Minnesota Supreme Court Allows Judge Timothy Blakely to Profit from His Fraudulent Earnings

Judge Timothy Blakely was "caught" referring steering divorce cases to the firm that was handling his own case.

Judge Timothy Blakely earns $123,000 per year as a judge.

Judge Timothy Blakely received $64,000 in discounts on his own divorce (as a result of those referrals).

Judge Timothy Blakely will be suspended from practicing and without pay for 6 months.

$123,000 divided by 2, equals a $61,500 $64,000 equals $125,500, which is a $2500 profit on top of Judge Timothy Blakely's usual salary, PLUS a half of a year's vacation!!!

What a great deal!!!!! Where can the rest of us sign up?

Plead ignorance
Acknowledge that was you did was possibly bad
Get your comrades and peers to sit your on case
and perhaps
Offer them something under the table...

This is what should be called an impressive collusion. This is such a clear example of what we call the fox guarding the hen house--and why most judges, regardless of which injustices they have done, stay on the bench.

Supreme Court suspends Dakota County judge for six months without pay

High court opts for suspension in legal referrals
By Frederick Melo
[email protected]
Updated: 09/17/2009 11:46:00 PM CDT

The Minnesota Supreme Court has chosen to discipline — but not fire — a judge who received a deep discount on his legal bills after steering cases to his own divorce attorney.

District Judge Timothy Blakely, who hears cases in Dakota and Goodhue counties, will be suspended from the bench for six months without pay, the state's highest court ruled in an opinion filed Thursday. Blakely earns more than $123,000 annually.

The suspension begins immediately. He also is publicly reprimanded as an attorney and cannot return to legal work until the suspension is over.

"In essence, he cannot practice law for six months, be it as a judge or as a lawyer," said Martin Cole, director of the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility.

The U.S. attorney's office opened a separate inquiry into whether Blakely's actions constituted mail fraud, but it is unclear if a federal grand jury was ever convened, said Doug Kelley, an attorney for the Minnesota Board on Judicial Standards.

"We have received a subpoena and we have complied with a subpoena," Kelley said. "The subpoena asked for documents ... and we provided the documents that were requested. I do not know whether anyone has been called to a grand jury or not."

Thomas Kelly, Blakely's attorney, said he was unaware of any federal investigation.

Justice Alan Page took no part in the court decision and Justice Paul Anderson argued for the more severe sanction of suspension until June 30,

Blakely was elected as a judge in the 1st Judicial District in 1998 and re-elected to a six-year term in 2004. His current term expires in January 2011.

In May, the Minnesota Board on Judicial Standards recommended that Blakely, 46, of Eagan, be the fourth Minnesota judge to be dismissed from the bench in 40 years. Two members of the 10-member board argued instead for suspension.

As an automatic result of the board's recommendation, Blakely had been suspended with pay since May.

A legal fact-finding panel appointed by the board determined that over 3 1/2 years, Blakely referred at least 17 divorce cases to his own divorce lawyer for mediation or related services, in addition to referring people he knew. The arrangement resulted in a discount of more than $64,000 — nearly two-thirds of his legal bill in his own divorce.

Blakely hired the St. Paul law firm of Collins, Buckley, Sauntry and Haugh in 2002 to represent him in the divorce, anticipating a quick settlement, according to his statements last year to the panel. Instead, the case dragged on and his legal fees exceeded $109,000.

Through a series of e-mails, Blakely urged his attorney, Christine Stroemer, to accept a smaller lump sum.

"There is also very substantial past, and future, benefit to you from significant business referrals we have made in excess of the compromise we are asking for," he wrote in an e-mail dated Oct. 19, 2005.

Stroemer responded two days later: "Tim, I would certainly consider a compromised [sic] lump sum payment in lieu of future small monthly payments. I certainly appreciate the mediation referrals you have sent my way and hope that you continue to do so."

Blakely later told the fact-finding panel that by business referrals, he was referring to friends and acquaintances he had sent to Stroemer, and not to cases appearing before him as a judge.

The Supreme Court noted, however, that Blakely made no effort to clarify their arrangement then or in subsequent e-mails in which he offered her firm $31,000 from the sale of his house.

In 2007, Blakely's ex-wife filed a complaint with the Board on Judicial Standards accusing Blakely of misconduct.

During two days of testimony before a fact-finding panel in November, Stroemer and another partner from her firm noted this was one of the largest discounts the firm had ever agreed to.

Blakely said he never thought the arrangement might appear inappropriate until he reviewed the series of e-mails to Stroemer while responding to the Board on Judicial Standards. He later asked to be publicly censured and not suspended or removed from office.

Neither the board nor the Supreme Court, in its written opinion, went so far as to determine that Blakely actually entered into a "quid pro quo" arrangement and should be punished for it. Instead, the court found that his actions reflected "a serious lack of judgment" for failing to inform the parties in the cases before him of his connection to Stroemer and of his unpaid legal debts to her firm.

The potential appearance of impropriety was at least as troubling as the arrangement itself, they found.

Under the state Code of Judicial Conduct, judges cannot accept gifts or special arrangements that could "reasonably be perceived as intended to influence the judge in the performance of judicial duties."

Reads the Supreme Court opinion: "There is no question that substantial grounds for judicial discipline are present here. ... The purpose of judicial discipline is not to punish the offending judge, but to protect the public by preserving the integrity of the judicial system."

The Supreme Court, which has final say on punishing the state's judges and lawyers, stopped short of removing Blakely from office, noting that only three judges have been forced from the bench since 1972.

Harvey Ginsburg was removed in 2004 after assaulting a 14-year-old boy and threatening to charge him with a felony if he called police.

In 1984, Robert Crane Winton lost his judgeship after soliciting 15 to 20 male prostitutes, including one who was 16 years old.

And Jack F.C. Gillard was removed in 1978 after a number of incidents came to light involving dishonest dealings with legal clients before his appointment to the bench.

Frederick Melo can be reached at 651-228-2172.

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