In the Matter of the Application for Reinstatement of Henry H. Howe, a Person Admitted to the Bar of the State of North Dakota;
Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of North Dakota, Respondent Henry H. Howe, Petitioner
On Petition for Reinstatement.
LAWYER REINSTATEMENT and REPRIMAND ORDERED.
Gerald W. VandeWalle, C.J., Daniel J. Crothers, Dale V. Sandstrom, Lisa Fair McEvers. The Honorable Kapsner, J., disqualified, did not participate in the decision.
[¶1] Henry H. Howe, was admitted as an attorney in North Dakota on July 27, 1973, and has remained a member of the
Bar. He was suspended for 90 days in 1977 and for 120 days in 2001. Relevant to this matter, Howe was suspended for six months and one day effective April 10, 2014, for violating N.D.R. Prof. Conduct 1.1, 1.3, and 1.4. Disciplinary Board v. Howe, 2014 ND 44, 843 N.W.2d 325. On January 31, 2014, Howe was interim suspended, but his interim suspension was vacated on May 29, 2014. Disciplinary Board v. Howe, 2014 ND 17, 842 N.W.2d 646 and Disciplinary Board v. Howe, 2014 ND 109, 847 N.W.2d 126. Howe has not been licensed since April 10, 2014.
[¶2] On February 5, 2015, Howe filed a Petition for Reinstatement with the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court. The matter was assigned to a hearing panel of the Disciplinary Board, and after consideration of the petition, evidence, testimony, and arguments, the hearing panel filed its findings of fact, conclusions of law, and recommendations on May 27, 2015.
[¶3] To be reinstated following a suspension of more than six months, Howe had to provide " proof of rehabilitation be demonstrated in a reinstatement proceeding culminating in a court order of reinstatement." N.D.R. Lawyer Discipl. 4.5(A). A hearing was held before a hearing panel of the Disciplinary Board. The hearing panel considered the factors in N.D.R. Lawyer Discipl. 4.5(F). If the petitioner is qualified to again practice law, the Court may impose conditions on reinstatement if this Court reasonably believes that further precautions should be taken to ensure that the public will be protected upon the petitioner's return to practice. N.D.R. Lawyer Discipl. 4.5(H). This Court may impose conditions that are reasonably related to the grounds for the original suspension. Id.
[¶4] After a hearing, the hearing panel concluded Howe has the requisite fitness and competence to practice law. However, Howe had not complied with the terms and conditions of all applicable disciplinary orders and rules. Although Howe had not completely complied with the orders of this Court in Howe, 2014 ND 44, 843 N.W.2d 325, the hearing panel concluded Howe should be conditionally reinstated to allow him time to comply in light of the extraordinary events unfolding at that time. See Howe, 2014 ND 17, 842 N.W.2d 646, and Howe, 2014 ND 109, 847 N.W.2d 126. The hearing panel concluded Howe had not engaged or attempted to engage in the unauthorized practice of law during the period of suspension or disbarment. The hearing panel considered other factors under in N.D.R. Lawyer Discipl. 4.5(F), which were not determinative of the matter.
[¶5] The hearing panel also considered whether Howe should be disciplined regarding his conduct during his suspensions in Howe, 2014 ND 44, 843 N.W.2d 325, and Howe, 2014 ND 17, 842 N.W.2d 646. Howe posted a notice on his office door stating and included in letters to clients that he was interim suspended by the Supreme Court and charged with a crime as a result of a " witch hunt" by the Drug Task Force, State's Attorney and district court judge. The hearing panel concluded there was clear and convincing evidence Howe violated N.D.R. Prof. Conduct 8.2(a), Judicial and Legal Officials, which provides that a lawyer shall not knowingly, or with reckless disregard as to its truth or falsity, make a false statement concerning the qualifications or integrity of a judge. The hearing panel concluded a reprimand was the appropriate sanction for Howe's misconduct.
[¶6] A trustee was appointed during Howe's interim suspension. The trustee testified that despite many requests for billing records, Howe did not provide them. The hearing panel was concerned
about Howe's competence in the area of law practice management. It noted as examples Howe's inability to produce an invoice related to the clients in Howe, 2014 ND 44, 843 N.W.2d 325, and the lack of any billing records after that date. The hearing panel recommended ...