A Duluth attorney who has been disciplined by the Minnesota Supreme Court on multiple occasions has once again been suspended, this time for practicing law without a valid license.
Brian Campbell Fischer also neglected a client's case and was uncooperative in an investigation of the matter, according to the disciplinary order.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday suspended Fischer for the third time, ruling he will not have the right to seek reinstatement for at least 120 days.
Fischer, 53, is listed as the operator of a private legal service. He was first disciplined when he was owner of a downtown Duluth firm called "Injury Law," which he had taken over from his then-suspended associate Louis Stockman, who faced his own series of ethical violations.
The Supreme Court in 2013 placed Fischer on two years of probation for failing to supervise Stockman and helping him practice law while he was suspended, using misleading advertising, neglecting two clients, failing to return client files and to expedite litigation and being uncooperative in disciplinary matters.
Fischer opened his own practice later that year but again ran afoul of the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility, which accused of him neglecting six client matters; failing to communicate with those clients; making false statements to one client; failing to return one client's case; and failing to cooperate in the disciplinary investigation.
Fischer later admitted to the allegations under a stipulation that resulted in a 90-day suspension and two years of probation from the Supreme Court in May 2017. A condition of reinstatement required that he submit proof of completion of the ethics examination within one year.
In May 2018, less than a year after receiving a conditional reinstatement, Fischer was again suspended for failing to complete a professional responsibility examination.
The attorney told the News Tribune at the time that he missed the window to take the required test due to limited availability. He added that he was mainly conducting legal research and writing on behalf of other attorneys at that time.
"The previous issues gave me pause to think about whether something else was more to my fit, as far as legal work," he said at the time.
Fischer was reinstated to practice in October 2018, with several conditions. He was ordered not to represent clients in personal injury, medical malpractice or workers' compensation cases without joint representation from "qualified counsel." He was also allowed to handle some non-litigation estate and business-planning matters that could be resolved in less than one month.
According to new disciplinary records, the professional-responsibility board was contacted in January 2019 by a woman who had hired Fischer for a case related to a faulty heating system that had been installed in her home. The woman had become "frustrated by (Fischer's) neglect" after hiring him in May 2018, days before he was ordered to stop practicing law.
In its investigation, the board found that Fischer never notified the client of his nearly six-month suspension, occasionally billing her for work, but ignoring many of her inquires as to the status of the case. Additionally, Fischer failed to either withdraw from the case or find another attorney to sign on after his co-counsel was forced to pull out due to a conflict of interest.
In an interview, Fischer also admitted to taking on other cases involving identity theft and child protection without entering into any joint-representation agreement, as required by the terms of his probation.
The Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility said it served Fischer with new disciplinary charges in April, but he never submitted a formal answer — itself a violation of professional rules. The attorney later admitted to the allegations in a stipulation with the board, jointly recommending the 120-day minimum suspension.
"Respondent represents that he has suffered and continues to suffer with diagnoses of major depressive disorder and anxiety disorder and that these diagnoses have been considered as a mitigating factor in previous proceedings and continue to be a factor in this matter," the stipulation noted.
In addition to the suspension, the Supreme Court said Fischer must successfully complete the professional responsibility portion of the state bar examination in order to seek conditional reinstatement.
Fischer did not return a call from the News Tribune on Wednesday.