Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Morin v. Commission on Practice of Supreme Court of State

Supreme Court of Montana

January 6, 2020

TINA L. MORIN, Petitioner,
v.
COMMISSION ON PRACTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF MONTANA, Chairman Ward Taleff, presiding, Respondent.

          ORDER

         Petitioner 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.

         On 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 19-0017.

         Supervisory 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).

         Morin 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 until reinstatement.

         As a 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.

         In any 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.

         Alternatively, 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. 14(3).

         Finally, 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.

         Upon 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.

         IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that the Petition for a Writ of Supervisory Control is DENIED and DISMISSED.

         The 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 Court ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.