Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

In re Petition for Disciplinary Action Against Hulstrand

Supreme Court of Minnesota

April 18, 2018

In re Petition for Disciplinary Action Against George E. Hulstrand, Jr., a Minnesota Attorney, Registration No. 0048033.

          Original Jurisdiction Office of Appellate Courts

          Susan M. Humiston, Director, Binh T. Tuong, Assistant Director, Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility, Saint Paul, Minnesota, for petitioner.

          George E. Hulstrand, Jr., Willmar, Minnesota, pro se.

         SYLLABUS

         Disbarment is the appropriate discipline for an attorney who misappropriated client funds, failed to safeguard client funds, neglected client matters, made false statements to a tribunal, filed a non-meritorious claim, failed to follow court orders, failed to appear for a court hearing, failed to communicate with clients, failed to promptly return client files, failed to refund unearned legal fees to clients, and failed to cooperate with disciplinary investigations.

         Disbarred.

          OPINION

          PER CURIA

         The Director of the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility filed a petition for disciplinary action and two supplementary petitions for disciplinary action against George E. Hulstrand, Jr. After an evidentiary hearing, the referee found, among other things, that Hulstrand misappropriated client funds, failed to safeguard client funds, neglected client matters, made false statements to a tribunal, failed to follow court orders, and failed to cooperate with disciplinary investigations. The referee recommended that we disbar Hulstrand. The only issue before us is the appropriate discipline to impose for Hulstrand's professional misconduct. We conclude that it is disbarment.

         FACTS

         George E. Hulstrand, Jr., is a general practitioner in Willmar; he has been licensed to practice law in Minnesota since 1976. Hulstrand has been disciplined on four prior occasions for similar types of misconduct. He received three private admonitions in 2002, 2010, and 2012 for neglecting client matters, failing to communicate with clients, violating trust account rules, and failing to appear for hearings. He was also publicly reprimanded in 2008 for lacking competence, improperly withdrawing from representation, failing to communicate with clients, and failing to appear for hearings. See In re Hulstrand, 757 N.W.2d 690 (Minn. 2008) (order).

         This disciplinary action involves professional misconduct based on violations of 18 rules in 13 client matters over 4 years, as well as Hulstrand's subsequent failure to cooperate with disciplinary investigations. We summarize his misconduct below.

         Misappropriation of Client Funds

         Hulstrand misappropriated the funds of two clients, violating Rules 1.15(a)[1] and 8.4(c)[2] of the Minnesota Rules of Professional Conduct. Each client gave Hulstrand a filing fee, $335 and $350 respectively, so that Hulstrand could file their bankruptcy actions. He deposited their filing fees into his business account and then used their filing fees for his own expenses and purposes other than filing their bankruptcy actions. Even though Hulstrand never filed one client's bankruptcy action, he refused to refund the filing fee.

         Failing to Safeguard Client Funds and Return Unearned Fees

         Hulstrand failed to safeguard client funds in seven client matters, [3] violating Rules 1.5(b)(1), [4] 1.15(a), and 1.15(c)(5)[5] of the Minnesota Rules of Professional Conduct. Hulstrand deposited a total of $4, 070 of clients' funds, ranging from $200 to $1, 350, into his business account rather than a trust account. He also failed to return unearned legal fees to his clients in three client matters, violating Rules 1.15(c)(4)[6] and 1.16(d)[7] of the Minnesota Rules of Professional Conduct.

         Neglecting Client Matters and Failing to Communicate with Clients

         Hulstrand failed to perform work on seven client matters and failed to communicate with clients in eight matters, violating Rules 1.1, [8] 1.3, [9] 1.4(a)(3)-(4), [10] and 3.2[11] of the Minnesota Rules of Professional Conduct. He repeatedly failed to work competently or diligently on seven client matters. For example, in one matter, Hulstrand took over a year to file his clients' bankruptcy action, and when he did file, he failed to file the necessary paperwork, which caused the court to dismiss the action. Hulstrand failed to successfully file this bankruptcy action and another client's bankruptcy action. These clients were forced to hire new counsel, who completed their bankruptcy actions.

         Additionally, Hulstrand failed to appear at a criminal proceeding involving another client. He did not tell this client that he would not attend. This omission forced this client to appear without counsel and the court to continue the matter.

         In another matter, Hulstrand represented a vulnerable adult in a civil case arising out of the sale of real property. The opposing party filed a counterclaim, but Hulstrand failed to reply to the counterclaim. The court granted default judgment against the client for $44, 274.53. The client hired a new attorney to appeal the default judgment. The new attorney successfully argued to the court of appeals that Hulstrand's representation was "egregiously inadequate" and obtained a reversal of the default judgment.

         Hulstrand also failed to communicate with clients in eight matters. After accepting fees from clients, he often failed to return client calls for months on end. For example, one client attempted to contact Hulstrand for 9 months without success, while other clients, a couple, struggled to communicate with Hulstrand over the 3 years that he claimed to be assisting them in filing their bankruptcy action. In another matter, Hulstrand failed to forward a negative court ruling to his client until he was prompted to do so, which was 2 weeks after the ruling.

         Making a False Statement to a Tribunal

         Hulstrand made a false statement to a court, violating Rules 3.3(a)(1), [12] 4.1, [13] and 8.4(c) of the Minnesota Rules of Professional Conduct. Hulstrand attended a criminal proceeding on his client's behalf, but his client did not appear for the hearing. When the judge asked Hulstrand about his client's absence, Hulstrand falsely told the judge that he had informed opposing counsel that his client may not be coming to that day's hearing. In fact, he never told opposing counsel that his client would be absent from the hearing.

         Failing to Comply with ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.