In re Petition for Disciplinary Action against Geoffrey R. Saltzstein, a Minnesota Attorney Registration No. 0292828
of Appellate Courts Original Jurisdiction
M. Humiston, Director, Binh T. Tuong, Assistant Director,
Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility, Saint Paul,
Minnesota, for petitioner.
Geoffrey R. Saltzstein, Edina, Minnesota, pro se.
is the appropriate discipline for an attorney who
misappropriated client funds, made false statements to
clients, failed to diligently handle client matters, failed
to communicate with clients, failed to enter into proper fee
agreements and communicate the basis of rates and fees, and
failed to cooperate with the Director's investigations.
Director of the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility
filed a petition for disciplinary action against respondent
Geoffrey R. Saltzstein, alleging, in part, misappropriation
of client funds, false statements, failure to diligently
handle client matters, failure to adequately communicate with
clients, failure to enter into proper fee agreements and
communicate the basis of rates and fees, and noncooperation
with the Director's investigations. After Saltzstein did
not file an answer to the petition, we deemed the allegations
of the petition admitted. The sole issue before us is the
appropriate discipline. We conclude that the appropriate
sanction is disbarment.
Geoffrey R. Saltzstein was admitted to the practice of law in
Minnesota on October 30, 2009. Saltzstein's misconduct involved his
representation of six clients: C.W., P.A., N.K., M.O., R.R.,
November 2010, C.W. retained Saltzstein to defend him in a
criminal matter. In December 2010, C.W. pleaded guilty and
began to serve his 5-year prison sentence. Saltzstein agreed
to hold money in his law firm's trust account that C.W.
expected to receive from a settlement of an unrelated civil
suit while C.W. was serving his sentence. C.W. gave
Saltzstein the first of two installments from the settlement.
By the summer of 2011, after a series of deductions that C.W.
authorized, the trust account contained $28, 663.58 of
to a power of attorney from C.W., Saltzstein placed $28,
713.58 into a mutual-fund account in C.W's name.
 When C.W. received his second
settlement installment payment of $9, 500, he instructed
Saltzstein to place the money into the mutual-fund account.
Saltzstein did so.
2011, C.W. agreed to pay Saltzstein $3, 000 to review
C.W.'s criminal case and $3, 000 to file a motion to
reopen the case. Saltzstein subsequently filed a motion to
withdraw C.W.'s guilty plea on C.W.'s behalf.
Saltzstein withdrew a total of $7, 500 from C.W.'s
mutual-fund account, $1, 500 more than C.W. had agreed to pay
in attorney fees.
addition to the unauthorized withdrawal of an additional $1,
500 for the motion to withdraw the guilty plea, Saltzstein
made a series of unauthorized withdrawals from C.W.'s
mutual-fund account. Over the next year, Saltzstein withdrew
nearly all of C.W.'s mutual-account funds without
C.W.'s knowledge or permission, leaving the mutual-fund
account with a balance of only $1.75 by March 2013.
made a series of false and misleading statements about
C.W.'s mutual-fund account. In August 2014, C.W.
requested an accounting of his mutual-fund account.
Saltzstein responded that he had liquidated the account and
that C.W. would receive the balance of the funds in 10 to 14
days. Saltzstein never provided an accounting. C.W.'s
sister emailed Saltzstein, indicating that C.W. had never
asked for a liquidation of the mutual-fund account, to which
Saltzstein responded that he "was simply safeguarding
[C.W.'s] money." In September 2014, when C.W. sought
information about the deductions from his mutual-fund
account, Saltzstein told C.W. that the liquidated funds were
being redeposited and that the balance was about $16, 000. In
reality, there was no liquidation or funds redeposited, and
there was only a balance of $1.75 in the account.
October 2014, nearing the end of his sentence, C.W. needed
money for housing upon leaving prison. Saltzstein told C.W.
not to apply for emergency financial assistance, saying
"you have the money." Saltzstein, however, had
withdrawn almost all of the funds from C.W.'s mutual-fund
November 2014, after C.W. had communicated with the named
partner at the law firm where Saltzstein worked, Saltzstein
made partial restitution, bringing the mutual-fund-account
balance to $23, ...