ST. PAUL, Minn. (Legal Newsline)-District Judge Timothy Blakely has been suspended without pay for six months for receiving discounts on his legal fees after directing cases to his divorce attorney.
Blakely is also banned from doing any legal work until the suspension is over. Blakely earns $123,000 annually.
The U.S. attorney's office had a separate investigation as to whether or not mail fraud was involved but Thomas Kelly; Blakely's attorney has stated that he was unaware of any federal investigation.
Blakely was elected in 1998. His current term is set to expire in 2011.
The Minnesota Board of Judicial Standards had wanted Blakely removed from the bench but two members argued for suspension.
The board found that over the last three and a half years Blakely had referred 17 cases to his divorce attorney, which resulted in his own divorce being discounted by more than $64,000.
The investigation revealed e-mails sent between Blakely and his divorce attorney where Blakely had been asking for a lower fee and suggesting that there were past, present and future benefits for the law firm.
"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 had asked the board to reprimand him, but not suspend or remove him as he did not realize that the business arrangement might seem inappropriate.
The board found that Blakely's actions showed a "serious lack of judgment" for not informing the cases before him of his personal strings to the law firm in which he was referring them.
The Supreme Court's opinion states: "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."