In re Petition for Disciplinary Action against Richard C. Mollin, Jr., a Minnesota Attorney, Registration No. 0074342.
R. Stras Associate Justice.
Director of the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility
filed an amended petition for disciplinary action alleging
that respondent Richard C. Mollin, Jr. had committed
professional misconduct warranting public discipline. The
amended petition alleged that while prosecuting two felony
controlled-substance-crime cases, Mollin made knowingly false
statements in discovery disclosures and responses and failed
to disclose and/or timely disclose exculpatory evidence to
the defense, which unduly delayed the criminal proceedings in
both cases and resulted in the exclusion of testimony from a
confidential reliable informant in one of the cases.
See Minn. R. Prof. Conduct 1.1, 1.3, 3.4(d), 3.8(d),
4.1, 8.4(c), and 8.4(d).
the second day of the hearing before the referee, the parties
informed the referee that they had reached a stipulation for
discipline. An oral record of this stipulation was made
before the referee. The Director stated that "[t]he
parties ha[d] agreed that a 60-day period of suspension [was]
appropriate, " that "the effective date of that
suspension w[ould] not occur until 14 days after the Supreme
Court issues the disciplinary order, " that "Mr.
Mollin w[ould] admit the facts contained in the
Director's amended petition and withdraw his answer as
part of the stipulation, " and that "a Rule 18
reinstatement hearing w[ould] not be required."
referee stated that "we would put this agreement and any
admitted facts and withdrawal of an answer, or so forth, on
the record today, subject to the written signing in the
future, but with the understanding that it's enforceable
whether the written document is signed or not. Today
controls, in other words." The Director responded that
"Mr. Mollin and his counsel, as part of their
stipulation, w[ould] have to say 'I withdraw my answer,
and I admit to paragraphs'-number through number-'of
the Director's petition.' "
counsel agreed with how the Director had characterized the
agreement. He further stated that "it is the
understanding, as I've explained it to Mr. Mollin, that
he would be withdrawing his answer. He would be agreeing to
the facts alleged in the petition."
referee asked Mollin directly, "Mr. Mollin, is that
generally your understanding and what you intend to do?"
Mollin replied, "It is, Your Honor."
referee then asked the parties "to read the stipulation
into the record exactly." Counsel for the Director
recited the stipulation, including that "Mr. Mollin
w[ould] withdraw his answer . . . and he w[ould] admit to the
facts contained in the Director's amended petition,
paragraphs 1 through 65." When the Director finished
reciting the terms, Mollin's counsel indicated that he
had "heard the full stipulation" that was proposed
and that it was "acceptable to [his] client."
the Director prepared a written stipulation for discipline
and sent it to Mollin's counsel. Mollin refused to sign
matter is now before the court on the Director's motion
to impose discipline. The Director argues that the parties
entered into a binding oral agreement on November 16, 2017,
as reflected in the record before the referee, and asks the
court to enforce the parties' agreement. Mollin opposes
the Director's motion and asks the court to refer the
motion to the referee.
addressed the enforceability of an oral stipulation for
discipline in In re Riehm, 883 N.W.2d 223, 230-31
(Minn. 2016). Shortly after the evidentiary hearing began,
the parties told the referee that they had orally agreed to a
stipulation for discipline. Id. at 228. On the
record before the referee, the parties stated the terms of
their agreement, including that "Riehm would
'admit without equivocation the allegations' "
in the relevant petitions. Id. Following the
hearing, the Director drafted a stipulation for discipline,
but Riehm refused to sign it. See id. at 229.
determine if the parties had entered into a binding oral
stipulation, we looked to "elementary principles of
contract law, " explaining that "[a] contract is
formed when two or more parties exchange bargained-for
promises, manifest mutual assent to the exchange, and support
their promises with consideration." Id. at 230.
"[N]either a signature nor a writing is required to make
a contract binding." Id. We concluded that
"the record show[ed] that the terms of the oral
stipulation were specific and that the parties proceeded in
reliance upon these terms." Id. We accordingly
held that "the parties entered into a binding oral
stipulation before the referee" and that "Riehm
[was] not entitled to withdraw his admissions at this stage
of the proceedings." Id. at 231. We suspended
Riehm based on the oral stipulation for discipline, even in
the absence of a written agreement. Id. at 233-35.
conclude that the parties entered into a binding oral
stipulation for discipline. The record reflects that the
Director and Mollin agreed to an oral stipulation with terms
that are similar to the terms agreed to in Riehm,
that the parties proceeded in reliance upon those terms, and
that there was consideration. See id. at 228,
230-31. Mollin both consulted with his attorney in reaching
the stipulation and expressly confirmed his understanding of
its terms at the hearing before the referee. See id.
at 230. Because Mollin, as part of the oral stipulation,
withdrew his previously filed answer and admitted the
allegations of the amended petition, Mollin "is bound by
his admissions." Id. at 231. Based on
Mollin's admissions, we may impose discipline without
further proceedings. See Rule 10(b), Rules on
Lawyers Professional Responsibility (RLPR).
contends that we should refer the Director's motion to
the referee to consider whether he may withdraw from the
stipulation for discipline. We disagree. Based on the
undisputed facts of this case, Mollin has no right to have
the referee consider the Director's motion, and Mollin
has failed to identify any issue that would need to be
resolved by the referee.
on the stipulation, the parties jointly recommended that the
appropriate discipline is a 60-day suspension. This court has
independently reviewed the file ...