Hello everyone and welcome to this Ethics Alert which will discuss recent Minnesota Supreme Court opinion suspending a lawyer for making false or misleading statements related to a Paris trip which caused her to miss a trial and court dates. The opinion is In re Petition for Disciplinary Action against Mpatanishi Syanaloli Tayari-Garrett, Case No. A14-0995 (July 1, 2015) and is online here: http://www.mncourts.gov/mncourtsgov/media/Appellate/Supreme%20Court/Standard%20Opinions/OPA140995-070115.pdf
According to the opinion, the lawyer is admitted to practice in Texas and Minnesota. She requested a continuance of a May 2, 2011 trial for her client in a criminal matter in Minnesota. Before a hearing was held on the motion, the lawyer had purchased a nonrefundable round-trip airline ticket to attend her brother’s wedding in Paris, France from May 4, 2011 to May 9, 2011.
The trial court denied the lawyer’s motion to continue and another lawyer who showed up on the lawyer’s behalf on the May 2, 2011 trial date said she had informed him that she was hospitalized in Dallas. The court granted a continuance for one day and ordered the lawyer to provide documentation of the circumstances surrounding her hospitalization and also the arrangements she had made to travel from Dallas to Minneapolis for the May 2, 2011 trial. The lawyer failed to attend the May 3, 2011 hearing.
The lawyer later provided documents showing that she was hospitalized on May 2, 2011; however, she was released the next day. On May 4, 2011, she traveled to Paris. While she was in Paris, the lawyer attended a May 5, 2011 hearing on a motion for an order to show cause as to why she should not be held in contempt by telephone. The lawyer discussed her illness but did not reveal that she was in Paris at that time. According to the opinion, “(d)uring the hearing, the court scheduled a contempt hearing for May 9. In response, the lawyer stated, ‘I have a follow-up appointment next week so I cannot, and I believe the Court is aware of that, that I cannot be there on Monday [May 9].’ (The lawyer) did not appear for the May 9 hearing either in person or by telephone. In fact, at the time of the May 9 hearing, Tayari-Garrett was en route from Paris to Dallas.”
The referee found the lawyer guilty of multiple Bar Rule violations, including committing a criminal act, misrepresentation, and conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice, and also found aggravating factors that included lack of remorse and refusal to acknowledge the wrongful nature of her conduct. The referee also recommended that the lawyer be indefinitely suspended no right to petition for reinstatement for a minimum of 120 days.
The Minnesota Supreme Court upheld the referee’s findings and the suspension is effective 14 days from the date of the filing of the July 1, 2015 opinion. The lawyer will not be eligible to petition for reinstatement for a minimum of 120 days from the date of the suspension and any reinstatement will be conditional on the lawyer’s successful completion of the professional responsibility portion of the state bar examination and satisfaction of Minnesota continuing legal education requirements.
Bottom line: According to this opinion, this lawyer failed to appear at a hearing and lied to the court regarding the circumstances surrounding her failure to appear and she was also convicted of a criminal misdemeanor for contempt of court. She received an indefinite suspension will not be eligible to petition for reinstatement for a minimum of 120 days from the date of the suspension. This is an example of the application of the quote by Sir Walter Scott in 1808 (often misattributed to Shakespeare), “Oh what a tangled web we weave, When first we practice to deceive.” Another jurisdiction may well have imposed a harsher sanction.
Don’t do this…and be careful out there.
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Joseph A. Corsmeier, Esquire
Law Office of Joseph A. Corsmeier, P.A.
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