MN Family Court Judge Accused of Ethical Violation for Appointing His Lawyer As Mediator in Cases on His Docket, Allegedly in Return for Partial Writedown of His Own Divorce Legal Bill

Minnesota judge goes through divorce. By the end, he owes his attorneys over $100,000.

Judge reportedly begins appointing attorney with his divorce law firm to mediate cases on his docket. Nineteen to be precise.

The judge had never appointed this attorney to mediate cases on his docket before his own divorce case. The lawyer reportedly was not qualified for one of the appointments.

The law firm cuts the judge’s divorce legal fees bill by $64,000. There are reportedly e-mails in which the judge proposes a discount for payment in a lump sum.

The judge also allegedly writes “[t]here is also a very substantial past, and future, benefit to you from significant business referrals we have made, in excess of the compromise we are asking for.” The appointed lawyer, indicating she is entertaining the proposal, replies “I certainly appreciate the mediation referrals you have sent my way and hope you continue to do so.”

The judge’s ex-wife reports the judge to the Minnesota Board on Judicial Standards. The judge maintains that he did not make the appointments in exchange for the writedown.

He insists that the referrals of which he wrote were to friends going through divorces. Local law enforcement declines to prosecute the judge. No action has been taken against the attorney receiving the mediation appointments.

A hearing will be held to determine whether the judge engaged in conduct which warrants judicial discipline.

Read more in this [Minneapolis] Pioneer Press article: Dakota County / Judge denies divorce fee deal and this Rochester [MN] Post-Bulletin article: State board: Goodhue judge finagled discount on his divorce.