In re Petition for Reinstatement of Louis Andrew Stockman, a Minnesota Attorney, Registration No. 0241210
of Appellate Courts Original Jurisdiction
M. Degnan, Tara R. Duginske, Briggs and Morgan, P.A.,
Minneapolis, Minnesota, for petitioner.
M. Humiston, Director, Timothy M. Burke, Senior Assistant
Director, Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility,
Saint Paul, Minnesota, for respondent.
panel's finding that petitioner has not proven a moral
change was clearly erroneous. Based on our independent review
of the record, we conclude that petitioner has proven by
clear and convincing evidence that he has undergone a moral
Because petitioner has shown by clear and convincing evidence
that he has satisfied the requirements for reinstatement to
the practice of law in Minnesota, we reinstate petitioner,
subject to a 2-year period of supervised probation.
Louis Andrew Stockman seeks reinstatement to the practice of
law under Rule 18, Rules on Lawyers Professional
Responsibility (RLPR). Stockman has been the subject of two
prior public disciplinary actions, both resulting in
suspension. A panel of the Lawyers Professional
Responsibility Board recommended against reinstatement,
finding that Stockman had "not proven by clear and
convincing evidence that he has undergone a moral
change." The Director of the Office of Lawyers
Professional Responsibility (Director) agrees with the
recommendation of the panel. Stockman challenges the
panel's finding that he has not demonstrated the
requisite moral change.
that the panel's finding that Stockman has not proven a
moral change was clearly erroneous. Based on our independent
review of the record, we further hold that Stockman has
proven by clear and convincing evidence that he has undergone
a moral change. Because Stockman has shown by clear and
convincing evidence that he has satisfied the requirements
for reinstatement to the practice of law in Minnesota, we
grant the petition and reinstate Stockman, subject to a
2-year period of supervised probation.
Louis Andrew Stockman was admitted to the practice of law in
Minnesota in 1993. Following his admission to the bar,
Stockman worked, briefly for a solo practitioner, and then
for 12 years at a private law firm. In 2006, Stockman left
that firm to open a practice in Duluth, which later became
Stockman Law Office, where he practiced personal injury and
workers' compensation law.
Stockman has been previously subject to two public
disciplinary proceedings and one private admonition. The
first proceeding involved trust-account and client-related
misconduct that Stockman committed between 2005 and 2010.
Stockman's trust-account misconduct included
trust-account shortages, commingling client funds and earned
fees, failing to maintain trust-account books and records,
and failing to return a disputed fee to the trust account.
Stockman's client-related misconduct involved improperly
loaning money to clients, failing to adequately communicate
the basis and rate of his fees, charging an unreasonable fee,
and failing to properly establish the lack of an
attorney-client relationship, which eventually led to a
default judgment for the client. In addition, Stockman
neglected client matters by failing to respond to a lawsuit,
which resulted in a default judgment, failing to timely
respond to discovery requests, failing to diligently pursue
cases within the statute of limitations, and failing to
respond to settlement offers. In February 2012, we
indefinitely suspended Stockman with no right to petition for
reinstatement for 5 months. In re Stockman, 811
N.W.2d 584, 585 (Minn. 2012) (order).
after his February 2012 suspension, the Director began
investigating allegations of additional client-related
misconduct, including neglect and noncommunication in two
client matters, failing to respond to communications from
opposing counsel, failing to timely respond to discovery
requests, making a false statement to opposing counsel, and
failing to properly supervise another lawyer in his law firm.
Stockman also failed to comply with our suspension order by
failing to notify parties of his suspension under Rule 26,
RLPR, falsely certifying that he had complied with Rule 26,
RLPR, holding himself out as licensed to practice law while
he was suspended, and engaging in the unauthorized practice
of law while suspended. In July 2012, the Director filed a
petition for disciplinary action and later filed a
supplementary petition. Stockman unconditionally admitted the
allegations of misconduct. In February 2013, we extended
Stockman's indefinite suspension with no right to
petition for reinstatement by 6 months. In re
Stockman, 826 N.W.2d 530 (Minn. 2013) (order).
suspended, Stockman remained employed at Stockman Law Office
as a legal assistant supervised by another attorney. Shortly
after our second suspension order in February 2013,
Stockman's supervising attorney resigned from Stockman
Law Office, which by then was known as Injury Law. As a
result, the firm had no attorneys to represent its clients.
Stockman successfully petitioned a court to appoint a
receiver to wind down the firm's operations. As a result
of the receivership, in October 2013, Stockman sold the
assets of the firm to two attorneys, who integrated the firm
into their practice, Vukelich & Malban. Stockman began
work as a legal assistant under the supervision of the named
partners at Vukelich & Malban, where he remains employed
first petitioned for reinstatement in May 2012, but withdrew
the petition after the Director filed the second petition for
disciplinary action in July 2012. After our second suspension
order in February 2013, Stockman filed his second petition
for reinstatement in December 2013. After a panel recommended
against reinstatement, Stockman withdrew the petition. We
dismissed the petition in February 2015.
April 2015, Stockman filed his current petition for
reinstatement. A panel of the Lawyers Professional
Responsibility Board held a hearing, at which Stockman
presented four witnesses and testified on his own behalf. The
Director presented no witnesses. The panel determined that
Stockman had "not proven by clear and convincing
evidence that he has undergone a moral change" and
recommended against reinstatement. The Director agrees with
the panel's recommendation. Stockman challenges the
panel's factual findings, conclusions, and
responsibility for determining whether to reinstate an
attorney rests solely with this court. In re Kadrie,
602 N.W.2d 868, 870 (Minn. 1999). A panel's
recommendation on reinstatement "receives no deference,
" and "[w]e independently review the entire record
to determine whether an attorney should be reinstated."
In re Dedefo, 781 N.W.2d 1, 7 (Minn. 2010);
accord In re Singer, 735 N.W.2d 698, 703 (Minn.
2007). When a party orders a transcript of the panel hearing,
as in this case, we uphold the panel's factual findings
if they have evidentiary support in the record and are not
clearly erroneous. In re Mose, 843 N.W.2d 570, 573
(Minn. 2014). Factual findings are clearly erroneous if,
after reviewing the record, we are " 'left with the
definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been
made.' " In re Lyons, 780 N.W.2d 629, 635
(Minn. 2010) (quoting Gjovik v. Strope, 401 N.W.2d
664, 667 (Minn. 1987)).
suspended attorney seeking reinstatement bears the burden of
establishing that reinstatement should be granted. See In
re Jellinger, 728 N.W.2d 917, 922-23 (Minn. 2007).
Requirements for reinstatement include (1) compliance with
the conditions of suspension, In re Mose, 754 N.W.2d
357, 360 (Minn. 2008), (2) compliance with the requirements
of Rule 18, RLPR, and (3) demonstration of a moral change,
Kadrie, 602 N.W.2d at 870. In addition to these
requirements, we weigh five other factors: the attorney's
recognition that the conduct was wrong, the length of time
since the misconduct and suspension, the seriousness of the
misconduct, any physical or mental pressures
"susceptible to correction, " and the
attorney's "intellectual competency to practice
law." Kadrie, 602 N.W.2d at 870.