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Judge Suspended for Getting Discount Divorce in Exchange for Referrals

A Minnesota judge will be benched without pay for six months for steering business to a divorce lawyer who represented the judge in his divorce proceeding and gave him a $63,503 discount off of his $108,876 bill, reports the Star Tribune. The state board on judicial standards recommended the sanction for District Judge Timothy Blakeley, finding that the judge violated judicial rules and codes by accepting the discount from his lawyer, Christine Stroemer, after appointing her as a mediator in cases he oversaw. The appointments began in December 2003 when Blakely received notice from Stroemer that he was "severely delinquent" on his bill for representation in his divorce. That month, Blakely appointed Stroemer to mediate a case he oversaw and he went on to order many couples to submit to mediation with her over the next few years.

In the meantime, after Blakely's divorce matter concluded in 2004, Stroemer agreed to let Blakely settle his bill for $45,372, though he had owed $108,876. The discount was the largest that Stroemer has given a client. Stroemer e-mailed Blakely that she hoped he would "continue to refer mediation cases to me." Blakely told the disciplinary panel that he never expected anything in return for his referrals. But the panel found the explanation "hardly credible."

But what about Stroemer -- isn't she also culpable? The article doesn't say. However, most bar rules prohibit attorneys from giving something of value in exchange for referrals and Stroemer gave the judge a discount to keep the appointments from him flowing. Indeed, the judge should have known better, but as a lawyer, Stroemer should have declined to accept the appointments.

What do you think? Does the lawyer here bear some blame as well?

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on March 12, 2009 at 04:04 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

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