Direct Appeal Third District, Salt Lake The Honorable Andrew
H. Stone No. 160904532
L. Walker, Adam C. Bevis, Salt Lake City, for appellant
Michael F. Skolnick, Salt Lake City, for appellee
Justice Petersen authored the opinion of the Court in which
Chief Justice Durrant, Associate Chief Justice Lee, Justice
Himonas, and Justice Pearce joined.
The Office of Professional Conduct (OPC) filed an attorney
discipline case against Charles W. Dahlquist, II for
repeatedly violating a judge's order in limine
during a 2008 jury trial. No one present at the trial alerted
the OPC to the conduct. Rather, the OPC learned of it from
our opinion reversing the jury's verdict and granting a
new trial based in part on Dahlquist's violations of the
order. Wilson v. IHC Hosps., Inc., 2012 UT 43,
¶ 27, 289 P.3d 369 (stating that the "persistent
and deliberate references to collateral source evidence in
violation of the trial court's in limine order
substantially prejudiced the jury").
The OPC immediately opened an investigation. But by this
time, over three-and-a-half years had passed since the
original trial. Nevertheless, the OPC proceeded with its
investigation and communicated with the plaintiffs in the
underlying case. The plaintiffs eventually filed an informal
complaint with the Utah State Bar in 2015. After a hearing on
the informal complaint before a screening panel of the Ethics
and Discipline Committee, the OPC filed this case in the
district court in 2016.
Dahlquist moved for summary judgment based on the statute of
limitations, and the district court granted the motion. The
OPC appeals, arguing that the district court misinterpreted
what begins and ends the running of the limitations period.
Rule 14-529 of the Supreme Court Rules of Professional
Practice governs this issue. It establishes a four-year
limitations period for attorney discipline cases that begins
to run upon the "discovery" of the alleged attorney
misconduct and stops when "[p]roceedings under this
article" commence. The issues before us are: (1)
whose "discovery" triggers the running of the
limitations period and (2) what constitutes "proceedings
under this article."
We hold that discovery by a party with an interest in filing
an informal complaint under rule 14-510, as is the case here,
is sufficient to start the running of the statute of
limitations. And we interpret "proceedings" to mean
the filing of an informal complaint under that rule.
Accordingly, we conclude that the district court correctly
dismissed the complaint against Dahlquist as untimely, and we
Dahlquist represented IHC Hospitals, Inc. in a medical
malpractice lawsuit filed against it by Jerome and Leilani
Wilson. The jury trial took place from October 29 to November
21, 2008. Before trial, the Wilsons prevailed on a motion
in limine to exclude evidence of collateral source
benefits they had received. But during the trial, Dahlquist
made repeated references to those benefits. Wilson v. IHC
Hosps., Inc., 2012 UT 43, ¶ 12, 289 P.3d 369.
The Wilsons moved for a new trial based in part on
Dahlquist's conduct, but the trial court denied their
request. The jury returned a verdict in favor of IHC, and the
case was dismissed on December 9, 2008.
The Wilsons appealed the dismissal, based in part on
Dahlquist's violations of the in limine order.
In an opinion published on July 20, 2012, we agreed that IHC
had "persistently and deliberately violated the trial
court's order," and we granted the Wilsons a new
trial. Id. at ¶ 2.
On the day the opinion was published, the OPC was notified of
this court's decision and opened an investigation into
Dahlquist's conduct. Over the course of its
investigation, the OPC corresponded with the Wilsons'
On March 2, 2015, the Wilsons sent a letter to the OPC
seeking to file a bar complaint against Dahlquist. That same
month, they verified the letter in accordance with rule
14-510(a)(2) of the Rules of Professional Practice. The OPC
consolidated the Wilsons' informal complaint with its
A screening panel of the Ethics and Discipline Committee of
the Utah Supreme Court held a hearing on the informal
complaint. The panel recommended that the OPC file a formal