In the Matter of the Application for Disciplinary Action Against Cindy L. Turcotte, a Person Admitted to the Bar of the State of North Dakota
Cindy L. Turcotte, Respondent Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of the State of North Dakota, Petitioner
The Court has before it the findings of fact, conclusions of
law, and recommendations of a hearing panel of the
Disciplinary Board recommending Cindy L. Turcotte be
reprimanded by this Court and pay the costs of the
disciplinary proceeding for violations of the North Dakota
Rules of Professional Conduct. We accept the hearing
panel's findings, conclusions, and recommendations.
Turcotte was admitted to practice law in North Dakota on
September 28, 2015. She was licensed to practice in New
Mexico. On July 30, 2018, we suspended Turcotte from the
practice of law for six months and one day effective August
15, 2018, for her failure to competently and diligently
represent five clients. Disciplinary Board v.
Turcotte, 2018 ND 188, 915 N.W.2d 848. She has not been
licensed in North Dakota since her suspension.
The record reflects that on September 6, 2018, a summons and
petition for discipline were filed and the Clerk of the
Supreme Court was served the summons and petition for
discipline. On September 13, 2018, Assistant Disciplinary
Counsel advised the Clerk that efforts to locate Turcotte had
been exhausted and the required service of Turcotte under
N.D.R. Lawyer Discipl. 4.4(B) was effectuated on the
Clerk as Turcotte's agent for service of process under
Admission to Practice Rule 1(A)(3). On January 16, 2019,
Assistant Disciplinary Counsel filed a motion for default.
Turcotte failed to answer the petition and motion, and she is
in default. The charges in the petition for discipline are
deemed admitted under N.D.R. Lawyer Discipl.
Turcotte maintained a civil and criminal law practice in
Williston. On November 28, 2017, Turcotte notified the Clerk
of the Supreme Court, the Northwest District Judges, and
other court staff by email that she was taking a medical
leave of absence from the practice of law from November 20,
2017, until February 28, 2018. Turcotte did not provide
information or background to those she contacted to assist
with the handling of her cases. She made little to no effort
within her clients' cases to ensure they were adequately
represented during her absence. Turcotte represented a client
in Williams County and in December 2017, instructed her
client to obtain discovery from the Williams County
State's Attorney for the client's case and for
multiple other clients' cases. Turcotte made no effort to
ensure her other clients' confidential information
relating to her representation was preserved. The hearing
panel found Turcotte's actions with regard to taking a
leave of absence and with regard to obtaining discovery
demonstrated a lack of competence.
Turcotte failed to pay her 2018 license fee until January 17,
2018. During January 1, 2018, through January 17, 2018,
Turcotte represented clients in legal matters, which the
hearing panel found was the unauthorized practice of law.
The hearing panel concluded Turcotte's conduct violated
N.D.R. Prof. Conduct 1.1, Competence, by
failing to represent her clients with the legal knowledge,
skill, thoroughness and preparation reasonably necessary for
the representation, and N.D.R. Prof. Conduct 5.5,
Unauthorized Practice of Law, by practicing law in a
jurisdiction where doing so violated the regulation of the
legal profession in that jurisdiction.
When considering an appropriate sanction, the hearing panel
considered the aggravating factors under N.D. Stds. Imposing
Lawyer Sanctions 9.22 of a prior discipline history, multiple
offenses, and substantial experience in the practice of law.
The hearing panel concluded Turcotte's conduct falls
within the guidance provided by N.D. Stds. Imposing Lawyer
Sanctions 4.53 and 7.3, and it recommended she be reprimanded
by the Supreme Court. It also recommended Turcotte pay the
costs and expenses of these disciplinary proceedings in the
amount of $250.
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
service of the report of the hearing panel. No objections
were received. We considered the matter, and
ORDERED, that the findings, conclusions, and
recommendation for discipline are accepted.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED, that Cindy L.
Turcotte is reprimanded.
[¶11] IT IS FURTHER ORDERED, that
Turcotte pay the costs and expenses of these disciplinary
proceedings in the amount of $250 within 90 days of entry of
the judgment, payable to the Secretary of the Disciplinary