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Carlson's attorney suspended for 30 days by Minnesota Supreme Court

The attorney for Last Place on Earth owner Jim Carlson must serve a 30-day suspension due to mismanagement of financial records, the Minnesota Supreme Court ordered Wednesday.

Randall Tigue, who has his law office in Golden Valley, Minn., will begin serving the suspension on March 24.

"It's going to disrupt things, but not too much," Tigue told the News Tribune about an hour after the order was issued. "It'll be an annoyance, but not something I can't overcome."

The Supreme Court opinion states that Tigue "failed to maintain trust account books and records, failed to retain trust account bank records for the required period of time, and negligently misappropriated client funds."

The suspension could interfere with the sentencing for Carlson, who was convicted in October on 51 federal crimes related to the sale of synthetic drugs at his downtown Duluth shop. Tigue said a probation officer recently notified him that Carlson's presentence investigation should be complete by March 31, so a sentencing date probably will be set soon thereafter.

But Tigue, 65, said he has another attorney in his office who can handle his caseload for a month, and there are four other defense attorneys representing Carlson's girlfriend and son in the case.

This is the second time Tigue, who has been licensed to practice law in Minnesota since 1973, has been disciplined for financial mismanagement. In October 2007, he was publicly reprimanded and placed on two years of probation for failing to properly maintain his trust books and records.

In the new incident, the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility claimed Tigue's trust fund balance was "continuously short of (the) amount necessary to cover aggregate client balances" from May 2010 to June 2012. The shortages ranged from 30 cents to $481.

OLPR said the shortages were caused by Tigue issuing checks to himself in amounts exceeding the funds available for disbursement. In February 2012, he began making deposits into the account to cover shortages, but it took him until June 2012 to rebalance the account.

"Tigue admitted that in October 2009 he let maintenance of his trust account books and records 'slide' because he was no longer on probation and no longer had an obligation to submit his trust account records to the Director (of OLPR)," the opinion states.

Tigue said Wednesday that he does not dispute the facts in the case.

A referee hired to review the case recommended that Tigue be publicly reprimanded and placed on supervised probation for three years. But OLPR Director Martin Cole challenged the recommendation, asking the Supreme Court to suspend Tigue for 90 days and require him to petition for reinstatement.

The Supreme Court, issuing a group opinion, ruled that Tigue's misconduct was unintentional, but admonished him for having a second violation and taking five months to eliminate the shortage.

"Although there is no indication in the record that Tigue's misconduct resulted from any intention to deceive his clients, his misconduct is nonetheless serious," the court wrote. "This court considers 'unintentional misappropriation' of client funds and the failure to maintain the required trust account books and records a serious violation of the rules."

The court ruled that Tigue must pay a $900 fine and notify clients and opposing counsel of the 30-day suspension. To be eligible for reinstatement, he must file an affidavit establishing that he is current with legal requirements. He is not required to petition the Supreme Court for reinstatement.

Tigue said reinstatement should be a smooth process.

"I've already given them records showing 18 consecutive months of compliance," he said.

Once the suspension is over, Tigue will subject two years of supervised probation.