TINA L. MORIN, Petitioner,
COMMISSION ON PRACTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF MONTANA, Chairman Ward Taleff, presiding, Respondent.
Tina L. Morin seeks a writ of supervisory control directing
the Commission on Practice of the Supreme Court of the State
of Montana (Commission) to vacate all orders and dismiss with
prejudice Cause No. PR 19-0017, or alternatively to vacate
all orders and hold the matter in abeyance so long as Morin
remains suspended from the practice of law in Montana.
January 11, 2019, the Office of Disciplinary Counsel (ODC)
filed a Complaint before the Commission that is now Cause No.
PR 19-0017. In that Complaint, the ODC charged Morin with
professional misconduct arising from her representation of
Robert and Holly Labair in a legal malpractice case. At that
time, an unrelated disciplinary matter was also proceeding
against Morin which eventually resulted in Morin being
suspended from the practice of law for not less than seven
months, beginning on or about March 28, 2019. Matter of
Morin, No. PR 17-0448, Order (Mont. Feb. 26, 2019).
Morin contends that because she remains under suspension, the
Commission cannot move forward with the present disciplinary
complaint and this Court should accept supervisory control to
stop the Commission's attempts to proceed in Cause No. PR
control is an extraordinary remedy that may be invoked when
the case involves purely legal questions and urgent or
emergency factors make the normal appeal process inadequate.
M. R. App. P. 14(3). The case must meet one of three
additional criteria: (a) the other court is proceeding under
a mistake of law and is causing a gross injustice; (b)
constitutional issues of state-wide importance are involved;
or (c) the other court has granted or denied a motion for
substitution of a judge in a criminal case. M. R. App. P.
14(3)(a)-(c). Whether supervisory control is appropriate is a
case-by-case decision. Stokes v. Mont. Thirteenth
Judicial Dist. Court, 2011 MT 182, ¶ 5, 361 Mont.
279, 259 P.3d 754 (citations omitted).
first argues that this matter is appropriate for supervisory
control because it involves a purely legal question, whether
the Commission has jurisdiction to proceed, as Morin is
currently suspended from the practice of law in Montana.
Morin maintains that her suspension means she is no longer a
member of the Montana Bar and cannot be subject to the
Commission's jurisdiction to hear disciplinary matters.
Morin supports this contention with the following: she was
unable to retrieve her name by searching the attorney
directory on the State Bar of Montana website and, in April
2019, the State Bar refused to accept her annual dues payment
preliminary matter, Morin does not explain how this
Court's supervisory control process applies to the
pending Commission proceeding. M. R. App. P. 14 applies by
its terms to "courts." The Montana Rules for Lawyer
Disciplinary Enforcement (MRLDE) prescribe a process for
review of Commission decisions.
event, MRLDE 7(A) provides that any lawyer who is a member of
the State Bar of Montana is subject to the disciplinary
jurisdiction of this Court. Morin's position that she is
not a member of the Montana Bar is incorrect. She is under
suspension as that term is defined in Rule 9(A)(2) of the
MRLDE, a member not currently able to exercise the privilege
of practicing law in this state. Therefore, her argument that
she is not subject to the Commission's jurisdiction is
incorrect as a matter of law.
Morin argues that this Court should assume supervisory
control because Ward Taleff, the Chairman of the Commission,
erred in denying Morin's motion to recuse him from
hearing this matter. Morin alleges Taleff has personal
knowledge of facts pertinent to this Complaint and that he
has a financial interest in the outcome of the case. These
unsupported allegations present questions of fact and are not
grounds for invoking supervisory control. M. R. App. P.
Morin argues that supervisory control is appropriate because
the very act of a disciplinary proceeding will subject her to
irreparable harm. She maintains that any order published by
the Commission will damage her reputation, even if such order
is later reversed by this Court. Consistent with M. R. App.
P. 14(3), it is the Court's practice to refrain from
exercising supervisory control when the petitioner has an
adequate remedy of appeal. E.g., Buckles v. Seventh Jud.
Dist. Ct., No. OP 16-0517, 386 Mont. 393, 386 P.3d 545
(table) (Oct. 18, 2016); Lichte v. Mont. Eighteenth
Judicial Dist. Court, No. OP 16-0482, 385 Mont. 540, 382
P.3d 868 (table) (Aug. 24, 2016). Under Morin's theory,
this Court would have to exercise supervisory control in
every disciplinary action before the Commission to avoid the
potential of reputational harm from an adverse ruling that
ultimately may be reversed by this Court. That would
undermine the very purpose for which the Commission exists.
review of Morin's petition and exhibits, we conclude that
this Court's intervention in the Commission's process
is unwarranted and unsupported by law.
THEREFORE ORDERED that the Petition for a Writ of Supervisory
Control is DENIED and DISMISSED.
Clerk is directed to provide immediate notice of this Order
to Petitioner Tina Morin, to the Office of Disciplinary
Counsel, and to the Commission on Practice of the Supreme