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Minnesota Supreme Court chamber
The Supreme Court chamber in the Minnesota Capitol. (File photo)

Court ordered five disbarments, 33 lesser instances of discipline in ’22

Thirty-eight Minnesota attorneys were publicly reprimanded, suspended or disbarred by the state Supreme Court last year, up from 28 who were publicly disciplined in 2021.

According to the Minnesota Judicial Branch, the average number of attorneys disciplined each year is 36. In 2015, 64 attorneys were publicly disciplined.

There are 576 disbarred or currently suspended attorneys In Minnesota. While this seems like a high number, remember that there are roughly 25,000 attorneys practicing in Minnesota. For the most part, law school’s emphasis on professional responsibility leaves an indelible mark. For some lawyers, however, personal struggles, temptation, or flat-out greed can lead to noncompliance with professional standards.

Five attorneys had conduct worthy of disbarment in 2022. That was a slight increase from 2021 and 2020, when four and three attorneys were disbarred, respectively, in Minnesota.

Some of the disbarment cases were noteworthy because they involved criminal conduct. Here are the facts of the disbarments:

  • Gregory Anderson was disbarred in December 2022. He was sentenced in December to U.S. District Court to 18 months in federal prison on a charge of fraudulent concealment of bankruptcy assets. Anderson represented James Rothers, who was the former mayor of Kerkhoven, Minnesota, in a voluntary bankruptcy proceeding. Rather than pay creditors, Rothers and Anderson concocted a scheme to hide over a million dollars in assets. Additionally, Anderson arranged to have a fictitious lawsuit against Rothers, in which Rothers defaulted on the judgment to further the appearance that he was insolvent.
  • Geoffrey Colosi was disbarred in July of 2022. He was never involved in disciplinary matters until he was retained as trustee for a vulnerable elderly woman. The woman moved into a memory care unit after being diagnosed with dementia. Before Colosi took over her finances, she had hundreds of thousands of dollars in the bank, hundreds of thousands in the sale of a business property, and a home valued for a quarter-million dollars. Colosi’s dishonesty was discovered when the woman was unable to pay for a basic haircut. He had been charging $175 an hour to socialize with the woman, in addition to selling her home for $100,000 under its value.
  • Peter Lennington was disbarred in January 2022. He had previously been suspended in 2020 for misconduct affecting eight clients. Nevertheless, he continued to operate his law firm’s website and keep his office phone number and voicemail without informing prospective clients about his suspension. Lennington misappropriated client funds, neglected clients, and did not communicate with them. The petition was amended to include other violations of ethical rules in matters involving other clients. The seriousness of the misconduct, coupled with it coming on the heels of the suspension, led to the disbarment.
  • Matthew McCollister was disbarred in February 2022 after pleading guilty of having a scheme in which car insurance companies were defrauded with false medical claims. McCollister practiced personal injury law. He had previously been indefinitely suspended by the court for failure to competently and diligently handle his clients’ personal injury claims. He died by suicide before criminal sentencing.
  • Jesse Powell was disbarred in December 2022 after being convicted of sexually assaulting clients. Powell practiced criminal defense and family law, including divorce and custody issues. With one client, Powell attempted to play footsie, remarked that he could help her take her shirt off, and took pictures of her on his cellphone without her permission. Powell’s conduct took a violent turn with another client, who claims that Powell raped her in the bathroom of his office. He also molested her multiple times. Powell pleaded guilty to four counts of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct. He received a 78 month sentence in December 2022.

Twenty-three attorneys were suspended in 2022, which is an increase from the 17 suspended in 2021. Twenty of those suspensions have extended into this year. Some of the suspensions were lengthy. For example, John Michael Huberty, convicted of attempted criminal sexual conduct in the third degree of a 15-year-old boy he met on Grindr, has been indefinitely suspended, unable to petition until he is successfully discharged from criminal probation.

Most suspensions stemmed from poor conduct in the practice of law. Some of the cases involved severe lack of communication with clients and not returning fees to clients upon request. Others had more unusual facts, such as forging a law school transcript, not adequately managing the conduct of lawyers in one’s firm, and engaging in frivolous lawsuits.

Ten attorneys were publicly reprimanded in 2022, a slight increase from 2021. Many of these cases involved not adequately communicating with the client, not competently representing the client, and dismissing a case without the client’s approval.

One public reprimand case was of particular interest. Albert Usumanu, who practices immigration law, was publicly reprimanded for misconduct in two immigration cases. He has been admonished five times, including a suspension in 2009. Although the court acknowledged his disciplinary history, they stuck with a public reprimand. However, two justices (Gordon L.  Moore and Anne K. McKeig) dissented, arguing that Usumanu should have been suspended.

RELATED: Attorney discipline: Supreme Court orders in December

Correction: This story has been revised to correct the number of public reprimands and total number of disciplinary actions.

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