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Legal Ethics

Minn. Supreme Court Disbars Lawyer Who Stole $60K from Elderly Dad

Posted Jun 11, 2010 8:35 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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The Minnesota Supreme Court wants to deter elder exploitation by lawyers, including a lawyer who pleaded guilty to financial exploitation of her Alzheimer’s-afflicted father.

On Thursday, the court disbarred Minnesota lawyer Lisa Jane Mayne for stealing $60,000 from her father after he gave her power of attorney in 2005, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. The court said it wanted to "deter future similar abuses by lawyers.”

According to the story, the problem came to light after the assisted care facility for Mayne’s father sued for failure to pay $45,000. Mayne’s sister reported the theft. Mayne pleaded guilty in 2008 to one count of financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult, and is paying $100 a month toward restitution of $46,000.

Mayne had sought a suspension followed by a period of probationary reinstatement. She suffered from major depressive disorder and hoarding behavior, and contended the problems should be considered in mitigation. According to the opinion (PDF), she never learned to drive because of phobias, she failed to open most mail and file tax returns for several years, and her house was condemned in September 2007 because of her hoarding.

But the opinion said the disorders did not directly cause the misconduct, and she is not entitled to mitigation, the court said. Two other mitigating factors—the absence of prior discipline and her acknowledgment and treatment of psychological problems—fall short of what is needed to lower the sanction, the court said. Absent mitigation, a felony conviction generally warrants disbarment.

“Mayne’s misconduct was very serious and resulted in great harm to her father,” the court said. “We seek to deter future similar abuses by lawyers acting as attorneys-in-fact, especially by those acting as attorneys-in-fact for vulnerable persons.”

Mayne’s lawyer isn’t available for comment. He’s Peter Erlinder, who is presently imprisoned in Rwanda in connection with his defense of an opposition political leader.

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