Legal Ethics

Panel Ponders: Does State Agency Have Power to Lift Lawyer's License for Unpaid Child Support?

Rudolph Tollefson is the only attorney in North Dakota who has had his law license suspended due to late child-support payments, according to the director of the state agency that enforces such payments.

But some are wondering why the Child Support Enforcement Division of the North Dakota Department of Human Services has the power to take away an attorney’s law practice privileges, since that power ordinarily would be reserved to the state supreme court, reports the Associated Press.

Earlier this month, in an opinion disciplining Tollefson concerning other conduct, the North Dakota Supreme Court noted that a disciplinary panel had rejected conclusions of law included in an agreed resolution of the case “because it concluded a significant question existed whether the executive branch of the North Dakota has the legal and constitutional authority to suspend an attorney’s license for failure to pay child support.”

An informal attorney task force is reviewing the question, the AP reports.

Tollefson didn’t respond to requests for comment from the news agency.

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