State Board of Higher Education member Grant Shaft, the former president of the board, has been suspended by the North Dakota Supreme Court from practicing law for 30 days.
In the Stipulated Facts and Conclusions of the Stipulation, Consent to Discipline and Recommendations of Hearing Panel, Shaft admitted the following facts and conclusions. From 1986 to 2012, Shaft practiced in Grand Forks as a member of Shaft, Reis & Shaft, Ltd. (“SRS”). Shaft was a fifty percent shareholder, director, and a corporate officer in SRS, holding the positions of Vice President and Secretary. SRS always operated such that all compensation for legal services performed by the employed attorneys was the property of SRS. The firm did not have written policies regarding matters such as pro bono work, representing family, developing and teaching continuing education courses or mediations. Eleven times during the years he practiced at SRS, Shaft directed payments for his services be paid directly to him at his residential address, instead of to SRS. Shaft generated bills for the eleven matters listing his residence address as the billing address instead of SRS. The matters included, but were not limited to, Shaft formulating and teaching continuing education courses, handling mediations, and a situation where Shaft represented family members. The total amount of the payments Shaft received for the matters was approximately $40,000.
In December 2012, Shaft withdrew from SRS and became the sole shareholder in Grant H. Shaft, PLLC doing business as Shaft Law Office. Shaft reimbursed SRS for the total amount of payments he received for the eleven matters and, upon reimbursement, was paid a sum equal to his fifty percent interest in the amounts reimbursed. By written agreement, SRS and Shaft have resolved any remaining issues regarding similar billings.
Shaft self-reported his conduct to the Disciplinary Board. He admitted his conduct violated N.D.R. Lawyer Discipl. 1.2(a)(3), Grounds for Discipline, and N.D.R. Prof. Conduct 8.4(c), Misconduct, which provides that it is misconduct to engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s fitness as a lawyer. He also admitted his conduct violated N.D.R. Prof. Conduct 1.15(d), Safekeeping Property, which provides that upon receiving, in connection with a representation, funds or other property in which a third person has an interest, a lawyer shall promptly notify the third person; shall promptly deliver to the third person any funds or other property the third person is entitled to receive; and, upon request by the third person, shall promptly provide a full accounting regarding such property. Shaft admitted that, although his conduct primarily involved internal firm matters between the two shareholders of SRS, it involved an element of deception that adversely reflects on his fitness to practice.
Basically, it seems the suspension is because Shaft took payments outside of his law firm.
Read the whole order here.