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    Wisconsin Lawyer
    Vol. 76, No. 5, May 2003

    Lawyer Discipline


    The Office of Lawyer Regulation (formerly known as the Board of Attorneys Professional Responsibility), an agency of the Wisconsin Supreme Court and component of the lawyer regulation system, assists the court in carrying out its constitutional responsibility to supervise the practice of law and protect the public from misconduct by persons practicing law in Wisconsin. The Office of Lawyer Regulation has offices located at Suite 315, 110 E. Main St., Madison, WI 53703, and Suite 300, 342 N. Water St., Milwaukee, WI 53202. Toll-free telephone: (877) 315-6941.

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    Public reprimand of J.E. Nugent

    The Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR) and J.E. Nugent, 62, Waupun, entered into an agreement for imposition of a public reprimand pursuant to SCR 22.09(1). A referee appointed by the Wisconsin Supreme Court thereafter approved the agreement and issued the public reprimand in accordance with SCR 22.09(3). The reprimand is based upon Nugent's representation of a client in a civil matter.

    In July 1999, a client retained Nugent to file a claim for breach of warranty against the manufacturer and seller of the client's modular home. For approximately one year, Nugent attempted to negotiate a settlement, but he was unable to reach an agreement. The client stated that, in October 2000, Nugent provided him with an unsigned summons and complaint and told him that Nugent had filed the lawsuit. The client subsequently left numerous messages for Nugent inquiring about the status of his case, but Nugent failed to return his calls. Nugent stated that, on Feb. 28, 2001, he mailed a summons and complaint to the court for filing. The court, however, has no record of receiving Nugent's correspondence. On April 24, 2001, the client discharged Nugent after he had visited the courthouse and learned that Nugent had never filed his lawsuit.

    The client subsequently filed a grievance with the OLR. On May 10, 2001, Nugent advised an OLR investigator that he had filed the client's lawsuit. The investigator requested that Nugent forward to her an authenticated copy of the summons and complaint. Nugent then filed the client's lawsuit on May 18, 2001, without informing the client. On May 30, 2001 and June 11, 2001, the OLR investigator again requested from Nugent an authenticated copy of the client's summons and complaint. In response to the OLR's requests, on June 12, 2001, Nugent faxed to the OLR correspondence on his letterhead, dated Feb. 28, 2001, addressed to the clerk of courts. The letter requested that the clerk file the client's summons and complaint. Nugent also faxed an unsigned copy of the summons and complaint. Nugent, however, did not provide the OLR with any documentation disclosing that he had actually filed the lawsuit on May 18, 2001.

    On June 13, 2001 and June 20, 2001, the OLR investigator telephoned Nugent and advised him that she had searched the Circuit Court Automation Program and that she had found in the client's name only one lawsuit, filed on May 18, 2001. She requested that Nugent submit documentation that the case had been filed in February 2001, either an authenticated copy of the summons and complaint or a copy of the cancelled check paid for the filing fee. Nugent responded that he would try to obtain a copy of the check. At the time, however, Nugent knew that there was no evidence that existed to prove that he had filed the client's action before May 18, 2001. On July 3, 2001, Nugent acknowledged to the OLR that he had not filed the client's lawsuit until May 18, 2001.

    By failing to file the client's lawsuit from October 2000 until May 2001, Nugent failed to act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client, in violation of SCR 20:1.3. By failing to respond to the client's telephone calls and by failing to advise the client that he had filed the client's lawsuit in May 2001, Nugent failed to keep the client reasonably informed about the status of a matter and failed to comply with reasonable requests for information, in violation of SCR 20:1.4(a). By filing the client's lawsuit after the client had discharged him, Nugent failed to withdraw from the representation, in violation of SCR 20:1.16(a)(3). By initially informing OLR staff that he had filed the client's lawsuit in February 2001, and then continuing to misrepresent to OLR staff the date that he had filed the lawsuit, Nugent made misrepresentations to OLR staff in the course of its investigation, in violation of SCR 22.03(6).

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    Public reprimand of David G. Merriam

    The OLR and David G. Merriam, 61, Madison, entered into an agreement for imposition of a public reprimand, pursuant to SCR 22.09(1). A referee appointed by the Wisconsin Supreme Court thereafter approved the agreement, and issued the public reprimand on Feb. 17, 2003, in accordance with SCR 22.09(3).

    Merriam was the subject of an OLR grievance investigation, and failed to respond to OLR's initial and second requests for a response to the grievance, necessitating personal service. Merriam eventually filed the required written response and did cooperate with a district committee investigation. No misconduct was found with regard to the underlying allegations, but Merriam's failure to timely file a written response violated SCR 22.03(2).

    Discipline at the public reprimand level was imposed because Merriam had two prior private reprimands and one prior public reprimand for misconduct that included, in each instance, a failure to cooperate with the grievance investigation.

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    Public reprimand of Bartley G. Mauch

    The OLR and Bartley G. Mauch, 60, Prairie du Sac, entered into an agreement for imposition of a public reprimand, pursuant to SCR 22.09(1). A referee appointed by the supreme court thereafter approved the agreement, and issued the public reprimand on March 3, 2003, in accordance with SCR 22.09(3).

    In early 2001, Mauch agreed to review child support numbers on behalf of a client, for the purpose of determining whether an arrearage calculation was accurate. Several months later, the client contacted Mauch by letter and in person, and asked if Mauch had reviewed the file. Mauch admitted he had not. Mauch's neglect of the file violated SCR 20:1.3, which requires a lawyer to act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client. Mauch subsequently reviewed the file and determined the arrearage calculation to be accurate, but he did not communicate his determination to the client, contrary to SCR 20:1.4(a), which requires a lawyer to keep a client reasonably informed about the status of a matter and to promptly comply with reasonable requests for information.

    Mauch failed to respond to three written notices from the OLR, the last of which was personally served, requiring Mauch's response to the client's grievance, which led to Mauch's June 21, 2002, temporary license suspension for willful noncooperation. Mauch then responded through counsel, and his license was reinstated on June 26, 2002. Mauch's initial failure to cooperate in the grievance investigation violated SCR 21.15(4) and 22.03(6). Mauch was publicly reprimanded by the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 1994 for similar conduct.

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    Public reprimand of Lynn M. Bureta

    The OLR and Lynn M. Bureta, 52, Kenosha, entered into an agreement for imposition of a public reprimand pursuant to SCR 22.09(1). A referee appointed by the Wisconsin Supreme Court thereafter approved the agreement and issued the public reprimand in accordance with SCR 22.09(3). The reprimand is based upon Bureta's representation of two clients.

    In the first matter, Bureta was appointed in September 1999 to represent a client on appeal of his conviction for aggravated battery, battery by a prisoner, and threats to injure. Despite the client's letters requesting a meeting or a telephone call, Bureta never spoke with the client during the entire representation. In November 1999, Bureta wrote to the client to advise him that she considered improper venue to be the only appealable issue. In response, the client wrote to Bureta advising her that he believed that there was more than one issue to appeal. Bureta, however, did not respond to the client's correspondence or his two subsequent letters.

    Bureta filed a notice of appeal in January 2000. While she sent a copy of the notice to the client, she did not send a cover letter with the notice explaining the issues that she intended to raise. In April 2000, Bureta filed an appellant's brief in which she raised two issues - a venue claim and a multiplicity claim. She, however, neither communicated with the client before filing the brief nor sent him a copy of the brief. The client only learned that a brief had been filed in May 2000, when he received a copy of a court order granting the state's motion for an extension of time to file a response brief. The client then wrote to the court, and the court issued an order reminding Bureta that communication and consultation with the client were basic to effective legal representation.

    In July 2000, upon learning that the client had filed a grievance with the OLR, Bureta filed a motion to withdraw. On Aug. 8, 2000, the court ordered the State Public Defender to respond as to whether it would appoint new counsel. Subsequently, on Aug. 24, 2000, without prior notice to the client, Bureta filed a motion to withdraw the appellant's brief and to substitute a no merit report as a means to withdraw as counsel. On Sept. 8, 2000, the court issued an order appointing new counsel and deemed Bureta's no merit report as withdrawn. The court wrote, "this court is disturbed by Attorney Bureta's decision to file a brief and then, four months later, seek to withdraw it in favor of a no merit report, particularly where the state deemed the issues sufficiently arguable to file a 27-page respondent's brief."

    The client's successor counsel subsequently filed a postconviction motion with the trial court to modify the client's judgment of conviction by striking a provision that the client could not have contact with his immediate family while on parole. The trial court granted the client's motion. Bureta never considered filing the motion and never advised the client that the trial court had lacked the authority to impose the no contact order. Further, the client's second attorney filed an appeal with the Wisconsin Court of Appeals raising the same multiplicity issue that Bureta had raised in her appellate brief before she had attempted to withdraw it. In April 2002, the court of appeals determined that the charges against the client were multiplicitous, and remanded the issue to the trial court for further proceedings.

    By withdrawing the client's appellate brief and thereby not pursing meritorious appellate issues and by failing to file a postconviction motion to modify the client's judgment of conviction, Bureta failed to provide competent representation, in violation of SCR 20:1.1. By failing to confer with the client about his appeal, Bureta failed to consult with him as to the means by which they were to pursue the objectives of the representation, in violation of SCR 20:1.2(a). By failing to speak with the client, by failing to respond to some of the client's correspondence, and by failing to advise the client of the pleadings that she had filed on his behalf, Bureta failed to keep the client reasonably informed about the status of a matter and promptly comply with reasonable requests for information, in violation of SCR 20:1.4(a).

    In a second matter, Bureta was appointed to represent another client on appeal of his criminal conviction in November 2000. Bureta states that she wrote to the client in December 2000, but that she did not receive a response. On Feb. 1, 2001, the final transcript was produced and filed in the client's matter. Pursuant to state statute, a defendant is required to either file a notice of appeal or motion seeking postconviction relief within 60 days of the service of the transcript or a no merit brief and notice of appeal within 180 days of the service of the transcript. Bureta did not attempt to communicate with the client again until April 1, 2002, approximately 14 months after she had received the final transcript. The client promptly replied to Bureta's April letter and indicated that he had never received her first letter. On April 18, 2002, Bureta filed a motion to extend the deadline to file a postconviction motion or a notice of appeal. In her motion, Bureta indicated that, after she had not received a response from the client to her initial letter of December 2000, she took no further action until she had written to him again in April 2002.

    In an order granting an extension, the court expressed its concern over "the extensive delay" caused by Bureta's failure to follow up with her first letter. Bureta subsequently met the client, who decided not to pursue an appeal. By failing to take any action on the client's matter from February 2001 until April 2002, Bureta failed to act with reasonable diligence and promptness, in violation of SCR 20:1.3.

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    Suspension of William F. Mross

    The OLR and William F. Mross, 55, Racine, entered into a stipulation for imposition of a 90-day suspension pursuant to SCR 22.12(1). The Wisconsin Supreme Court approved the stipulation and ordered the 90-day suspension of Mross's license commencing April 1, 2003.

    On Dec. 5, 2001, Mross was visiting a client who was an inmate at the Racine County Jail. Another inmate reported to a sheriff that Mross had passed cigarettes under the table to
    his client. Upon questioning, Mross produced a bag containing several packs of cigarettes.

    On Dec. 22, 2001, the sheriff's department recovered cigarettes Mross had given to another inmate, whose sister had paid Mross $20 to deliver the cigarettes. Mross was aware that cigarettes were prohibited by Racine County Jail rules and knew that he was engaging in illegal conduct by delivering cigarettes to inmates.

    On Jan. 4, 2002, a complaint was filed in Racine County Circuit Court, charging Mross with two counts of delivering articles to an inmate in violation of Wis. Stat. section 302.095(2) (1999-2000). On April 18, 2002, Mross accepted a deferred prosecution agreement whereby the complaint was dismissed without prejudice. In exchange, Mross admitted to the allegations, entered a plea to interference of a Racine County ordinance, and agreed to a forfeiture of $500. Under the terms of the agreement, Mross also agreed to refrain from the practice of criminal law for four years and relinquished his certification with the State Public Defender's Office.

    On Nov. 14, 2002, the OLR filed a complaint against Mross, which charged: "By delivering cigarettes to inmates at the Racine County Jail in violation of Sec. 302.095(2), Wis. Stats., Respondent committed a criminal act that reflects adversely on his honesty, trustworthiness, and fitness as a lawyer in violation of SCR 20:8.4(b)."

    On Dec. 5, 2002, the OLR and Mross entered a stipulation pursuant to SCR 22.12. In addition to stipulating to the facts as set forth above, the parties stipulated to discipline in the form of a 90-day suspension of Mross's law license.

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    Suspension of Dan A. Riegleman

    Dan A. Riegleman represented a client who had been injured in a motor vehicle accident arising out of his employment. Riegleman filed a worker's compensation claim against the client's employer and the employer's insurer, Continental Western Insurance Corp. (Continental). In April 1997, Continental paid to the client a total of $26,659.64 in benefits and legal expenses related to the worker's compensation claim.

    Riegleman also filed, on behalf of the client, a third party action against the driver of the other vehicle that had been involved in the accident and his insurer, Allstate Insurance Co. (Allstate), in Butler County, Missouri. In February 1998, an attorney for Continental wrote to Riegleman to inform him that Continental had a lien in the amount of $26,650.64 on any proceeds obtained through the personal injury action.

    Subsequently, Allstate agreed to settle the claim for $12,000 plus court-approved costs. On Nov. 10, 1998, Allstate sent Riegleman a check for $12,000, payable to the client, Riegleman, and Continental, along with a release and stipulation for dismissal of the Missouri action. That same day Riegleman wrote to Continental's counsel, stating that a settlement had been reached in the personal injury action. He set forth proposed calculations for distribution of the $12,000 settlement.

    When Riegleman did receive in the mail the check from Allstate, he did not advise Continental that he had obtained the funds. After Riegleman filed the statement of costs in the Missouri personal injury action, Allstate agreed to pay an additional $922.50 for costs, and on Jan. 4, 1999, the circuit court in Butler County, Missouri, approved the settlement.

    On Jan. 15, 1999, Riegleman endorsed the name of Continental followed by his initials on the settlement check, and deposited the funds into his trust account without the prior consent or knowledge of Continental or its counsel. Subsequently, Riegleman issued a check from his trust account to his client in the amount of $5,000.35 and a check to himself in the amount of $4,790.35, and left a balance of $2,209.30 in the trust account. Riegleman issued these checks without notifying Continental's counsel. On April 6, 1999, after making no efforts to communicate with Continental's counsel, Riegleman issued the remaining amount of the settlement, $2,209.30, to his client without ever notifying Continental's counsel that he had received the settlement funds and without providing Continental with an accounting of the funds.

    Eventually, Continental learned of the settlement. The ensuing negotiations to resolve the dispute concerning the proper amount of Continental's lien claim took more than nine months. In September 2000, Riegleman voluntarily agreed to pay Continental $2,500.

    On Feb. 14, 2002, the OLR filed a complaint against Riegleman. The complaint alleged that, by endorsing Continental's name on the settlement check from Allstate without the consent of Continental or its counsel, Riegleman engaged in conduct that involved dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation in violation of SCR 20:8.4(c). In addition, by failing to promptly notify Continental, in writing, of funds in which Continental had an interest, Riegleman violated SCR 20:1.15(b). Finally, by failing to treat disputed property of which he was in possession and in which he and Continental both claimed an interest as trust property until there was an accounting and severance of the interests and the dispute was resolved, Riegleman violated SCR 20:1.15(d).

    On or about Aug. 26, 2002, the OLR and Riegleman stipulated to the facts as set forth above and to discipline in the form of a 60-day suspension. On Feb. 25, 2003, the supreme court approved the stipulation and ordered the 60-day suspension of Riegleman's license to commence on April 1, 2003. Riegleman's prior discipline consists of a private reprimand from 1995.

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    Disciplinary proceeding against Bruce A. Bode

    The Wisconsin Supreme Court suspended the law license of Bruce A. Bode, Batavia, Ill., for one year, effective Feb. 21, 2003, as discipline reciprocal to that imposed upon Bode by the Illinois Supreme Court in 2001.

    The one-year suspension of Bode's Illinois law license resulted from his misconduct in 10 separate client matters, consisting generally of a pattern of failing to communicate with clients concerning the status of their cases, failing to timely complete legal matters, and failing to respond to inquiries from the administrator of the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission.

    The OLR's filing of a disciplinary complaint seeking reciprocal discipline resulted in the Wisconsin Supreme Court's order that Bode show cause why identical discipline should not be imposed. Bode's failure to respond resulted in Wisconsin's suspension order.

    In addition to the disciplinary suspension, Bode's Wisconsin law license remains suspended for his failure to pay dues and for noncompliance with CLE requirements.

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    Disciplinary proceeding against James G. Wiard

    The Wisconsin Supreme Court suspended the law license of James G. Wiard, Wheaton, Ill., for two years, effective Feb. 19, 2003, as discipline reciprocal to that imposed upon Wiard by the Illinois Supreme Court in 2002.

    The two-year suspension of Wiard's Illinois law license resulted from Wiard's failure to keep a client reasonably informed about the status of a matter; failure to deposit client funds in a separate and identifiable trust account; conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation; engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice; and engaging in conduct that tends to defeat the administration of justice or to bring the courts or the legal profession into disrepute.

    In 1994 Wiard prepared a trust and property power of attorney for a client naming himself as successor trustee and agent should the client die or eventually be unable to act as trustee or should the designated agent be unable to act. In 1997, without notifying the client or the property power of attorney, Wiard requested that a bank close two of the client's accounts and issue the proceeds to him as successor trustee for the trust. Wiard received almost $11,000 from the bank and used virtually all of it for his own personal purposes. Wiard later misrepresented to the client what had occurred.

    Wiard stipulated to the propriety of identical, reciprocal discipline.

    In addition to the disciplinary suspension, Wiard's Wisconsin law license remains suspended for his noncompliance with CLE requirements.

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    Disciplinary proceeding against David G. Davies

    The Wisconsin Supreme Court suspended the law license of David G. Davies, Phoenix, Ariz., for 30 days, effective March 13, 2003, as discipline reciprocal to that imposed upon Davies by the Arizona Supreme Court in 2001. Davies stipulated to the propriety of identical, reciprocal discipline.

    The 30-day suspension of Davies' Arizona law license resulted from Davies' preparation of an original will and subsequent amendments that named him as a beneficiary of his client's estate without having his client seek the advice of independent counsel.

    In addition to the disciplinary suspension, Davies' Wisconsin law license remains suspended for his noncompliance with CLE requirements.

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    Disciplinary proceeding against Edward G. Harris

    The Wisconsin Supreme Court suspended the law license of Edward G. Harris, 53, Milwaukee, for two years, effective March 28, 2003.

    Harris's misconduct included practicing law while his license was suspended for failure to comply with the Board of Bar Examiners' CLE attendance requirements. Although Harris was aware of his suspension, he continued to practice law at the law firm of Piano, Harris & Tishberg from June 4, 1997, until Feb. 8, 2001, handling at least 60 cases in Wisconsin courts in violation of SCR 22.26(2).

    In addition to the unauthorized practice of law, Harris committed additional misconduct, including neglecting to file a lawsuit on behalf of one client, in violation of SCR 20:1.3; failing to respond to that client's numerous requests for information, in violation of SCR 20:1.4(a); and leading that client to believe that a lawsuit had been filed, thereby engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation, in violation of SCR 20:8.4(c).

    In a different matter, Harris represented another client in a court action. Harris neglected to respond to motions and offers of compromise, in violation of SCR 20:1.3. Harris also failed to provide the client with the most rudimentary information about his case and failed to respond to the client's numerous inquiries, in violation of SCR 20:1.4(a). Further, Harris failed to advise the client that a judgment had been entered against the client in the amount of $2,617.74 and against Harris in the amount of $2,617.74, in violation of SCR 20:1.4(b).

    The court concurred with the referee's recommendation for a two-year suspension of Harris's license and assessed costs of the proceedings against him. Additionally, the court ordered that within 60 days, Harris satisfy the judgment entered against the second client in the amount of $2,617.74. Further, the court ordered that any reinstatement of Harris's law license be conditioned upon Harris satisfying the judgment entered against him in the amount of $2,617.74.

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    Disciplinary proceeding against David R. Nott

    By order dated March 18, 2003, the Wisconsin Supreme Court suspended the law license of David R. Nott, 40, who formerly practiced in Beloit and Loves Park, Ill., for nine months, effective the date of the order.

    The misconduct involved three former clients. The first client paid Nott $925 to represent her in a bankruptcy. Nott never filed the bankruptcy action, failed to notify the client when his law license was administratively suspended, and failed to respond to the client's phone calls and letters. The client applied for reimbursement through the Client Security Fund (CSF) and received $575, but could not produce a receipt for the remaining $350. The court issued an order to show cause why Nott should not be required to reimburse the client the remaining $350. Nott did not respond, and the court ordered Nott to make restitution to the CSF in the amount of $575 and to the client in the amount of $350.

    The second client paid Nott $474 to file an action in a landlord/tenant case. Each time the client talked to him, Nott told her he was waiting for a court date. In fact, Nott had never filed an action. After Nott failed to respond to the client's messages, she filed a grievance. The CSF reimbursed this client $474, and the court ordered Nott to reimburse the CSF in that amount.

    The third client paid Nott to investigate a potential age discrimination case. Nott reportedly researched the case and came to the conclusion that the client did not have a viable cause of action, but he failed to fully advise the client of that assessment. After Nott failed to respond to the client's phone calls, the client filed a grievance.

    Nott did not respond to any OLR requests for a response to these grievances, and in August 2001, the court temporarily suspended Nott's law license for his failure to cooperate. Nott also failed to answer the OLR's disciplinary complaint and did not oppose a motion for default judgment.

    The court found that Nott's neglect of the first and second matters violated SCR 20:1.3, that his failure to notify clients of his administrative suspension violated SCR 22.26(1)(a), and that his failure to refund unearned fees violated SCR 20:1.16(d). The court further found that Nott's failure to respond to client inquiries violated SCR 20:1.4(a), that his misrepresentation to the second client violated SCR 20:8.4(c), and that his failure to respond to OLR violated SCR 22.03(2).

    The court also ordered Nott to pay the costs of the disciplinary proceedings.

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