In re Petition for Disciplinary Action V. Alan Richard Stewart, a Minnesota Attorney, Registration No. 0313579.
Jurisdiction Office of Appellate Courts
M. Humiston, Director, Kevin T. Slator, Senior Assistant
Director, Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility,
Saint Paul, Minnesota, for petitioner.
R. Stewart, Appleton, Wisconsin, pro se.
1. In a
reciprocal discipline case, the identical discipline in
Minnesota to "exclusion from practice" before the
U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is an indefinite
suspension from the practice of law with no right to petition
for reinstatement for a minimum of 5 years.
USPTO's attorney discipline procedures were fundamentally
fair and consistent with due process.
indefinite suspension with no right to petition for
reinstatement for a minimum of 5 years would not be unjust or
substantially different from the discipline warranted in
Minnesota for misappropriating $8, 000 in unearned fees,
neglecting a client matter, failing to communicate with a
client, engaging in the unauthorized practice of law, and
failing to cooperate with the disciplinary proceedings.
case presents the question of whether we should impose
reciprocal discipline on respondent Alan Richard Stewart. The
U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) imposed on Stewart
what its regulations call "exclusion from practice"
for misappropriating $8, 000 in unearned fees, neglecting a
client matter, failing to communicate with a client, engaging
in the unauthorized practice of law, and failing to cooperate
with the disciplinary proceedings. The Director of the Office
of Lawyers Professional Responsibility (Director) petitioned
to impose reciprocal discipline in Minnesota, arguing that
the identical Minnesota discipline is disbarment.
that, in a reciprocal discipline case, the identical
discipline to "exclusion from practice" before the
USPTO is an indefinite suspension from the practice of law
with no right to petition for reinstatement for a minimum of
5 years. We further hold that the USPTO's discipline
procedures were fundamentally fair and that a 5-year
suspension would not be unjust or substantially different
from the discipline warranted in Minnesota. We therefore
indefinitely suspend Stewart with no right to petition for
reinstatement for a minimum of 5 years.
facts of this case are not in dispute. Stewart was admitted to practice law in
Minnesota in 2001 and registered as a patent attorney by the
USPTO that same year. Stewart has also been a member of the
Wisconsin and Kentucky bars, and most recently practiced in
Wisconsin. He has been suspended from all three state
jurisdictions since February 2015. In Minnesota and Kentucky,
Stewart was suspended for failing to pay attorney
registration fees. Stewart was also
placed on involuntary restricted status in Minnesota for
failing to comply with continuing legal education
February 2016, the USPTO notified the Director that it had
excluded Stewart from practice. According to the USPTO,
Stewart engaged in multiple forms of professional misconduct
in proceedings before that agency. First, the USPTO found
that Stewart neglected the patent application of his client,
F.W; failed to communicate with her; and misappropriated $8,
000 in unearned fees. Stewart told F.W. that he would file
her patent application within 2 or 3 weeks of receiving her
paperwork. F.W. provided Stewart her notes and drawings and
then checked on the status of her application 3 weeks later.
Stewart told F.W. that he had not yet worked on her
application, attributing the delay to family medical issues
and injuries he had suffered from a bicycle accident. He
never completed the patent application and stopped responding
to F.W.'s communications. Nonetheless, Stewart cashed
F.W.'s two advance-fee checks totaling $8, 000 and failed
to return these unearned fees even after F.W. terminated the
representation and demanded a refund. Stewart cashed
F.W.'s second check on the same day that F.W. terminated
the USPTO found that Stewart engaged in the unauthorized
practice of law. Stewart has been ineligible to handle USPTO
matters since February 2015, when he was no longer an active
member of any state bar. But between March 2015 and June
2015, Stewart filed multiple trademark matters on behalf of
clients as "attorney of record" and as a purported
member of the Wisconsin bar.
the USPTO found that Stewart failed to cooperate with its
disciplinary proceedings. Between November 2014 and July
2015, the USPTO sent Stewart multiple requests for
information via certified mail. Stewart personally signed for
several of them, but never responded. Further, Stewart failed
to respond to the USPTO's formal complaint, notice of
hearing and order, and default-judgment notice, all of which
were signed for at Stewart's address. On December 16,
2015, the USPTO entered a default judgment excluding Stewart
from practice, concluding that Stewart intentionally violated
multiple federal regulations governing practice before the
USPTO; caused harm to F.W.; and failed to acknowledge,
defend, or rectify his misconduct.
14, 2016, the Director served Stewart by mail-at the same
Wisconsin address on file with the USPTO-with a notice and
petition for disciplinary action seeking reciprocal
discipline under Rule 12(d), Rules on Lawyers Professional
Responsibility (RLPR). Stewart did not respond, and upon the
Director's motion, we deemed the allegations in the
petition admitted. In re Stewart, No. A16-1309,
Order at 1-2 (Minn. filed Sept. 12, 2016); ...