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Saturday, October 17, 2020

Minnesota BAR Goes After Minnesota Supreme Court Candidate Michelle MacDonald

(Michelle MacDonald from her Facebook page)

 The public got a unique look at the sausage, so to speak, of corruption being made in the Minnesota legal system. 

On September 16, 2020, the Minnesota Bar held a disciplinary hearing against Minnesota attorney Michelle MacDonald.

Michelle and I wrote the book "Sandra Grazzini-Rucki and the World's Last Custody Trial."

Michelle has been practicing as an attorney for nearly forty years and she never had any problems until she took up the Rucki case.

Since then, she was stopped by police for drunk driving despite later having no alcohol in her system, already suspended by the Bar once, detained for a full day without being charged, and even called a "person of interest" in a crime by certain people

She is currently running for Minnesota Supreme Court in November 2020 and this hearing appeared timed so that it can be smeared against her during the campaign. 

The first time Michelle was disciplined by the Board, it was for petty issues. Minneapolis Star Tribune describes it in more detail, "The Supreme Court’s suspension pointed to many instances of professional misconduct by MacDonald, including in 2013 when she interrupted a Dakota County judge in open court dozens of times, questioned the judge’s ability to be objective, failed to properly prepare for a court appearance, took photographs in court and other disruptive behavior that led to her arrest."

First the incident they are referring to occurred in 2013 but for unknown reasons the Minnesota Bar waited until 2018 to take action. 

The Bar blamed Michelle for being handcuffed and wheeled in and forced to conduct part of a custody trial, that of the Rucki children, handcuffed to a wheelchair. In the video below, at 1:10:00 she is wheeled in and proceedings continue shortly after that. 


Also, the judge who presided over the case, David Knutson, initially brought forward the complaint, something judges generally do not do. 

This is important because this latest complaint in 2020 was also triggered by Judge David Knutson. 

It turns out that Judge Knutson was listening to WCCO, a Minnesota radio station, when Michelle MacDonald, then also a candidate for Minnesota Supreme Court, came on a show called "Midday" with Blois Olsen.

The broadcast occurred on October 3, 2018. 

Olson asked MacDonald about the Rucki case and she mentioned Judge Knutson, "Um, the children had run away. So that, that was a civil rights violation even before that happened," MacDonald said. "I have on behalf of Sandra sued the presiding judge. His name was David Knutson and I sued him in federal court. That suit was pending, um, when she was having her custody trial that event occurred."

Michelle is referring to herself being handcuffed to the wheelchair. 

She continued, "Both of their rights were violated the court. What the public needs to be aware of is that I got involved- and I did the case pro bono- is that Sandra came to me and both she and her um= the father not her husband at the time- had no contact with their children whatsoever. Um the judge did that in September of 2012, without any hearing, without any process, and in two hours ordered her, she was already divorced, to leave her home, leave her children there, whom she had custody of, five of them, and ordered her not to return or she'd be arrested."

In fact, Judge Knutson's order said exactly that. It's below. 

G168-1201-0006 by mikekvolpe

This order was signed after a telephonic conference, not a hearing, which neither parent attended. That's below.

G168-1201-0669 by mikekvolpe

That is actually the only references to Judge Knutson but he still saw fit to file a complaint. The whole interview is below. 

Judge Knutson previously had the Dakota County Sheriff's investigate a Twitter account which was critical of him. He was recently in the news on another matter as well; he just gave an unusually light sentence to a woman who nearly killed a toddler; she is to serve less than one year in jail, based on Knutson's light sentence.  

In this case, after Judge Knutson filed a complaint, the board appears to have taken its time again. Though the interview- along with two other complaints- all were of things which occurred in 2018 or earlier, discipline was not brought until 2020. 

Normally, such a disciplinary hearing would be held behind closed doors, but in this case, it was streamed live and the marathon session, two parts, is below. 

The hearing centered on three things. First it was the interview which the Bar argued impugned Judge Knutson's integrity. 

Second, Michelle had a dispute with a client where he may have paid $50 more than he should have. 

Finally, she filed a lawsuit against Michael Brodkorb for defamation which the board considers frivolous and since she was required to do due diligence during her probation this would violate her probation. 

If this seems petty, it's because it is. 

In the case of the client, he was a walk-in, a slip and fall, who asked her to look at his case. Michelle agreed to open the file for $50 and then charged him $500 to review it. 

That's what the review agreement states and her client even agreed this is what it states. 

The bar, through their attorney Keshini Ratnayake, argued that the $500 was a "flat fee" which it was characterized as, and that in Minnesota a flat fee means the only fee. 

Michelle noted that the $50 fee was also noted on the agreement and that she charged it first. 

There was a question over what her client understood and when he actually got the agreement, but this dispute goes no further. 

Ms. Ratnayake, in her opening remarks, said that Michelle's transgression against Judge Knutson was most significant because she'd already been found guilty by the Board of a similar transgression.

"The most serious misconduct Your Honor will learn about today is that in October of 2018, as a candidate for the Minnesota Supreme Court, Ms. MacDonald spoke on a radio program and repeated her false statements about the integrity of a judge, the same judge who was involved in her previous case."

During the hearing Ms. Ratnayake argued that in the September 5, 2012, hearing, Ms. Grazzini-Rucki was represented by counsel, thereby giving it process presumably.

Many people outside the law profession would be surprised to learn that lawyers are very limited in the things they can say about judges.

In fact, here is the rule from the American Bar Association (ABA).

A lawyer shall not make a statement that the lawyer knows to be false or with reckless disregard as to its truth or falsity concerning the qualifications or integrity of a judge, adjudicatory officer or public legal officer, or of a candidate for election or appointment to judicial or legal office.

Ms. Ratnayake's argument, thereby, is that by saying Judge David Knutson provided her client no due process, she was recklessly disregarding the truth and impugning his reputation."

As Michelle testified, on September 5, 2012, Judge David Knutson held a telephonic conference without either parent present. No testimony was taken, as no witnesses were called, but at this conference, it was decided that SGR would be forcefully removed from her home and the five Rucki children's paternal aunt would move in. SGR was notified on September 7, in the order above, and given three hours to vacate the house or be arrested. 

Judge Knutson's order was temporary, making it nearly impossible to appeal. 

This, presumably, is what Ms. Ratnayake refers to as due process; I asked but she did not respond to an email. 

Finally, Ms. Ratnayake accused Michelle of filing a frivolous lawsuit against Michael Brodkorb, who owns the website Missing in Minnesota."

Michelle lost her lawsuit when it was dismissed as a summary judgment, and an appeal's court upheld this decision. 

One dispute revolves around Brodkorb's repeatedly referring to Michelle as a "person of interest" in the 2013 disappearance of the two Rucki girls; the girls were found in 2015 and four people were found guilty; Michelle was never suspected or charged. 

I say she was never suspected because she previously played a recording of a phone conversation between her and a Lakeville Police Officer, Jason Polinski. Here is part of our book, Sandra Grazzini-Rucki and the World's Last Custody Trial.

I contacted Stahl immediately and read him the riot act. I told him that I was cooperating and he had no right to call me a “person of interest” just because I was Sandra’s lawyer. He has not done so since.

I didn’t know it at the time but Dronen had been in charge of the case since 2014. Not once had he contacted me or Sandra in all that time. Yet Dronen suggested “it was virtually the only one he worked on,” according to a blog post on the case.

The last and only time I spoke with the Lakeville Police Department, shortly before this book was published, they were wishy washy as to whether or not I was a suspect.

I asked Lieutenant Jason Polinski if I was a “person of interest” because a local blogger Michael Brodkorb had repeatedly used that term. When I called Brodkorb out on it as defamatory, he said the Lakeville police labeled me as a “person of interest”, it was reported by “numerous outlets” since April 2015 and he could not remove a label he didn’t assign, saying that “even if the label is removed, it is still accurate to report that you were labeled a ‘person of interest’ in this case.” Brodkorb refused to take down his posts or reveal his source. 

The Stahl refers to Brandon Stahl of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, who stated that Michelle was a "person of interest" in one article in 2015. In fact, it was only reported that one time by Stahl and then repeatedly reported by Brodkorb. 

As we explain, once contacted, Stahl stopped. Brodkorb is the only one, especially in 2020, still referring to her as a "person of interest" which is not an official police term. 

In fact, Dr. Steven Hatfill, who was referred to the FBI as a "person of interest" in the anthrax attacks and later won millions for the false label. 

Second, Michelle objected to an unflattering photo which Brodkorb often posted, which he claimed was a booking photo. A still of Michelle holding the photo during the hearing is below. 

This is of course unlike any other booking photo or mugshot. A mugshot is below. 

Once again, Brodkorb argued that law enforcement provided him this mugshot and it was law enforcement who referred to it as a mugshot. 

Michelle said there could not have been a mugshot since when she was detained on September 13, 2013, while she was held for approximately a day, she was never booked and allowed to leave without being booked. 

This led to a bizarre exchange where Ms. Ratnayake said, "I know it is your opinion you were never booked..." but then arguing since Brodkorb asked for a booking photo and said this is what was provided, this meant she was booked and had a booking photo. 

Finally, Michelle argued that Brodkorb would put the photo above in blog posts next to the photos of everyone who was convicted in the case- Dede Evavold, :Doug Dahlen, Gina Dahlen, and Sandra Grazzini-Rucki- and this she argued was defamation by implication. More on this legal term here

Finally, Michelle said that Brodkorb falsely accused her of a DUI. She was never convicted of a DUI; she was convicted of obstruction, even though she was stopped for being suspected of a DUI, and later found to have had no alcohol. Somehow, the court found she obstructed the fruitless investigation into her non-existent DUI. 

Everyone agreed that she was not convicted of a DUI; Michelle argued that Brodkorb falsely accused her of it in a tweet; Brodkorb testified and provided an affidavit saying he never did any such thing. 

For Michelle's strongest evidence, she provided a screenshot from her phone of this tweet. It's below. 

(screenshot presented from Michelle's phone of what appears to be a tweet)

Brodkorb acknowledged that @mbrodkorb is his twitter account. RT generally means retweet, so it does appear as though he is retweeting the false tweet from a Minneapolis Star Tribune reporter named David Chanen whose twitter handle is @chanenstrib. 

Brodkorb testifies to this in the last seventeen minutes of the second part of the hearing. 

Brodkorb said he did not know where Michelle got this but that he did not find any such tweet and said he was sticking with his testimony that he never tweeted this out. 

From this it appears Ms. Ratnayake claims that the lawsuit was frivolous. 

The Appeal Michelle filed is below.

B383-1601-0153 by mikekvolpe on Scribd

Below is what I sent to her and Judge Knutson by email: neither responded. 

At about 42 minutes here, you say, "I know it is your opinion you were never booked," on September 13, 2013. I think she would know if she was booked. about 1:10:00 you will see Ms. MacDonald wheeled in handcuffed and chained to a wheelchair. That is from September 13, 2013. That's no opinion. 

Here's an opinion based on fact. Judge David Knutson was bribed in this case. That means you are defending someone as honorable who took a bribe.

Now, if he didn't take a bribe, why do you think David Rucki got 100%, plus child support and alimony, plus sole custody? Why do you think a lawyer was forced to conduct part of this trial handcuffed to a wheelchair?

Knutson has people like you do his dirty work. I'm attaching a police report. This is him asking Dakota County Sheriff's to investigate a tweet. Anyone says something he doesn't like and Knutson can have them investigated.

Who do you think you are in this scenario? You're either a fool or budding to be as corrupt as him. I don't know which. Which is it 

Post Script 

This is the start of a four article series which is being done in conjunction with a new organization entitled FIRST4. FIRST4 hopes to build software which would make activists aware whenever a child is taken by CPS anywhere in the US because the first four hours in the system are the most critical. 

1 comment:

Lena B said...

As a registered voter in the State of Minnesota, I will PROUDLY vote for Michelle MacDonald as Supreme Court Judge. She seems to be the only candidate who has the courage, and integrity, to stand up for what is right. Second, the harassment and bullying Michelle has experienced makes her uniquely qualified to understand and empathize with everyday people and our struggles. Third, she has over 40 years of legal experience. The Minnesota Court system has seriously strayed from it's intended purpose and is in need of change, and a fresh perspective on the bench. I'm sick of politics as usual. I'm voting for Michelle.