Stephen J. Lee, Forum News Service, Published January 31 2014
Grand Forks attorney facing murder conspiracy charge has license suspended
Howe, who has had a law license in North Dakota for 40 years and lived and practiced in Grand Forks since 1980 as a criminal defense attorney, was arrested Thursday morning in Grafton as he arrived to represent a client in a felony drug case in state district court.
Howe was charged Thursday with conspiring with two convicted drug felons, and a fourth man working as an undercover informant for law enforcement, to kill a female undercover informant who is a key witness in a drug case against Paul Lysengen, who is Howe’s client.
The charge is a Class AA felony with a top sentence of life in prison without parole. Howe bailed out of jail Thursday in Grafton after paying, through his son, $10,000 cash on a $100,000 bond amount.
The Supreme Court’s decision, posted Friday afternoon on its website, stated “sufficient information exists that Howe poses a substantial threat of irreparable harm to the public because of the facts attested in the affidavit evidence a criminal conspiracy to obstruct justice by murdering a witness.”
Sally Holewa, administrator for the state Supreme Court, said Friday that while at least two North Dakota attorneys over the past 20 years or so have had their law licenses suspended because of felony charges, no one at the court can remember an attorney facing a murder-related charge.
In their quick decision Friday, the Supreme Court justices also said Howe violated state rules of professional conduct for attorneys by “failing to disclose information reasonably necessary to prevent death or serious bodily harm,” by obstructing another’s access to evidence, by committing a criminal act “that adversely reflects on Howe’s fitness as a lawyer,” and “by engaging in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice.”
The ruling includes a request for a trustee to be appointed to take over Howe’s law practice to “protect the interests of Howe’s clients and his law firm.”
Howe’s clients include Gregory Kitchens, charged with a raft of sexual assault felonies for allegedly imprisoning, beating and assaulting a woman in his home in Cavalier last year. That trial, scheduled to start March 3, will have to be delayed, a court official said.
Howe also has been arguing in recent weeks with state officials to keep his law license over previous disciplinary actions.
He also is being sued by a Mexican couple who allege his malpractice over more than four years cost them and their children hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages because he failed to provide them effective counsel before federal immigration courts threatening their deportation.
Howe told a judge Thursday he plans to hire an attorney to defend him against the murder conspiracy charge and that he believes he will be exonerated.