A court hearing will be held next Wednesday on the petition for disciplinary action filed by the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility against Michelle MacDonald, who is a candidate for the Minnesota Supreme Court.
The hearing is scheduled for September 16, 2020, at 9 AM and will be conducted online through Zoom because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Senior Judge E. Anne McKinsey was appointed in June by Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie Gildea as the referee to hear the petition for disciplinary action against MacDonald.
The petition was filed after the completion of a 21-month investigation into MacDonald, which began after Michael Brodkorb and Allison Mann filed a formal complaint with the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility in June 2018 in response to MacDonald filing a lawsuit against Brodkorb and Missing in Minnesota. The lawsuit filed by MacDonald was dismissed in March 2019 by a judge in Ramsey County.
Both Brodkorb and Mann have been subpoenaed by the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility to testify at the hearing.
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.
Despite facing discipline, MacDonald is a candidate for the Minnesota Supreme Court
MacDonald is running against Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Paul Thissen, who was appointed to the Minnesota Supreme Court by Governor Mark Dayton in 2018.
MacDonald was an unsuccessful candidate for the Minnesota Supreme Court in 2014, 2016, and 2018. In December, MacDonald started her fourth campaign for the Minnesota Supreme Court. Despite MacDonald facing serious discipline and the likely suspension of her law license, MacDonald can still run for the Minnesota Supreme Court.
Courts in Minnesota have interpreted the requirement in the Minnesota Constitution that judges “shall be learned in the law” as being licensed to practice law. Candidates for the Minnesota Supreme Court, Minnesota Court of Appeals, District Court of Minnesota, or county attorney are required to submit a copy of their law license when they file to run for office with the Minnesota Secretary of State.
Aside from being a repeated candidate for the Minnesota Supreme Court, MacDonald notes on the website for her law firm that she “aspires to be a United States Supreme Court Justice.”
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…”
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.
Last 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.