The Minnesota Supreme Court has suspended Michelle MacDonald’s law license for a minimum of 60 days, and she will be on supervised probation in response to an attorney complaint filed against MacDonald in August 2016.
A judicial referee appointed by the Minnesota Supreme Court recommended last year that MacDonald’s law license be suspended for a minimum of 60 days, followed by two years of probation, which would include a mental health evaluation.
But the final order from the Minnesota Supreme Court did not include a mental health evaluation which triggered Associate Justice Anne McKeig to dissent in part from the court’s decision.
The conditions of MacDonald’s two-year probation include that her probation will be supervised by an attorney appointed by the Director of the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility.
MacDonald is prohibited from engaging in “the solo practice of law” and she must “work in a setting where she is in daily contact with, and under the direct supervision of another Minnesota licensed attorney.”
The order from the Minnesota Supreme court states that the “attorney who directly supervises [MacDonald’s] work must co-sign all pleadings, briefs, and other court documents that respondent files. This attorney may not be an associate who works for respondent’s law firm. Any attorney or law firm with whom she practices shall be informed of the terms of this probation.”
MacDonald did not respond to a request for comment on the order from the Minnesota Supreme Court.
MacDonald’s law license suspended for “a minimum of 60 days” and supervised probation for two years
A 60-day suspension, followed by 2 years of supervised probation, is the appropriate discipline for an attorney who failed to competently represent a client; 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.
The complaint filed against MacDonald focused on her behavior during family court proceedings involving Sandra Grazzini-Rucki and her legal representation of Joseph Francis D’Costa.
The complaint claimed MacDonald’s disorganization required the D’Costa trial to last longer than necessary, adding that MacDonald offered exhibits that “were a mess.”
MacDonald was arrested during a court hearing in September 2013 while serving as Grazzini-Rucki’s family court attorney.
MacDonald’s direct responsibility for her conduct which led to her arrest was repeatedly mentioned in the order from the Minnesota Supreme Court.
Associate Justice Anne McKeig concluded her partial dissent from the court’s decision with a strong rebuke of MacDonald:
Today, the court hesitates to impose sufficient discipline, and it does so at the expense of protecting the public. Although MacDonald portrays herself as a victim, the true victim in all of this is the public. I respectfully disagree with the court’s decision to suspend MacDonald for a mere 60 days and its reluctance to require a mental-health evaluation. Our duty to the public demands more of us, and more of respondent. I conclude that a 6-month suspension, including a petition for reinstatement, and a 2-year probation term, including a mental-health evaluation, is warranted. On these grounds, I respectfully dissent.
Both MacDonald’s client and former campaign manager convicted of felonies related to disappearance of children
Grazzini-Rucki was found guilty in July 2016 on six felony counts of deprivation of parental rights related to the disappearance of her daughters, Samantha and Gianna Rucki. The sisters ran from their home on April 19, 2013, during a custody and divorce proceeding involving their Grazzini-Rucki and David Rucki.
MacDonald has been labeled as a “person of interest” by the Lakeville Police Department in the disappearance of the Rucki sisters – a label which law enforcement confirmed has not been removed from MacDonald. MacDonald was replaced as Grazzini-Rucki’s criminal defense attorney by Stephen Grigsby on November 18, 2015 – the same day the girls were found living on a ranch in northern Minnesota by law enforcement, headed by the Lakeville Police Department.
The girls’ father, David Rucki was awarded full custody of all five of his children in November 2013, while two of his daughters remained missing. Rucki was reunited with his daughters days after they were found and they live with him at the family’s home in Lakeville.
MacDonald was labeled in April 2015 as a “person of interest” by the Lakeville Police Department in the disappearance of Samantha and Gianna Rucki. MacDonald refused to cooperate with the Lakeville Police Department’s investigation into her possible involvement in the disappearance of the sisters – even after public statements from her that she would cooperate in the investigation.
Her criminal defense attorney, Stephen Grigsby, said in 2015 that he would advise MacDonald to not speak with the Lakeville Police Department.
Below is the full order from the Minnesota Supreme Court regarding MacDonald.
Allison Mann contributed to this story.