MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota – A prominent Twin Cities lawyer is facing possible disbarment after being suspended by the Minnesota Supreme Court for his alleged mishandling of cases over a span of more than a decade.
Attorney Michael Padden, based in Lake Elmo, is accused of several serious violations, including advising a client in a criminal case to flee before sentencing and subsequently lying about it to a judge. The client was subsequently arrested, extradited, and spent three years in prison instead of the agreed upon six months.
In addition to these allegations, Padden is also accused of misappropriating clients’ funds, failing to deposit money into trust accounts as required by state rules, and failing to maintain proper records.
Legal ethics experts, including Joseph Daly, an emeritus professor at Mitchell Hamline School of Law, highlight the severity of Padden’s alleged violations. Richard Painter, a professor of legal ethics at the University of Minnesota Law School and former chief ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush, states that if the allegations are true, Padden would be in deep trouble.
Padden, who did not respond to requests for comment, has frequently represented clients involved in high-profile cases. Notably, he represented the family of Terrance Franklin, a young Black man killed by Minneapolis police in 2013, and later wrote a book about the case. He also defended Diamond Reynolds, who livestreamed her boyfriend’s fatal shooting by a police officer in 2016.
Most recently, Padden won an acquittal for Bernard Mack, who had been charged with murder, and was representing him in a separate case involving a drive-by shooting and the discovery of drugs.
The allegations against Padden were initially brought to light in January 2023 by the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility, a state agency responsible for investigating attorney misconduct. The agency filed a petition for disciplinary action with the state Supreme Court, outlining seven counts of alleged misconduct.
Associate Supreme Court Justice Margaret Chutich subsequently ordered Padden’s suspension and set filing deadlines for further proceedings. A referee had found seven violations under Wisconsin court rules and 22 violations under Minnesota court rules.
The allegations against Padden include a case in which he allegedly advised a client to leave the state and then falsely informed the presiding judge that the client chose not to attend the hearing. The client was later extradited and sentenced to prison.
Furthermore, Padden is accused of mishandling client funds, resulting in a significant shortfall. An audit by the Lawyers Responsibility Board revealed a shortfall of over $212,000 in Padden’s trust account.
The seriousness of these allegations raises concerns about Padden’s professional conduct and his ability to represent his clients effectively. The Minnesota Supreme Court will now decide the fate of Padden’s legal career as the disciplinary proceedings move forward.
As the legal community awaits the resolution of this case, questions are being raised about the consequences lawyers face for violating their professional responsibilities. The outcome of this high-profile case will undoubtedly have far-reaching implications for the legal profession in Minnesota and beyond.