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In re Application for Reinstatement of Stensland

Supreme Court of North Dakota

December 19, 2013

In the Matter of the Application for Reinstatement of Monty J. Stensland, A Person Admitted to the Bar of the State of North Dakota Monty J. Stensland, Petitioner
v.
Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of the State of North Dakota, Respondent

Monty J. Stensland, self-represented, Grand Forks, N.D., petitioner; submitted on brief.

Brent J. Edison, Bismarck, N.D., for respondent.

Gerald W. VandeWalle, C.J., Dale V. Sandstrom, Daniel J. Crothers, Mary Muehlen Maring, Carol Ronning Kapsner.

OPINION

Application for Reinstatement.

Per Curiam.

[¶1] Monty Stensland petitioned for reinstatement to the bar and now challenges a Disciplinary Board hearing panel's recommendation on remand that he not be admitted to the bar at this time. We adopt the panel's recommendation, deny Stensland's petition for reinstatement, and assess recommended costs.

I

[¶2] This Court suspended Stensland from the practice of law for one year, effective July 16, 2011, for violation of N.D.R. Lawyer Discipl. 1.2(A)(3) (dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation); N.D.R. Prof. Conduct 8.4(c) (dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation); N.D.R. Prof. Conduct 1.4(a) and (b) (failing to properly communicate with client); N.D.R. Prof. Conduct 1.5(b) (failing to communicate to the client the basis, rate,

Page 540

or amount of the fee); N.D.R. Prof. Conduct 1.15(a), (c), and (d) (mishandling client funds and failing to refund unearned advance fees); and N.D.R. Prof. Conduct 1.16(e) (failing to take appropriate steps upon withdrawal from representation, including return of unearned advance fees). See Disciplinary Board v. Stensland, 2011 ND 110, 799 N.W.2d 341. Stensland had previously been suspended for a period of 60 days in both May 2009 and January 2007 for other violations under the Rules of Professional Conduct and Rules for Lawyer Discipline. See Disciplinary Board v. Stensland, 2006 ND 251, ¶ 12, 725 N.W.2d 191; see also Disciplinary Board v. Stensland, 2009 ND 77, ¶ 21, 764 N.W.2d 438.

[¶3] In August 2012, Stensland filed a petition for reinstatement. Following an October 10, 2012, hearing before a hearing panel appointed by the Board, the Board recommended that Stensland be reinstated to the practice of law, subject to passing the ethics portion of the bar exam and subject to his practice being monitored for a period of six months under N.D.R. Lawyer Discipl. 4.5(H)(6).

[¶4] In February 2013, after the panel recommended the reinstatement of Stensland, the Disciplinary Board moved to remand the matter to the hearing panel for consideration of new information. We ordered a remand to the hearing panel for consideration of the new information.

[¶5] On remand, the hearing panel recommended Stensland not be reinstated, because the panel no longer believes he is a changed man after the inclusion of new evidence on remand and because of inconsistent factual assertions made by him on remand, as well as the inclusion of several " facts" not in evidence in his argument to the panel. The panel also recommended that Stensland pay the costs of the reinstatement proceeding as previously recommended in the amount of $1773.31 and the costs of the proceeding on remand in the amount of $3619.32.

[¶6] The hearing panel had jurisdiction under N.D.R. Lawyer Discipl. 4.5(F). Stensland and Disciplinary Counsel filed timely objections to the hearing panel's report on remand under N.D.R. Lawyer Discipl. 4.5(F). This Court has jurisdiction under N.D. Const. art. VI, § 3, N.D.C.C. § 27-14-01, and N.D.R. Lawyer Discipl. 4.5(F).

II

[¶7] Stensland raises numerous challenges to the hearing panel's findings, conclusions, and recommendation on remand.

[¶8] We have stated the applicable law for reinstatement proceedings:

" A court which has the power to suspend or disbar an attorney also has the power to reinstate, upon proper and satisfactory proof that, as a result of his discipline, he has become a fit and proper person to be intrusted with the office of an attorney." Application of Christianson, 202 N.W.2d 756 Syll. ¶ 1 (N.D. 1972). Reinstatement is not a matter of right. Application of Christianson, 253 N.W.2d 410, 413 (N.D. 1977). Rather, the petitioner has the burden of establishing the averments of his application for reinstatement or readmission by clear and convincing evidence, and the proof must be " of a satisfactory character and of sufficient weight to overcome the former adverse judgment as to the petitioner's character." Application of Christianson, 215 N.W.2d 920, 923 (N.D. 1974). We review proceedings for reinstatement de novo on the ...

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