In re Petition for Disciplinary Action against Joseph Michael Capistrant, a Minnesota Attorney, Registration No. 0187112.
Jurisdiction Office of Appellate Courts
M. Humiston, Director, Amy Michelle Mahowald, Assistant
Director, Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility,
Saint Paul, Minnesota, for petitioner.
Michael Capistrant, Plymouth, Minnesota, pro se.
is the appropriate discipline for an attorney who
misappropriated client funds, neglected a client, and failed
to cooperate with the disciplinary process.
only issue before us is the appropriate discipline to impose
on Joseph Michael Capistrant. In 2017, the Director filed a
petition for disciplinary action, which alleged that
Capistrant misappropriated client funds, neglected a client,
and failed to cooperate with the Director's
investigation. Capistrant did not respond to the petition, so
we deemed the allegations admitted and allowed the parties to
file memoranda on the appropriate discipline. Capistrant has
not filed a memorandum or otherwise appeared in this case.
The Director requests disbarment. We agree that disbarment is
the appropriate sanction.
was admitted to practice law in Minnesota in 1987. We
indefinitely suspended him in 2015, with no right to petition
for reinstatement for 6 months, for refusing to promptly
return a client file, not informing a client that his
Wisconsin law license had been suspended, neglecting two
lawsuits in Wisconsin, and failing to cooperate with the
disciplinary investigation. In re Capistrant, 863
N.W.2d 398, 398 (Minn. 2015) (order). Capistrant has not
petitioned for reinstatement and therefore remains suspended.
misconduct in this case, which largely predates his 2015
suspension, relates to a single client. The client sought
legal services from Capistrant to handle his son's
probate action and revise a trust that named his deceased son
as a beneficiary. Capistrant met with the client only twice.
At their second meeting, Capistrant presented the client with
an invoice in the amount of $2, 643. The invoice itemized
$547 as "advances" for future filing fees and
related costs for the probate action. The client paid the
invoice in full.
thereafter, Capistrant abandoned the client's case
altogether. He never deposited the $547 into trust, stopped
communicating with the client, and did not file the probate
action. Months later, the client finally received his file
back from Capistrant. Although Capistrant had agreed to
refund the $547, he never did so. The client subsequently
filed his son's probate action on his own, proceeding pro
se, and again incurred the filing fees that he had previously
paid to Capistrant.
2015, the Director sent three notices of investigation to
Capistrant, none of which he answered. In 2017, the Director
personally served Capistrant with a petition for disciplinary
action alleging: (1) misappropriation of client funds; (2)
client neglect, including failure to communicate with the
client and to diligently pursue the client's case; and
(3) noncooperation with the Director's investigation.
Because Capistrant did not answer the petition, we deemed the
allegations admitted under Rule 13(b), Rules on Lawyers
Professional Responsibility (RLPR). In re
Capistrant, A17-0429, Order at 1-2 (Minn.).
from one e-mail exchange with the Director suggesting that he
was entitled to "mitigation, " which Capistrant
sent nearly 16 months after the Director first attempted to
contact him, Capistrant has otherwise failed to cooperate
with the disciplinary process. He has not ...