IN THE MATTER OF DAVID H. BJORNSON, An Attorney at Law, Respondent. Count Number Offense M.C.A.§ Fine & Fees Description Amount
Michael W. Cotter Chief Disciplinary Counsel.
Office of Disciplinary Counsel for the State of Montana
("ODC") hereby charges David H. Bjornson with
professional misconduct as follows:
David H. Bjornson, hereinafter referred to as Respondent, was
admitted to the practice of law in the State of Montana in
1993, at which time he took the oath required for admission,
wherein he agreed to abide by the Rules of Professional
Conduct, the Disciplinary Rules adopted by the Supreme Court,
and the highest standards of honesty, justice and morality,
including, but not limited to, those outlined in parts 3 and
4 of Chapter 61, Title 37, Montana Code Annotated.
Montana Supreme Court has approved and adopted the Montana
Rules of Professional Conduct ("MRPC"), governing
the ethical conduct of attorneys licensed to practice in the
State of Montana, which Rules were in effect it all times
mentioned in this Complaint.
Order filed February 6, 2018 (attached hereto as Exhibit A),
the Montana Supreme Court, pursuant to Rule 23B, RLDE (2011),
determined that the felony DUI offense of which Respondent
has been convicted affects Respondent's ability to
practice law. As such, the Supreme Court ordered that
Respondent be suspended pending disposition of disciplinary
proceedings. The Court granted Respondent a seven-day period
to file a statement of pleading demonstrating good cause to
set aside or modify the interim suspension pending
disciplinary proceedings, to which ODC would have seven days
to respond. The Court directed ODC to file a formal complaint
against Respondent predicated upon his criminal conviction.
Respondent was charged by Information with one count of
Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol, 4th or Subsequent
Offense, a felony, in violation of§ 61-9-401 (1)(a),
November 7, 2017, as part of a plea bargain agreement,
Respondent pled guilty to the charge and a Pre-Sentence
Investigation Report was ordered.
January 2, 2018, the Court sentenced Respondent to certain
terms and conditions, including, but not limited to, the
a) commitment to the Department of Corrections for a period
of five (5) years, all suspended;
b) continued participation in and graduation from the Fourth
Judicial District Co-Occurring Treatment Court;
c) payment of fine and fees in the amount of $5, 230, as well
as supervision fees for the term of supervision; and
d) participation in an aftercare treatment program for the
entirety of the probationary period. See Judgment,
attached hereto as Exhibit B.
Pursuant to Rule 8A(3), RLDE, conduct which results in
conviction of a criminal offense is a ground for discipline.
Pursuant to Rule 8.4(b), MRPC, it is professional misconduct
for a lawyer to "commit a criminal act that reflects
adversely on the lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness or
fitness as a lawyer in other respects[.]"
Pursuant to Rule 23C, RLDE, the sole issue to be determined
in the formal disciplinary proceedings herein "shall be
the extent of the final discipline to be imposed."
the Office of Disciplinary Counsel prays;
1. That a Citation be issued to the Respondent, to which
shall be attached a copy of the complaint, requiring
Respondent, within twenty (20) days after service thereof, to
file a written answer to the complaint;
2. That a formal hearing be had on the allegations of this
complaint before an Adjudicatory Panel of the Commission;
3. That the Adjudicatory Panel of the Commission make a
report of its findings and recommendations after a formal
hearing to the Montana Supreme Court, and, in the event the
Adjudicatory Panel finds the facts warrant disciplinary
action and recommends discipline, that the Commission also
recommend the nature and extent of appropriate disciplinary
4. For such other and further relief as deemed necessary and
January 2, 2018, Montana attorney David H. Bjornson was
convicted, pursuant to a plea bargain agreement, of felony
driving while under the influence of alcohol. Rule 23B of the
Montana Rules for Lawyer Disciplinary Enforcement (MRLDE)
calls for a lawyer's "immediate suspension"
from the practice of law pending formal complaint proceedings
if this Court determines that the lawyer "was found
guilty of a criminal offense that affects the lawyer's
ability to practice law." The Office of Disciplinary
Counsel (ODC) has asked this Court to determine, pursuant to
Rule 23B of the Montana Rules for Lawyer Disciplinary
Enforcement (MRLDE), whether Bjornson should be immediately
suspended from the practice of law pending formal
disciplinary complaint proceedings.
Court's practice has been to invoke interim suspension
under Rule 23 when, as here, a lawyer has been convicted of a
felony offense. Likewise, we conclude that Bjornson's
conviction of felony DUI affects his ability to practice law.
23B also provides that the Court "may in the interest of
justice set aside or modify the interim suspension." We
deem it appropriate herein to grant Bjornson seven days in
which to file a statement or pleading demonstrating that
there is good cause, if any he has, to set aside or modify
the interim suspension pending ...