In the Matter of the Application for Disciplinary Action Against Wade G. Enget, A Member of the Bar of the State of North Dakota Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court, Petitioner
Wade G. Enget, Respondent
W. VandeWalle, C.J., Dale V. Sandstrom, Carol Ronning
Kapsner, Daniel J. Crothers, Lisa Fair McEvers.
[¶1] The Court has before it the Findings of
Fact, Conclusions of Law and Recommendations of a hearing
panel of the Disciplinary Board recommending Wade G. Enget be
suspended from the practice of law in North Dakota for 30
days with a six-month probation following his suspension, and
recommending he pay costs of the disciplinary proceeding for
violations of the North Dakota Rules of Professional Conduct.
We accept the hearing panel's findings and recommendation
for discipline. We suspend Enget from the practice of law for
30 days with a six-month probation following his suspension,
and we order him to pay costs of the disciplinary proceeding
in the amount of $7,114.57.
[¶2] Enget was admitted to practice law in
North Dakota on October 10, 1984, and he is currently
licensed to practice law.
[¶3] A summons and petition for discipline
was filed with the Secretary of the Disciplinary Board on
October 10, 2014. Enget filed an answer to the petition on
December 31, 2014.
[¶4] In April 2003, a client met with Enget
regarding legal issues surrounding her husband's death.
The husband's will raised issues regarding the
client's ability to inherit through the will. The
personal representative named in the will predeceased the
husband, and the client wished to be the personal
representative. No written agreement was entered into between
the client and Enget. Enget testified that he told the client
he would represent her as personal representative, but could
not represent her personally regarding any rights as a
surviving spouse. The client testified Enget did not tell her
that information. Enget commenced an informal probate, but
because the husband's three sons did not waive their
right to be appointed personal representative, formal probate
was commenced in 2003. The client was appointed personal
representative by the district court. A notice of creditors
was published in March 2004.
[¶5] From late summer or early fall of 2004
to spring 2007, the client was in Colorado for medical
treatment. The client received no communication from Enget in
2005, 2006, or 2008. She received limited communication in
2007. One of the husband's three sons met with Enget in
November 2009, and an heirs agreement was created. The client
refused the agreement when the son reviewed it with her.
Enget testified he did not contact the client regarding the
[¶6] In February 2010, Enget received a
letter from the son's attorney concerning failings in the
husband's probate. Enget forwarded the email to the
client, who responded. The client then retained other counsel
for her personal rights. The client resigned as personal
representative, and Enget withdrew as counsel for the
personal representative. By this point, the time to file an
inventory and close the estate had expired.
[¶7] The petition for discipline alleged
Enget's conduct violated N.D.R. Prof. Conduct 1.1,
1.2(a), 1.2(c), 1.3, 1.4, 1.7(a), and 1.7(c). A hearing was
held December 14, 2015, and December 15, 2015. On April 15,
2016, the hearing panel filed its findings of fact,
conclusions of law and recommendations. The hearing panel
concluded there was no clear and convincing evidence
Enget's conduct violated N.D.R. Prof. Conduct 1.1,
1.2(a), 1.2(c), 1.7(a), or 1.7(c).
[¶8] The hearing panel concluded there was
clear and convincing evidence Enget's conduct violated
N.D.R. Prof. Conduct 1.3, Diligence, in that Enget failed to
ensure his client complied with the requirements imposed by
North Dakota law when he allowed deadlines to file an
inventory and close the estate pass with minimal instruction
and no notice. The hearing panel concluded there was clear
and convincing evidence Enget's conduct violated N.D.R.
Prof. Conduct 1.4, Communication, in that Enget knowingly
failed to adequately communicate with his client, having
communicated with the client approximately ten times during
the course of a nearly seven year representation; failed to
provide substantive information as to the client's duties
and the methods by which those duties were to be completed;
and knowingly failed to communicate with the client regarding
the heirs agreement he drafted in his capacity as the
attorney for the estate.
[¶9] When considering an appropriate
sanction, the hearing panel concluded Enget's conduct
falls within the guidance provided by N.D. Stds. Imposing
Lawyer Sanctions 4.42 and 7.2. The hearing panel recommended
Enget be suspended for 30 days with a six-month probation
following his suspension. It also recommended Enget pay the
costs and expenses of these disciplinary proceedings in the
amount of $7,114.57.
[¶10] This matter was referred to the
Supreme Court under N.D.R. Lawyer Discipl. 3.1(F). Objections
to the hearing panel's findings of fact, conclusions of
law and recommendations were due within 20 days of the