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In re Petition for Disciplinary Action Against Severin

Supreme Court of Minnesota

December 3, 2019

In re Petition for Disciplinary Action Against Gretchen Renee Severin, a Minnesota Attorney, Registration No. 0240886.

          ORDER

          David L. Lillehaug Associate Justice

         The Director of the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility has filed an amended, restated, and supplementary petition for disciplinary action alleging that respondent Gretchen Renee Severin committed professional misconduct warranting public discipline-namely, negligently misappropriating client funds from a trust account and business account, failing to safeguard client funds, commingling non-client funds in a trust account, failing to maintain proper trust-account books and records, failing to timely refund unearned fees to eight clients, neglecting two client matters, failing to communicate with a client, failing to promptly return the file to a client, and failing to cooperate with the Director's investigation. See Minn. R. Prof. Conduct 1.3, 1.4, 1.15(a), 1.15(b), 1.15(c)(3), 1.15(c)(4), 1.15(c)(5), 1.15(h) (as interpreted by Appendix 1), 1.16(d), 3.2, 8.1(b), 8.4(d); Rule 25, Rules on Lawyers Professional Responsibility (RLPR). As mitigation of her misconduct, respondent produced evidence that she was experiencing extreme personal stress and has expressed genuine remorse for her misconduct.

         Respondent waives her rights under Rule 14, RLPR, withdraws her previously filed answer, and unconditionally admits the allegations in the amended petition. The parties jointly recommend that the appropriate discipline is a 90-day suspension and 2 years of supervised probation.

         The court has independently reviewed the file and approves the recommended disposition.

         Based upon all the files, records, and proceedings herein, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED THAT:

         1. Respondent Gretchen Renee Severin is suspended from the practice of law for a minimum of 90 days, effective 14 days from the date of this order.

         2. 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, RLPR.

         3. Respondent shall be eligible for reinstatement to the practice of law following the expiration of the suspension period provided that, not less than 15 days before the end of the suspension period, respondent files with the Clerk of the Appellate Courts and serves upon the Director an affidavit establishing that she is current in continuing legal education requirements, has complied with Rules 24 and 26, RLPR, and has complied with any other conditions for reinstatement imposed by the court.

         4. Within 1 year of the date of this order, respondent shall file with the Clerk of the Appellate Courts and serve upon the Director proof of 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. Failure to timely file the required documentation shall result in automatic suspension, as provided in Rule 18(e)(3), RLPR.

         5. Following reinstatement, respondent shall be placed on probation for a period of 2 years under the following conditions:

(a) Respondent shall cooperate fully with the Director's Office in its efforts to monitor compliance with this probation. Respondent shall promptly respond to the Director's correspondence by its due date. Respondent shall provide the Director a current mailing address and shall immediately notify the Director of any change of address. Respondent shall cooperate with the Director's investigation of any allegations of unprofessional conduct that may come to the Director's attention. Upon the Director's request, respondent shall provide authorization for release of information and documentation to verify respondent's compliance with the terms of this probation;
(b) Respondent shall abide by the Minnesota Rules of Professional Conduct;
(c) Respondent shall be supervised by a licensed Minnesota attorney appointed by the Director to monitor compliance with the terms of this probation. Respondent shall provide the Director with the names of four attorneys who have agreed to be nominated as respondent's supervisor within 2 weeks from the date of the court's order reinstating respondent to the practice of law. If, after diligent effort, respondent is unable to locate a supervisor acceptable to the Director, the Director shall seek to appoint a supervisor. Until a supervisor has signed a consent to supervise, respondent shall, on the first day of each month, provide the Director with an inventory of client files as described in paragraph (d) below. Respondent shall make active client files available to the Director upon request;
(d) Respondent shall cooperate fully with the supervisor's efforts to monitor compliance with this probation. Respondent shall contact the supervisor and schedule a minimum of one in-person meeting per calendar quarter. Respondent shall submit to the supervisor an inventory of all active client files by the first day of each month during the probation. With respect to each active file, the inventory shall disclose the client name, type of representation, date opened, most recent activity, next anticipated action, and anticipated closing date. Respondent's ...

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