In re Petition for Disciplinary Action Against Lori J. Sklar, a Minnesota Attorney, Registration No. 0208218.
Original Jurisdiction Office of Appellate Courts
M. Humiston, Director of the Office of Lawyers Professional
Responsibility, Saint Paul, Minnesota, for petitioner.
J. Sklar, Minnetonka, Minnesota, pro se.
disciplinary proceedings conducted in California were
fundamentally fair and consistent with due process.
30-day suspension is the appropriate reciprocal discipline in
this case. Suspended.
and decided by the court without oral argument.
Lori J. Sklar is licensed to practice law in Minnesota and
California, among other states. On March 22, 2017, the
California Supreme Court suspended Sklar from the practice of
law for 1 year, stayed execution of that suspension for all
but the first 30 days, and placed Sklar on probation for 2
years. The Director of the Office of Lawyers Professional
Responsibility petitioned our court to impose the same
discipline (a suspension of 30 days) on Sklar in Minnesota
under Rule 12(d) of the Rules on Lawyers Professional
Responsibility (RLPR). Because we conclude that the
disciplinary proceedings in California were fundamentally
fair and that a 30-day suspension would be neither unjust nor
substantially different from the discipline we would impose
in Minnesota for Sklar's misconduct, we grant the
misconduct stems from her representation of a class of
plaintiffs in a California lawsuit. In 2005, Sklar filed, and
shortly thereafter settled, a class-action lawsuit against
Toshiba America Information Systems, Inc. After the
California trial court preliminarily approved the class
settlement, Sklar sought approximately $24 million in fees
and costs-which represented 25 percent of what she claimed to
be the benefit of the class settlement. This fee request
prompted a decade-long dispute between Sklar and Toshiba,
during which Sklar engaged in several acts of misconduct.
Sklar sought to mislead the California trial court about the
amount of her fee request. Between August 2006 and April
2009, Sklar and her personal attorney repeatedly informed the
trial court that Sklar was seeking between $22 and $24
million in attorney fees. These representations were made in
documents filed with the court and orally to the trial judge.
Despite these representations, Sklar appeared before the
trial court on April 5, 2010 and stated that she had never
sought more than $12 million in attorney fees. Specifically,
she claimed that the $24 million figure only represented the
maximum amount of recovery she could receive but that $12
million was always the actual amount of her fee request. That
claim was not true.
Sklar disobeyed two orders of the California trial court
during the fee dispute. On August 15, 2007, the trial court
ordered Sklar and Toshiba to select a neutral expert to
search Sklar's computer backup files and produce anything
that was not privileged after Sklar claimed that original
versions of her electronic time records had been deleted.
Sklar objected to the manner in which the court-ordered
inspection was to take place and brought two unsuccessful
challenges to the court's order. Ultimately, Sklar and
Toshiba did not agree on a neutral expert, and an inspection
did not take place. Almost a year later, on June 24, 2008,
the court ordered Sklar to allow an inspection of her
computer by Toshiba's chosen expert on July 22 and 23,
2008. Sklar challenged the court's second order, but was
unsuccessful again. The day before the inspection was to take
place, Sklar told opposing counsel that she would not allow
it to proceed.
California district court imposed a discovery sanction
against Sklar, and the California Court of Appeal for the
Second District affirmed. Ellis v. Toshiba Am. Info.
Sys., Inc., 160 Cal.Rptr.3d 557 (Cal.Ct.App. 2013),
rev. denied (Cal. Nov. 26, 2013). Sklar sought
review in the California Supreme Court and the United States
Supreme Court, but both denied her petitions. Sklar v.
Toshiba Am. Info. Sys., Inc., 572 U.S. 1138 (2014).
Sklar exhausted her avenues of appeal for the discovery
sanction, the California State Bar filed disciplinary charges
against her. The hearing department of the state bar court
held a four-day trial on the charges. Sklar was present and
fully participated. At trial, Sklar was represented by two
attorneys, testified on multiple days, entered 54 exhibits,
and presented the support of 14 character witnesses. A little
over a month later, the hearing department issued an opinion
recommending that Sklar be disciplined. The hearing
department judge concluded, by clear and convincing evidence,
that Sklar sought to mislead the California trial court judge
by "artifice or false statement of fact" and
willfully disobeyed court orders, violating two California
rules of professional conduct. After weighing aggravating and
mitigating factors, the hearing department judge recommended
that Sklar be suspended from the practice of law in
California for 1 year, that execution of her suspension be
stayed for all but the first 30 days, and that Sklar be
placed on probation for 2 years.
the hearing department issued its recommendation, the review
department of the California bar court independently reviewed
the record, determined by clear and convincing evidence that
Sklar committed the charged misconduct, and adopted the
hearing judge's discipline recommendation. Subsequently,
the California Supreme Court declined review of Sklar's
case and adopted the California bar court's recommended
discipline. Sklar's petition to ...