Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie Gildea has appointed Senior Judge E. Anne McKinsey as the referee to hear the petition for disciplinary action filed by the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility against Michelle MacDonald.
The disciplinary process will take months, as McKinsey will hear the case and “file her findings of fact, conclusions, and recommendations for the disposition” of the petition for discipline against MacDonald.
The timing of the disciplinary process will complicate MacDonald’s campaign for the Minnesota Supreme Court against Justice Paul Thissen.
A scheduling order for the case will be issued in the coming weeks and MacDonald may have to spend time off the campaign trail and inside a courtroom defending herself against allegations of misconduct.
Board petition details multiple violations by MacDonald
The petition filed by the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility details three counts of “unprofessional conduct warranting revocation of probation and further public discipline” of MacDonald.
The first count details “knowingly false statements” made by MacDonald about Judge David Knutson during a radio interview with Blois Olson on WCCO Radio in October 2018.
During the interview, MacDonald said it wasn’t Sandra Grazzini-Rucki who committed a crime when she abducted her children during a custody dispute with her ex-husband. MacDonald said the crime involving the disappearance of Samatha and Gianna Rucki was committed by Judge David Knutson when he issued a court order involving custody in 2012.
The second count against MacDonald is about the “factually frivolous defamation lawsuit” filed by MacDonald against Brodkorb and Missing in Minnesota. The petition states MacDonald’s “conduct in filing a frivolous defamation lawsuit against the defendants, which lacked a basis in fact particularly given respondent’s probation requirement to ensure factual accuracy…” violated her probation and rules governor licensed attorneys in Minnesota.
The third count in the petition describes MacDonald’s conduct in charging “unreasonable fees,” failing to provide a copy of a retaining agreement to a client, and failing to get a confirmation in writing of a “fee-sharing arrangement…”
In total, the petition from the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility details 14 violations by MacDonald of the Minnesota Rules of Professional Conduct governing licensed attorneys and 7 violations of her probation by which she can practice law in Minnesota.
MacDonald has been previously disciplined by lawyers board for multiple rule violations
Brodkorb and Mann filed a complaint just days after MacDonald served her lawsuit on Brodkorb and Missing in Minnesota in June 2018. The Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility notified Brodkorb and Mann that MacDonald would be investigated based on their complaint.
MacDonald has been disciplined twice for multiple rule violations since she was admitted to practice law in Minnesota in 1987.
In 2012, MacDonald was disciplined by the Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board for “for failing to deposit settlement proceeds into a trust account, failing to maintain proper trust account books and records, failing to promptly deliver funds to a client, failing in her duty to be responsible for the conduct of a non-lawyer and failing to cooperate with the Director’s investigation…”
A judicial referee appointed by the Minnesota Supreme Court found in 2018 that MacDonald violated “at least seven Rules of Professional Conduct over the course of two different client matters.”
The Minnesota Supreme Court later suspended MacDonald’s law license for 60 days and placed her on supervised probation for two years after determining she “made false statements about the integrity of a judge with reckless disregard for the truth; improperly used subpoenas; knowingly disobeyed a court rule and failed to follow a scheduling order; and engaged in disruptive courtroom conduct, including behavior resulting in her arrest.”
MacDonald’s legal work examined in an award-winning true crime book
An examination of MacDonald’s legal work was detailed in the book, The Girls Are Gone which was released on October 23, 2018.
The book also includes new information about the disappearance of Samantha and Gianna Rucki and the adults who conspired to keep the missing sisters and the truth hidden.
The Girls Are Gone also explores the connection between MacDonald and two people convicted for their roles in the disappearance of the Rucki sisters: Sandra Grazzini-Rucki and Dede Evavold. MacDonald was labeled a “person of interest” by the Lakeville Police Department in the disappearance of Samantha and Gianna Rucki but did not cooperate in the investigation.
Since being released in October 2018, The Girls Are Gone has been a commercial and critical success. In April, Brodkorb and Allison Mann were awarded a 2019 Independent Publisher Book Award. The Kindle Edition of The Girls Are Gone has appeared on multiple “best seller” lists by Amazon. The Girls Are Gone is published by Wise Ink Creative Publishing.
In October, Brodkorb and Mann released an audiobook of The Girls Are Gone, which was produced at Studio Americana. The Girls Are Gone is available for sale through numerous retailers in audiobook, paperback, and ebook.