Nicholas Schutz was stripped of his legal license on Wednesday after acknowledging he practiced law and behaved dishonestly while suspended for previous misconduct.
The lock is due to Schutz handling an immigration case. The law firm first filed for disciplinary action at the end of December.
Documents state that while Schutz accepted a fee of $ 1,500 to help a local woman and her Canadian fiancee collect documents and file a permanent residence application, while he was suspended. However, Schutz never filed the application with the U.S. citizenship and immigration authorities, which resulted in the man exceeding his allotted time in the country, according to the petition.
Schutz, who was admitted to the bar in 2005, served on a variety of cases including family law, estate planning, and immigration with a law firm called Twin Ports Law in downtown Duluth. However, after a series of violations, he had not been allowed to practice since May 2014.
The 47-year-old protection did not dispute the chamber’s request for blocking.
“Well, with the disciplinary history I’ve gathered, it would have been really difficult to convince the Supreme Court that I earned less,” he told the News Tribune on Thursday. “I’ve made some unfortunate legal decisions in my legal career and that’s the result.”
PREVIOUS: Duluth attorney suspended
Schutz was first suspended almost seven years ago when the Supreme Court found he had failed to keep the required escrow books and was not cooperative with a bar association investigation. The court said at the time that he could not request reinstatement for at least 90 days.
When Schutz applied for permission to return to the practice in November 2016, his petition led to a second disciplinary investigation. A standard review of his client accounts, bank statements and other records revealed that court documents state that his escrow account “has sufficient funds at all times to cover all client balances.”
Schutz later met with Susan Humiston, director of the technical committee, and admitted that he was unable to assign certain transactions to individual customers due to the lack of proper records as per the petition.
While claiming that all funds were ultimately earned, the Board found that the misconduct occurred while he was already being investigated for trust account issues and that his “non-cooperation” prevented the issues from being discovered earlier.
He was also issued four warnings for other violations during his suspension, including failing to notify clients of his suspension, handling a client’s affair after suspension, and failing to provide clients with case updates and billing statements.
The alleged sanction at the time was a lockdown, but Humiston joined Schutz in requesting another opportunity, citing “the unique facts of the case”. According to records, Schutz had “expressed considerable remorse” and submitted medical records showing a diagnosis of anxiety and depression associated with “extreme stress” in his personal life.
The Supreme Court granted a three-year extension to his suspension in March 2019 and set a number of additional conditions that must be met before he can apply for reinstatement.
PREVIOUS: Duluth attorney’s suspension has been extended
The most recent incident came to light after the immigration-related couple filed a complaint. According to the petition, the woman emailed Schutz through his law firm to request assistance with her fiancé’s immigration. He replied for the first time in September 2018 and met the couple in a coffee shop in April 2019 to provide forms, discuss the required documents and the application process.
Schutz has never announced that he has been suspended, according to the petition. He did not conduct a written fee agreement, but the couple provided him with $ 1,500 for his services and money orders to be paid to the Department of Homeland Security for filing fees.
Schutz never filed the application, telling the bar that it was always his intention for the couple to do so themselves. However, the petition notes that he kept her money orders in a safe deposit box at home and informed the couple in December 2019 that he was checking the status of the case with immigration officials. At this point, the customer had exceeded their authorized time in the country.
Once the complaint was filed, Schutz returned the $ 1,500 fee and customers’ money orders.
Schutz said he wasn’t sure how clients found him, but decided to help them based on his experience with immigration cases.
“It is a form-driven process, and in that sense there are ways to help people who are not legal practice,” he said. “In other words, ways to help people without giving legal advice. But that was a line I should never have tried.”
Schutz described his situation as “certainly embarrassing and very humiliating”, although he said the lockdown offered a certain “finality”. He said he had found other areas of work and was considering a possible return to the legal area as a mediator.