required trust-account books and records and failed to cooperate with a disciplinary investigation.

          OPINION

          PER CURIAM

         The Director of the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility filed a petition for disciplinary action against Todd Curtis Pearson, alleging professional misconduct for a trust-account violation and failure to cooperate with the Director's investigation. The referee determined that Pearson violated several rules of professional conduct and recommended that we impose a public reprimand and 1 year of unsupervised probation for Pearson's misconduct. We adopt the referee's recommendation.

         I.

         Todd Curtis Pearson has been licensed to practice law in Minnesota since October 23, 1992. In November 2014, Pearson began work as a full-time contract attorney doing document review for Special Counsel, a legal-staffing firm. After his transition to contract work, Pearson no longer provided legal services directly to members of the public. The balance in Pearson's client trust account with Wells Fargo Bank at the end of 2014 was $6.02, an amount not owed to any client.

         In February 2015, a former client satisfied an outstanding invoice by wiring $5, 744.00 into Pearson's trust account. That same day, Pearson wired the $5, 744.00 out of his trust account into his personal account, for which Wells Fargo Bank assessed a $15 wire-transfer charge. As a result of the wire-transfer charge, Pearson overdrew his trust account. Wells Fargo Bank notified both Pearson and the Director of the overdraft. Pearson immediately deposited $50 in his trust account to restore a positive balance. The notification, however, caused the Director to initiate an inquiry into Pearson's trust-account overdraft. The Director sent a letter to Pearson's office address in Minnetonka, requesting an explanation for the overdraft and copies of Pearson's trust-account books and records.

         Pearson received the Director's letter and responded with a detailed description of the transactions and 3 months of trust-account bank statements. Pearson's response, however, did not include the books and records that the Director had requested. The Director sent a second letter to Pearson, which once again requested copies of Pearson's trust-account books and records. This time, Pearson's response stated that he did "not have any additional books and records."

         The Director sent a letter to Pearson explaining that Minn. R. Prof. Conduct 1.15(h) requires maintenance of trust-account books and records, even if account activity is minimal. The Director included a sample client-ledger form and insisted that Pearson "reconstruct [the records] at this time." The Director received no response. The Director mailed a total of four additional letters and a notice of formal investigation to Pearson's Minnetonka office. Pearson claims that he had not been reading the mail forwarded from his Minnetonka office to his home address in Wayzata and had assumed it was "junk" mail.

         In November 2015, the Director filed with this court a petition for disciplinary action, alleging failure to cooperate with the Director's investigation, see Minn. R. Prof. Conduct 8.1(b); Rule 25, Rules on Lawyers Professional Responsibility (RLPR), and failure to maintain trust-account books and records, see Minn. R. Prof. Conduct 1.15(h). Pearson received personal service of the petition, which he claims was his first notice of any correspondence from the Director since the initial two letters. Pearson filed an answer to the petition and finally produced the requested trust-account books and records for the Director.

         We appointed a referee to make and report findings of fact, conclusions of law, and a recommendation for discipline. The referee conducted a hearing and concluded that Pearson's conduct violated Minn. R. Prof. Conduct 1.15(h), Minn. R. Prof. Conduct 8.1(b), and Rule 25, RLPR. The referee recommended that we impose a public reprimand and 1 year of unsupervised probation for Pearson's misconduct. The Director urges us to double the ...


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