In the Matter of the Application for DISCIPLINARY ACTION AGAINST Brian T. HARDWICK, A Member of the Bar of the State of North Dakota.
Brian T. Hardwick, Respondent. Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of the State of North Dakota, Petitioner
[¶ 1] The Court has before it Findings, Conclusions and Recommendations by the Hearing Panel of the Disciplinary Board recommending Brian T. Hardwick be suspended from the practice of law in North Dakota for 60 days, with the suspension stayed, and Hardwick placed on probation for one year. The hearing panel also recommended Hardwick refund $120 in unearned fees to a client within 30 days and comply with this Court's prior orders. We accept the findings, conclusions, and recommendations by the hearing panel. We suspend Hardwick from the practice of law for 60 days with the suspension stayed, place Hardwick on probation for one year, and order him to pay costs of the disciplinary proceeding.
[¶ 2] Hardwick was admitted to practice law in North Dakota on June 27, 2011. On March 13, 2013, and as amended May 10, 2013, this Court entered an order denying Disciplinary Counsel's request to interim suspend Hardwick but imposing the following conditions:
1. Hardwick shall immediately modify his lawyer trust account at Wells Fargo Bank in Grand Forks, North Dakota, such that Dwain E. Fagerlund, a licensed North Dakota attorney, is the sole person authorized to make deposits or write checks on that account;
2. Hardwick shall immediately close his operating account at Citizen's
State Bank in Roseau, Minnesota, open an operating account at Wells Fargo Bank in Grand Forks, North Dakota, and transfer all funds from the Citizen's State Bank operating account to the Wells Fargo operating account, with Dwain E. Fagerlund, as the sole person authorized to make deposits or write checks on that account;
3. Dwain E. Fagerlund must file quarterly reports with the Supreme Court and Disciplinary Counsel setting forth that he and Hardwick have followed the conditions imposed; and
4. Dwain E. Fagerlund must immediately notify the Supreme Court and Disciplinary Counsel if any new financial irregularity involving or connected with Hardwick is discovered.
[¶ 3] Hardwick was served with a Summons and Petition for Discipline on January 7, 2013. He submitted a response to the Petition for Discipline dated February 26, 2013. Disciplinary Counsel, Hardwick's counsel, and Hardwick entered into a Stipulation and Consent to Discipline. The hearing panel of the Disciplinary Board filed its Findings, Conclusions and Recommendations by the Hearing Panel with this Court on September 18, 2013.
[¶ 4] In the Stipulation and Consent to Discipline, Hardwick admitted the following facts, which were adopted by the hearing panel. In 2008, Hardwick was appointed to represent Sandra Hough in Roseau County, Minnesota. At the time, he practiced primarily in Minnesota as Brian T. Hardwick, P.A. Hardwick continued to represent Hough through July 2012.
[¶ 5] In July 2011, Hardwick began employment as an associate with the law firm of Rosenquist & Arnason, PLLP in Grand Forks, North Dakota, and continued to represent Hough under a contract with Roseau County, Minnesota. On or about July 7, 2012, Rosenquist & Arnason forwarded an invoice to Roseau County for payment of $1,671.68 due for legal services performed and expenses incurred on behalf Hough.
[¶ 6] A warrant check in the amount of $1,671.68 erroneously made payable to Brian T. Hardwick, P.A. was sent to the law firm of Rosenquist & Arnason. Hardwick does not know how, but the warrant check appeared on his desk at Rosenquist & Arnason. Hardwick admitted that he wrongfully endorsed the back of the check and deposited the funds into his own account. Shortly thereafter, Rosenquist & Arnason made efforts to determine what happened to the payment and became aware from contacts with Roseau County that the check had been endorsed by Hardwick.
[¶ 7] On or about August 18, 2012, Hardwick admitted to Rosenquist & Arnason that he had taken the $1,671.68 and promised to repay that amount to the firm. Nevertheless, he was terminated from his employment on August 18, 2012. ...