necessity

Austin attorney could lose license

Published 11:30am Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Austin attorney Peter Plunkett will soon know if he can continue his law practice.

The Director of the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility has filed a petition in Minnesota Supreme Court to suspend Plunkett’s license to practice law. Martin A. Cole, director of that office, filed the petition on Sept. 11 after Plunkett waived a probable cause hearing before a panel of the Lawyers of Professional Responsibility Board.

Click here for a PDF of the petition

Minnesota Surety and Trust Company — which Plunkett is the president of — was fined $1.2 million in May 2011 by the Colorado Division of Insurance for its bail bond practices in Colorado, but that fine was stayed under a number of conditions, according to Plunkett’s lawyer, Marshall H. Tanick of Hellmuth & Johnson, PLC. The Minnesota Department of Commerce fined the company $50,000 in civil penalties, according to the recent OLPR news release; and late last year also ordered Surety and Trust to liquidate its assets in Austin at 107 Oakland Ave. W. Tanick said only $10,000 of the $50,000 fine needed to be paid, and added that Plunkett agreed to be jointly liable for the Minnesota Department of Commerce fine.

The Department of Commerce revoked the company’s certificate of authority and Plunkett’s resident insurance producer’s license and ordered both Plunkett and Surety and Trust to cease and desist from doing business in Minnesota.

Plunkett practices law under the Austin business Plunkett and Associates, Inc., along with his father, Warren Plunkett, who has practiced law there for over 30 years. Because of employees’ alleged conduct at Surety and Trust in Colorado — backstamping some 4,000 files and book work with information that was required beforehand, according to the news release — the OLPR wants to suspend Plunkett’s license altogether. However, Warren Plunkett will continue to operate Plunkett and Associates regardless of whether or not Peter Plunkett’s license is suspended.

While Plunkett could not comment on the situation, his attorneys made a statement Wednesday morning, saying they are reviewing the petition and take the charges seriously, but dispute some of the allegations. They said the will address the charges “in the appropriate forum and at the appropriate time,” and that Plunkett “looks forward to a successful resolution.”

Plunkett had 20 days after the Sept. 11 petition was filed to answer the allegations. Cole said the OLPR will either try to reach an agreement about disciplinary action, or the case will go to the Minnesota Supreme Court for a final decision, which could include dismissal of the petition, or discipline ranging from reprimand to disbarment.

Correction

This article has been updated. It originally incorrectly stated Peter Plunkett was fined $1.2 million in May 2011 by the Colorado Division of Insurance for bail bond practices at his Surety and Trust Company in Colorado, and that he was also fined $50,000 in civil penalties. 

However, it was Minnesota Surety and Trust Company — which Plunkett was the president of — that was fined $1.2 million and another $50,000 in civil penalties. According to Plunkett’s lawyer, Marshall H. Tanick of Hellmuth & Johnson, PLC, the $1.2 million fine was stayed under a number of conditions, and only $10,000 of the $50,000 fine, issued by the Minnesota Department of Commerce, was paid by Minnesota Surety and Trust. Tanick added Plunkett agreed to be jointly liable for the Minnesota Department of Commerce fine.

The article also said, “Plunkett still practices law under the Austin business Plunkett and Associates, Inc.” Tanick points out that Plunkett and Associates will continue to operate regardless of whether Peter Plunkett’s license is suspended. Plunkett’s father, Warren Plunkett, will continue to practice law at Plunkett and Associates, where he has done so for more than 30 years.

Finally, the article quoted Martin A. Cole, Director of the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility, saying “Because Plunkett’s case centers around dishonesty, the appropriate action is suspension.” However, Tanick says the claim of dishonesty is nothing more than an allegation, something Plunkett vigorously denies.

The Herald regrets the errors and apologizes to its readers and to Peter Plunkett.


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