Minnesota Lawyer Discipline

Michelle MacDonald receives ‘minimal’ discipline
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Michelle MacDonald speaks at the 2014 Republican state convention in Rochester. MacDonald, secured the party’s endorsement for her Supreme Court candidacy that year after being interviewed by members of the Judicial Elections Committee on the morning of the convention. (File photo: Mike Mosedale)

A curtain dropped earlier this month in the operatic saga that resulted in a disciplinary action against West. St. Paul attorney Michelle MacDonald.

With a recommended discipline of a 60-day suspension, some may say Judge Heather Sweetland should have come down more forcefully, but she gave the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility what it requested. Sweetland was appointed as referee in the matter by the Supreme Court.

Nevertheless, MacDonald is seeking review of the findings and the recommendation, said her attorney, Paul Engh. A transcript has been ordered.

The second act already promises more drama.

Justices David Lillehaug, Natalie Hudson and Margaret Chutich have recused from MacDonald’s case and former Justice Christopher Dietzen has been appointed acting justice. That means Chief Justice Lorie Gildea, Dietzen, and Justices G. Barry Anderson, David Stras and Anne McKeig will hear the matter.

MacDonald’s transgressions included taking pictures in a courtroom, interrupting and speaking over judges, issuing subpoenas to attorneys to acquire billing information, disrupting a courtroom to the point where she was taken into custody and making false accusations in a federal lawsuit against a judge, Sweetland said.

MacDonald would have two years of supervised probation, as requested by the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility. Reinstatement is automatic after a 60-day suspension.

Sweetland called the recommendation “minimal” under the circumstances and recommended a mental health evaluation and follow-through as a condition of probation.

MacDonald has requested a review of the findings and the recommendation, said her attorney, Paul Engh. Engh has ordered a transcript.

Sweetland said the issues in the hearing were broadly grouped into three parts: statements and actions against Judge David Knutson and Hennepin County Referee Timothy Mulrooney, alleged incompetence regarding the issuance of subpoenas and appeals and actions taken by MacDonald to disrupt court proceedings.

The petition against MacDonald was filed in July by the director of the OLPR, Susan Humiston, who also tried the case. In large part it resulted from a dissolution case where parenting time and child support was contested.

MacDonald represented mother Sandra Grazzini-Rucki, who hid her two daughters from their father for over two years and was convicted for deprivation of parental rights. She claimed she was protecting the daughters from abuse. Grazzini-Rucki chose incarceration over probation and Department of Corrections records do not show that she is in custody.


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