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James MacPherson, Associated Press, Published May 24 2013

ND Supreme Court disciplines lawyer-lawmaker for 2007-2010 case

BISMARCK — A Grand Forks Democratic state senator who is an attorney has been reprimanded and fined by North Dakota's Supreme Court for failing to adequately represent a client in a divorce-related case from 2007-2010.

Connie Triplett said had been suffering from depression during that time but her condition has improved.

"I was suffering from depression and wasn't keeping up on my work," Triplett told The Associated Press on Friday. "I'm much better now. It was a bad time in my life."

The Supreme Court concluded that Triplett failed to act with "reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client." The high court ordered Triplett on Thursday to pay $500 plus interest to her client and nearly $3,000 in to the North Dakota Supreme Court's lawyer disciplinary board.

The Supreme Court's ruling said Triplett was retained by a client in 2003 in post-divorce case. She was paid $500 but little work was required to resolve the dispute, and Triplett asked if the client wanted the unused portion of the retainer returned. The client requested Triplett keep the money and remain on retainer, because she believed she would need Triplett's services in the future.

In 2007, Triplett's client requested assistance related to her ex-husband not paying medical and dental expenses for their daughter. Triplett asked the client to send her the information on the unpaid bills and said she would send a letter to the ex-husband informing him that he still needed to pay his portion of out-of-pocket expenses. Triplett did not send the letter, according to the high court.

The client attempted to contact Triplett in 2009 and then filed a complaint with the high court's disciplinary board alleging Triplett's inaction. The Supreme Court said Triplett testified in a hearing last year that "she had difficulty staffing her office and she felt she was having difficulty focusing on her work."

The high court said Triplett testified that her "personal issues" affected her client from 2007 to 2010.

At the hearing, Triplett testified she has suffered from depression since childhood.

"Her medical records reflect she has been prescribed anti-depressants at various times since September 2007, as well as medication for a sleep disorder," the Supreme Court said. "Her medical records also show Triplett has received psychological counseling over much of the last five years and it appears that her condition has improved and stabilized."

Triplett has been a lawyer in North Dakota since 1981 and a state senator since 2003.

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Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.