In re Petition for Disciplinary Action against Christopher J. Nelson, a Minnesota Attorney, Registration No. 0259779.
L. Lillenaug, Associate Justice.
Director of the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility
filed a petition for disciplinary action and a supplementary
petition alleging that respondent Christopher J. Nelson
committed professional misconduct warranting public
discipline, namely: failure to pay a law-related judgment,
failure to respond to court orders, and failure to comply
with court orders to show cause why he should not be held in
contempt; failure to appear for a court hearing, failure to
communicate with a client, and making improper solicitations
to provide legal services; and failure to cooperate with the
Director's investigation. See Minn. R Prof.
Conduct 1.4(a)(4), 3.4(c), 7.3(c), 8.1(b), and 8.4(d); and
Rule 25, Rules on Lawyers Professional Responsibility (RLPR).
We referred the matter to a referee.
failed to appear for proceedings before the referee. As a
result, the referee struck respondent's answer and deemed
the allegations of the petition and the supplementary
petition admitted. Following a hearing on the harm caused by
respondent's misconduct and the presence of any
aggravating factors, the referee made findings, conclusions,
and a recommendation. The referee concluded that respondent
committed the misconduct alleged in the petition and
supplementary petition, that the harm caused was substantial,
and that five aggravating favors were present. The referee
recommended that respondent be indefinitely suspended with no
right to petition for reinstatement for 6 months.
no party ordered a transcript of the proceedings before the
referee, the referee's findings and conclusions are
conclusive. See Rule 14(e), RLPR. We issued a
briefing schedule. In her brief, the Director recommends that
the court impose the 6-month suspension recommended by the
referee. Respondent did not file a brief with this court.
upon all the files, records, and proceedings herein, IT IS
HEREBY ORDERED THAT:
Respondent Christopher J. Nelson is indefinitely suspended
from the practice of law, effective 14 days from the date of
the filing of this order, with no right to petition for
reinstatement for 6 months.
Respondent may petition for reinstatement pursuant to Rule
l8(a)-(d), RLPR. Reinstatement is conditioned on successful
completion of the written examination required for admission
to the practice of law by the State Board of Law Examiners on
the subject of professional responsibility, see Rule
18(e)(2), RLPR, and satisfaction of continuing legal
education requirements, see Rule 18(e)(4), RLPR.
Respondent shall comply with Rule 26, RLPR (requiring notice
of suspension to clients, opposing counsel, and tribunals),
and shall pay $900 in costs pursuant to Rule 24(a), RLPR.
HUDSON, Justice (concurring).
concur in the court's disposition of this case. The court
recites that among other things, respondent failed to pay a
law-related judgment, failed to respond to court orders, and
failed to comply with orders to show cause. Such misconduct
is indeed serious, but the abbreviated description in the
court's order does not do justice to the outrageousness
of respondent's actions. According to the allegations of
the petition, which were deemed admitted because of
respondent's failure to appear, one of respondent's
former clients secured a money judgment against him based on
respondent's failure to resolve the client's case.
Respondent refused to respond to or comply with court orders
intended to facilitate collection of the judgment; avoided
service of an order to show cause why he should not be held
in contempt for failing to comply with the previous orders;
and failed to appear before the court when he eventually was
successfully served, leading the court to issue a bench
warrant for his arrest. By his repeated failure to comply
with his obligations to the court, respondent was successful
in avoiding satisfaction of the judgment for 10 years until
the judgment expired.
view respondent's flouting of the legal system, conducted
in service of an effort to avoid responsibility for
respondent's own professional failing, and sustained for
a decade, merits a lengthy suspension. The Director
recommends that we impose a minimum 6-month indefinite
suspension. In my view, that is the absolute floor of
possible sanctions that could be considered appropriate for
respondent's misconduct. It is only because respondent,
if he seeks reinstatement, will be required to demonstrate by
clear and convincing evidence that he has undergone the
requisite moral change to render him fit to practice law,
see In re Griffith, 883 N.W.2d 798, 799 (Minn.
2016), that I concur.
McKEIG, Justice (concurring).
in the concurrence ...