The State Bar Association of North Dakota Fall 2014 Gavel Magazine - Page 16

WHISTLING PAST THE GRAVEYARD I knew what he meant, because each day as lawyers we are confronted with occasions when we are tempted to breach the duties entrusted to our profession by society and owed to our clients. It is hard sometimes to reconcile the situation faced by those who have given in to human temptation or addiction and now find themselves as a subject of discipline. To avoid these pitfalls, I have remembered my grandfather’s admonition, “If it doesn’t seem right, don’t do it.” In many ways that still guides the ethical paths a lawyer confronts every day. D A N T R AY N O R ABA Delegate When I was in law school, I attended a The Disciplinary Board Cleans Up local Grand Forks County Bar Meeting. Its Docket Upon seeing my name tag, an older After I was elected Chair of the Disciplinary gentleman approached me and said he Board, I encountered a backlog of cases remembered my grandfather, Mack with some pending without resolution Traynor, who apparently spoke at his for close to a decade. In all instances, the admission ceremony. According to his lawyer had been disbarred or suspended in memory, my grandfather another matter or was subject to an If it summed up the ethical rules by interim suspension in the matter saying, “If it doesn’t seem right, still pending. So, there was no risk doesn’t don’t do it.” of harm to the public. But the “ seem right, don’t do it. Many years later, I began serving on the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court and was eventually elected Chair. In that capacity, I called a lawyer from western North Dakota who was nearing the end of his term as a member. I wanted to thank him for his service and to encourage him to finish up the last case he chaired. The lawyer confided that he enjoyed serving on the Disciplinary Board, but would not miss that feeling of whistling past the graveyard. 16 THE GAVEL ” unresolved case left the complainant with no resolution, and the lawyer was left in limbo. To resolve these stale cases, I assigned all of them a single panel that included Attorney Pat Monson, Carol Norgard, and myself. Over the course of a year, the Disciplinary Board cleaned up its docket. Our minutes from December 2012 reflected 37 formal matters pending. In September 2014, our draft minutes reflect seven formal matters pending with only one of those pending for more than a year. This could not have been done without the cooperation of Paul Jacobson and Brent Edison, who helped push these matters through during a time of transition in the Office of Disciplinary Counsel. ABA Review of the Lawyer Disciplinary System With the many changes occurring in our profession, the North Dakota Supreme Court and SBAND invited the ABA Standing Committee on Professional Discipline to review the lawyer disciplinary system in North Dakota. It had been 31