The Director of the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility filed a petition for disciplinary action against respondent Tracy R. Eichhorn Hicks. After an evidentiary hearing, the referee concluded that respondent committed professional misconduct by (1) not stating in a written fee agreement that the fee could be subject to a refund; (2) failing to communicate a plea agreement to a client; and (3) signing his client’s name on a medical-records release form, falsely signing as a witness to his client’s signature, and then presenting the signed release to a third party. The referee recommended that suspension of respondent for a minimum of 60 days, requiring respondent to petition for reinstatement, and placing respondent on probation for 1 year if he is reinstated.
Respondent challenged the referee’s findings and conclusions concerning the communication of the plea agreement and the medical-records release form, and he argued that he should not have to petition for reinstatement.
The Supreme Court held that (1) the referee did not clearly err when he found that respondent failed to communicate a plea offer to a client, signed his client’s name on a medical-records release form, falsely claimed to have witnessed the client’s signature, and then presented the signed release to a third party; and (2) based on the circumstances of this case, the appropriate discipline was an indefinite suspension with no right to petition for reinstatement for 120 days. Suspended.
A17-1039 In re Eichhorn Hicks (Original Jurisdiction)
At issue here was whether a former employee’s delay in returning his employer’s property excuses the employer from paying a commission otherwise due to the employee. Respondent employee argued that he was due the commission when his employment relationship with appellant employer ended. Appellant contended that because respondent did not return appellant’s property immediately upon leaving the company, appellant was excused from paying the commission.
The District Court agreed with appellant, determining that the return-of-property clause in the employment contract between the parties was a condition precedent to appellant’s contractual obligation to pay the residual commission, and that respondent’s failure to comply with the clause excused appellant’s obligation to pay that commission. The Court of Appeals reversed, applying Restatement (Second) of Contracts § 229, and concluding, as a matter of law, that the loss of the commission was a disproportionate forfeiture for respondent’s failure to comply with the return-of-property clause in the employment contract.
The Supreme Court held that, when failure to comply with a condition precedent occurs after the formation of a contract and results in forfeiture, Restatement (Second) of Contracts § 229 may be applied to prevent the forfeiture if occurrence of the condition is not material to the agreement and a proportionality analysis demonstrates that the forfeiture is disproportionate. Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.
A16-1829 Capistrant v. Lifetouch Nat’l School Studios, Inc. (Court of Appeals)
At issues in this appeal was whether claims alleging that the state has failed to provide students with an adequate education are justiciable. Appellants, who are primarily parents of children enrolled in Minneapolis and Saint Paul public schools, brought a putative class-action complaint on behalf of their children against respondents State of Minnesota and other state entities and officials. Appellants claimed that the state has violated the Education, Equal Protection, and Due Process Clauses of the Minnesota Constitution. The state moved to dismiss the complaint on multiple grounds. The District Court partially granted and partially denied the state’s motion. The state filed an interlocutory appeal, and the Court of Appeals reversed, concluding that the complaint’s claims present a nonjusticiable political question.
The Supreme Court held that (1) appellants’ claims alleging violations of the Education Clause of the Minnesota Constitution, Minn. Const. art. XIII, § 1, are justiciable; (2) appellants’ claims alleging violations of the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Minnesota Constitution, Minn. Const. art. I, §§ 2, 7, are justiciable; (3) the protections of the Speech or Debate Clause of the Minnesota Constitution, Minn. Const. art. IV, § 10, do not extend to claims that the Legislature has violated its duty under the Education, Equal Protection, and Due Process Clauses and (4) the District Court did not err when it denied the state’s motion seeking to dismiss the complaint for failure to join school districts and charter schools as parties. Reversed.
A16-1265 Cruz-Guzman v. State (Court of Appeals)
This case considered whether the Tax Court lacked jurisdiction to consider a motion filed in a case arising from a tax petition that was automatically dismissed by operation of law. In 2015, relators filed a petition in Tax Court challenging the county’s assessment of their 2015 property taxes. Over 1 year later, the county notified the Tax Court that relator’s petition had been automatically dismissed by operation of law the relators had not paid a portion of their 2015 property taxes by the date required by law. Relators sought to bring a motion before the Tax Court regarding their 2015 petition. The Tax Court declined to consider relator’s motion, concluding that it lacked jurisdiction to do so because relator’s petition had been automatically dismissed by statute and had not been reinstated.
The Supreme Court held that the Tax Court did not err in determining that it lacked jurisdiction to consider the taxpayers’ motion, and the record supported the Tax Court’s findings and conclusions. Affirmed.
A17-2032 Johnson v. County of Hennepin (Tax Court)