In re Petition for Disciplinary Action against Shawn Patrick Siders, a Minnesota Attorney, Registration
R. Stras Associate Justice
Director of the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility
has filed a petition for disciplinary action alleging that
respondent Shawn Patrick Siders has committed professional
misconduct warranting public discipline by soliciting a minor
to engage in prostitution, see Act of May 22, 2015,
ch. 65, art. 6, § 11, 2015 Minn. Laws 474, 527-28
(codified as amended at Minn. Stat. § 609.324, subd.
1(c)(3) (2016)), and failing to cooperate with the
Director's investigation. See Minn. R. Prof.
Conduct 8.1(b), 8.4(b); Rule 25, Rules on Lawyers
Professional Responsibility (RLPR). As part of entering into
a stipulation for discipline with the Director, respondent
has waived his procedural rights under Rule 14, RLPR, and
admitted the allegations listed in the petition, including
that he violated the Minnesota Rules of Professional Conduct
and Rules on Lawyers Professional Responsibility when he
committed the misconduct. The parties jointly recommend that
the appropriate discipline is an indefinite suspension with
no right to petition for reinstatement for 2 years.
purpose of discipline for professional misconduct is not to
punish the attorney but rather to protect the public, to
protect the judicial system, and to deter future misconduct
by the disciplined attorney as well as by other
attorneys." In re Engel, 859 N.W.2d 788, 789
(Minn. 2015) (order). In determining the appropriate
discipline to impose, we consider "the nature of the
misconduct, the cumulative weight of the violations, the harm
to the public, and the harm to the legal profession."
In re Hummel, 839 N.W.2d 78, 81 (Minn. 2013).
"Because we strive for consistency in attorney
discipline, we look to similar cases for guidance in setting
the proper sanction." In re Rooney, 709 N.W.2d
263, 268 (Minn. 2006).
conduct was a serious breach of the standards of professional
conduct required of an attorney licensed in Minnesota.
Respondent pleaded guilty to a felony punishable by up to 5
years in prison. See Minn. Stat. § 609.324,
subd. 1(c)(3). "We generally view felony convictions as
serious misconduct." In re Pitera, 827 N.W.2d
207, 210 (Minn. 2013) (quoting In re Perez, 688
N.W.2d 562, 567 (Minn. 2004)) (internal quotation marks
omitted). But respondent's criminal conduct in this case
was unrelated to the practice of law, and "[w]hen an
attorney commits criminal conduct unrelated to the practice
of law . . . [w]e have typically imposed suspensions or
public reprimands." Id. (quoting In re
Farley, 771 N.W.2d 587, 864 (Minn. 2009)) (second
alteration in original) (internal quotation marks omitted).
In addition, respondent failed to cooperate with the
disciplinary process. Noncooperation, by itself, is serious
misconduct, and "we typically increase the severity of
the disciplinary sanction where noncooperation exists."
In re Montez, 812 N.W.2d 58, 69 (Minn. 2012)
(quoting In re Nelson, 733 N.W.2d 458, 464 (Minn.
2007)) (internal quotation marks omitted) (alteration
typically imposed indefinite suspensions when attorneys have
committed acts of criminal sexual conduct or other sexual
offenses involving minors when the criminal acts at issue do
not arise out of the practice of law. In In re
Bohanek, for example, the attorney pleaded guilty to
online solicitation of a minor for sexual conduct, Tex. Penal
Code Ann. § 33.021(c) (West 2016), based on an incident
in which the attorney had a sexually explicit conversation
with, and arranged to meet, an undercover police officer whom
the attorney believed to be a 14-year-old girl. See In re
Bohanek, No. Al5-0462, Order at 1 (Minn, filed Apr. 6,
2015). Under Texas law, the attorney's crime was a felony
of the second degree, Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 33.021(f)
(West 2016), punishable by up to 20 years in prison, Tex.
Penal Code Ann. § 12.33(a) (West 2011). Despite the
lengthy sentence authorized by Texas law, we imposed an
indefinite suspension for a minimum of 3 years.
Bohanek, No. A15-0462, Order at 1.
In re Scannell, 861 N.W.2d 678, 679 (Minn. 2015)
(order), we also imposed a minimum 3-year indefinite
suspension for a county attorney who pleaded guilty to two
counts of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct, Minn. Stat.
§ 609.345, subd. 1 (2016), carrying a potential sentence
of up to 10 years in prison for each count, id.,
subd. 2. The attorney in Scannell had also made
derogatory statements on his blog about criminal defendants
whom he was prosecuting. Scannell, 861 N.W.2d at
679. And in In re Blashack, 793 N.W.2d 437, 437
(Minn. 2011) (order), the attorney pleaded guilty to one
count of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct, Minn. Stat.
§ 609.345, subd. 1, the same charge as in
Scannell. Once again, we imposed a minimum 3-year
indefinite suspension on the attorney, a disciplinary period
much shorter than the maximum sentence for the underlying
crime. Blashack, 793 N.W.2d at 437; see
Minn. Stat. § 609.345, subd. 2 (2016) (providing for a
penalty of up to 10 years in prison).
misconduct is no doubt serious. But as measured by the
possible sentence that the Legislature has authorized for the
crime, the offense to which respondent pleaded guilty was
less serious than the crimes committed in Bohanek,
Scannell, and Blashack. Each of those cases
involved one or more offenses punishable by 10 or more years
in prison, whereas respondent's single offense involved a
maximum 5-year sentence. Even considering that respondent
committed additional misconduct by failing to cooperate with
the Director's investigation, we conclude that a shorter
suspension than the minimum 3-year suspensions imposed in
Bohanek, Scannell, and Blashack will
fulfill the purposes of attorney discipline. Furthermore,
"we give some deference to the Director's decision
to enter into a stipulation, " In re Riehm, 883
N.W.2d 223, 235 (Minn. 2016), and note that the jointly
recommended discipline in this case falls well within the
range of sanctions imposed in other similar cases, including
Bohanek, Scannell, and Blashack. We
conclude, therefore, that the parties' recommended
disposition is sufficient to protect the public and the
judicial system and to deter future misconduct.
dissent advances several reasons why it views a 2-year
minimum suspension as inadequate, none of which we find
persuasive. First, the dissent argues that we cannot know
whether this is the first time that respondent has attempted
to solicit a minor for prostitution-that is, whether he is a
"serial predator"-and therefore we cannot determine
whether a lengthier suspension or even disbarment might be
appropriate. But that makes this case no different than every
other case of misconduct that comes before the court. As in
every other case, we must determine the appropriate
discipline based on the allegations of the petition and the
record before us. We are confident that the Director has
thoroughly investigated respondent's activities and that
if she were aware of any other credible evidence that
respondent had committed any other crimes, she would have
brought it to our attention in the petition.
the dissent claims that respondent's conduct was an
attempt to commit fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct,
Minn. Stat. § 609.345, subd. 1(b)-the inchoate version
of the crime committed in Scannell and
Blashack-and that he should receive at least a
3-year suspension because it is no less dangerous to attempt
a crime than to actually commit it. The flaw in the
dissent's argument, however, is that we have no finding
in the record before us that respondent attempted to commit
fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct. Moreover, the
Legislature itself disagrees with the dissent's
assessment of the relative gravity of each crime: an attempt
to commit fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct, Minn. Stat.
§ 609.345, subd. 1(b), is punished no more harshly than
soliciting a minor to engage in prostitution, Minn. Stat.
§ 609.324, subd. 1(c)(3). For the commission of either
crime, the maximum possible sentence is 5 years in prison,
half of the maximum penalty for actually committing the crime
of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct. See Minn.
Stat. § 609.345, subd. 2 (providing a 10-year penalty
for fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct); Minn. Stat.
§ 609.17 (2016) (stating that the penalty for attempted
crimes is half of the penalty of the underlying offense);
Minn. Stat. § 609.324, subd. 1(c)(3) (setting a 5-year
penalty for soliciting a minor to engage in prostitution).
the dissent says that we should suspend respondent for at
least as long as the time remaining on his criminal
probation, consistent with In re Farley, 771 N.W.2d
857, 866 (Minn. 1999), and In re Kimmel, 322 N.W.2d
224, 227 (Minn. 1982). The dissent claims to recognize that
"the probationary period is not a litmus test."
See Farley, 771 N.W.2d at 866. But by insisting that
a suspension shorter than respondent's criminal probation
would be improper, the dissent ignores Farley's,
any attorney who is indefinitely suspended, respondent will
not be able to practice law again until he successfully
petitions for reinstatement in accordance with the
requirements and procedures in Rule 18, RLPR. Riehm,
883 N.W.2d at 235. Among other things, "an attorney
applying for reinstatement must establish by clear and
convincing evidence that... he has undergone such a moral
change as now to render him a fit person to enjoy the public
confidence and trust once forfeited." In re
Singer, 735 N.W.2d 698, 703 (Minn. 2007) (quoting In
re Jellinger, 798 N.W.2d 917, 922 (Minn. 2007))
(internal quotation marks omitted). Under these
circumstances, we believe that a minimum 2-year indefinite
suspension adequately protects the public and the judicial
we approve the recommended disposition.
upon all the files, records, and proceedings herein, IT IS
HEREBY ORDERED THAT:
Respondent Shawn Patrick Siders is suspended from the
practice of law, effective 14 days from the date of the
filing of this order, with no ...