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    Wisconsin Lawyer
    Vol. 77, No. 2, February 2004

    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.

    Public Reprimand of Donald J. Schwab

    The Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR) and Donald J. Schwab, 48, River Falls, agreed to the imposition of a public reprimand, pursuant to SCR 22.09(1). A referee appointed by the Wisconsin Supreme Court approved the agreement and issued the public reprimand on Nov. 7, 2003, in accordance with SCR 22.09(3).

    After an overdraft occurred on Schwab's client trust account, Schwab explained that the overdraft occurred because he had made withdrawals from his client trust account for attorney fees that he had not yet earned, and deposited the money into his business account to pay for business expenses. To credit the withdrawals from the trust account, Schwab subsequently billed multiple clients for attorney fees that he had earned, but he did not withdraw these earned fees from the client trust account. In some instances, Schwab did not credit these advance withdrawals to his client trust account for more than 16 months. In other instances, Schwab never fully credited the advance withdrawal.

    A review of Schwab's client trust account bank statements disclosed two additional withdrawals totaling $700 that were not attributed to a client matter. Schwab did not credit either of these withdrawals to the client trust account. In addition, one client's retainer in the amount of $750 was not deposited in the client trust account as indicated by Schwab's cash receipts journal, but was deposited directly into his business account.

    After the overdraft, Schwab opened a second client trust account. A review of the records for this account disclosed two withdrawals made by Schwab that were not attributed to a client matter. These withdrawals totaled $1,853.87. Schwab did not refund either of these withdrawals to the client trust account.

    By withdrawing funds from his client trust accounts before earning the funds for attorney fees and depositing these funds into his business account, Schwab failed to hold in trust, separate from his own property, that property of clients that was in his possession in connection with their representations, in violation of SCR 20:1.15(a). The reprimand was conditioned on Schwab's attendance at a trust account management seminar and monitoring of his trust account for two years.

    Public Reprimand of David A. Bordow

    David A. Bordow, 49, Milwaukee, has been publicly reprimanded, pursuant to SCR 22.09. Bordow had represented a mother and minor daughter regarding minor injuries they sustained in an automobile accident. After the mother died of causes unrelated to the accident, no probate proceedings were commenced or a successor in interest appointed. Bordow nevertheless accepted a settlement offer that he states was in excess of the amount the mother had authorized prior to her death. By negotiating a settlement on behalf of a deceased client and her daughter without any consultation with the client's successors in interest or the daughter's father, Bordow violated SCR 20:1.2(a).

    The daughter's father subsequently signed a release on behalf of the daughter, but no one was empowered to sign on behalf of the deceased client. Bordow took no steps to have anyone appointed, he did not return the daughter's release to the insurer, and he made no request for payment of the settlement amounts. Five months after signing the release, the father appeared at Bordow's office and demanded payment of his daughter's settlement. Although no settlement proceeds had been received, Bordow wrote the father a trust account check for the $1,500 settlement, less the amount necessary to satisfy a medical lien and legal fees. That check caused a shortfall in trust account funds that Bordow should have been holding for other clients. By using other clients' funds to cover a check to a party who had no funds on deposit in his trust account, Bordow failed to hold client funds in trust, contrary to SCR 20:1.15(a).

    Bordow still failed to seek payment from the insurer or take steps to empower anyone to act for the deceased client, and there continued to be a shortfall in Bordow's trust account. Six months later, checks were presented for payment that caused overdrafts in Bordow's trust account. The bank honored the checks, but reported the overdrafts to the OLR.

    Bordow then requested payment from the insurer and sent a fax to the insurer representing that his office would satisfy the medical liens on both claims prior to paying out the settlement proceeds. That statement was not true, as Bordow had already paid out the daughter's proceeds but had not yet satisfied the medical lien, although he had withheld funds from the check for the purpose of paying that lien. By making a misrepresentation to the insurer, Bordow violated SCR 20:4.1(a).

    The insurer thereafter issued settlement checks in the amounts of $1,500 for the daughter and $6,000 for the mother. Bordow still did not take action to commence a special administration of the mother's estate, and the $6,000 check grew stale. After the OLR contacted Bordow, he returned the stale check to the insurer, filed a petition to appoint himself as special administrator of the deceased client's estate, received a replacement check from the insurer, and distributed the proceeds to the heirs. By failing to take timely steps to determine the deceased client's successors in interest and to obtain and distribute the proceeds of a settlement he had negotiated, Bordow failed to act with reasonable diligence and promptness, contrary to SCR 20:1.3.

    In the course of its investigation, the OLR also discovered that Bordow failed to create and maintain required trust account records other than individual client ledgers. As a result, Bordow was unable to identify the ownership of $753 on deposit in his trust account. Even after the OLR identified those problems, Bordow still failed to make changes that would bring him in compliance with trust account record-keeping requirements. By failing to create and maintain required trust account records, Bordow violated SCR 20:1.15(e). Bordow also failed to file the required overdraft notification agreement until the OLR had made repeated requests for the agreement, contrary to SCR 20:1.15(n). Finally, Bordow provided the OLR with an incomplete and misleading explanation regarding the cause of the initial overdraft in his trust account and failed to timely and fully comply with requests for trust account records and other information, contrary to SCR 22.03(6).

    Public Reprimand of Thomas A. Plein

    The OLR and Thomas A. Plein, 63, formerly of Neenah, agreed to the imposition of a public reprimand pursuant to SCR 22.09. A referee appointed by the Wisconsin Supreme Court approved the agreement and issued the public reprimand on Nov. 17, 2003. On Sept. 29, 2000, Plein pleaded guilty to three counts of engaging in sexual intercourse with a child age 16 or older, in violation of Wis. Stat. section 948.09, all Class A misdemeanors. According to the conviction judgment, Plein was required to pay fines and costs by Jan. 15, 2001. Plein was no longer engaged in the active practice of law when he was charged and convicted.

    Plein's conviction provided evidence of three instances of conduct violating SCR 20:8.4(b), which states, "It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to ... commit a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer in other respects." Plein had no prior discipline.

    Disciplinary Proceeding against Gricel S. Echavarria

    On Nov. 17, 2003, the Wisconsin Supreme Court summarily suspended Gricel S. Echavarria's law license based on her criminal conviction of conspiracy to produce and transfer false identification documents, counterfeit resident alien cards, and counterfeit Social Security cards, in violation of 18 U.S.C. section 1028(a) and 1546(a) and 42 U.S.C. section 408(a)(7)(c). The suspension was effective the date of the order.

    Disciplinary Proceeding against Michael H. Grady

    The Wisconsin Supreme Court suspended the Wisconsin law license of Michael H. Grady, 46, Shorewood, for 90 days, effective Nov. 20, 2003. The court approved an SCR 22.12 stipulation between Grady and the OLR, and found that Grady engaged in the practice of law while his State Bar membership was suspended, in violation of SCR 20:8.4(f) in conjunction with SCR 31.10(1), and engaged in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation, in violation of SCR 20:8.4(c).

    While Grady's law license was administratively suspended for failing to comply with mandatory continuing legal education requirements, he continued to practice law for almost two years. Grady entered appearances or filed pleadings in at least 20 cases during his suspension. During the grievance investigation, Grady also misrepresented that he could recall only one case in which he appeared or filed pleadings after his law license was suspended and that he could not recall any cases pending at the time of his suspension.

    Grady had no prior discipline.

    Disciplinary Proceeding against William D. Whitnall

    The Wisconsin Supreme Court accepted William D. Whitnall's petition for voluntary revocation of his law license and revoked his law license effective Nov. 17, 2003. In his petition, Whitnall, 61, Racine, acknowledged that he could not successfully defend against six counts of misconduct that were under investigation by the OLR in two separate matters.

    In the first matter, by failing to respond to defense counsel's discovery requests, which resulted in court sanctions that severely restricted the client's claims for damages, Whitnall failed to act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client, in violation of SCR 20:1.3; by failing to consult with the client regarding a settlement offer and by accepting the settlement offer without the client's authorization, Whitnall failed to inform a client of a settlement offer and to abide by his client's decision whether to accept a settlement offer, in violation of SCR 20:1.2(a); and by failing to forward his client's file to successor counsel for eight months, Whitnall failed to surrender papers and property to which the client was entitled, in violation of SCR 20:1.16(d).

    In the second matter, by failing to file a lawsuit or settle a client's claim within the statute of limitation as he advised the client he would do, Whitnall failed to act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client, in violation of SCR 20:1.3; by failing to respond to a client's inquiries regarding the status of her lawsuit, Whitnall failed to keep a client reasonably informed about the status of a matter and to promptly comply with reasonable requests for information, in violation of SCR 20:1.4(a); and by failing to inform a client of the applicable statute of limitation so the client could make an informed decision about retaining other counsel before the statute of limitation expired, Whitnall failed to explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit the client to make informed decisions regarding the representation, in violation of SCR 20:1.4(b).

    Whitnall has been previously disciplined for similar conduct and his law license was still under suspension at the time of the instant revocation. Whitnall's prior disciplinary history includes a 1986 private reprimand; a 1994 18-month suspension; a 1994 60-day suspension; a 1999 60-day suspension; and a 2000 two-year suspension. The proceedings in the last four matters are reported at Disciplinary Proceedings Against Whitnall, 167 Wis. 2d 702, 482 N.W.2d 648 (1992); Disciplinary Proceedings Against Whitnall, 181 Wis. 2d 1, 511 N.W.2d 584 (1994); Disciplinary Proceedings Against Whitnall, 230 Wis. 2d 194, 600 N.W.2d 910 (1999); and Disciplinary Proceedings Against Whitnall, 239 Wis. 2d 721, 619 N.W.2d 926 (2000).

    Disciplinary Proceeding against Jevon Jones Jaconi

    On Nov. 7, 2003, the Wisconsin Supreme Court suspended the law license of Jevon Jones Jaconi, 30, for one year. Jaconi's suspension was based on 20 counts of misconduct in seven different client matters. In addition, the court's order required Jaconi to give refunds to clients in two matters within 60 days of the order date.

    In the first matter, Jaconi represented a client charged with a felony. Jaconi violated SCR 20:1.1 by erroneously informing his client that she need not appear at an adjourned initial appearance. Neither Jaconi nor his client appeared, a bench warrant for the client's arrest was issued, and an additional complaint was filed against her for bail jumping. Jaconi failed to take the necessary steps to get the bail-jumping charge dismissed, contrary to SCR 20:1.3, which caused his client to be arrested. Jaconi failed to respond to numerous telephone calls from the client, contrary to SCR 20:1.4(a). Additionally, Jaconi failed to timely refund unearned fees, wrote a refund check that could not be cashed because he did not have sufficient funds, and closed his account while the check was outstanding, contrary to SCR 20:1.16(d) and SCR 20:8.4(c). The client ultimately received a refund from Jaconi.

    In the second matter, Jaconi failed to abide by his client's decision not to plead no contest to an OWI charge. In her absence, Jaconi entered a plea of no contest on his client's behalf, in violation of SCR 20:1.2(a). Jaconi also violated SCR 20:1.4(a) and (b) by failing to respond to numerous phone calls from his client, failing to give his client adequate notice about her court date, and failing to adequately explain her plea options so she could make informed decisions regarding the representation. Jaconi also failed to tell his client about the disposition of her case, which included a seven-month suspension of her driver's license, failed to provide her with the documents pertaining to the disposition of her case, and failed to provided her with a requested accounting of the $500 she paid him, all contrary to SCR 20:1.16(d). The client, unaware of the suspension, continued to drive and subsequently received a citation for operating after suspension.

    In the third matter, Jaconi failed to commence his client's divorce action for six months, contrary to SCR 20:1.3. Jaconi also failed to respond to numerous telephone calls from the client and failed to accept a certified letter from him, contrary to SCR 20:1.4(a). Additionally, Jaconi failed to refund unearned fees and failed to return, upon request, documents relating to a separate malpractice claim of the client's, contrary to SCR 20:1.16(d).

    In the fourth matter, a client retained Jaconi to represent her in a divorce action and she paid Jaconi $800 of an agreed upon flat fee of $1,200. Within a few weeks, the client changed her mind about having Jaconi represent her and requested a refund of the $800. Jaconi wrote the client a refund check that could not be cashed because he did not have sufficient funds, and he closed his account while the check was outstanding. Despite several attempts to contact Jaconi about the return of her money and the worthless check, the client did not receive her money until after she filed a complaint with the sheriff's department. Jaconi's conduct in this matter violated SCR 20:1.16(d) and SCR 20:8.4(c).

    In the fifth matter, Jaconi accepted a State Public Defender appointment to represent a client on felony charges. Jaconi, contrary to SCR 20:1.3, failed to advance his client's interests and prepare for trial, even though his client insisted he did not want to plead guilty. Between July and October 2001, Jaconi also failed to respond to numerous requests for information from his client, contrary to SCR 20:1.4(a). The client told Jaconi that he wanted someone else to represent him, and Jaconi withdrew before the disposition of the case.

    In the sixth matter, Jaconi represented a client in a small claims matter. Jaconi violated SCR 20:1.3 by failing to appear at four adjourned return dates and failing to file and serve amended pleadings. Jaconi also failed to respond to his client's numerous requests for information, contrary to SCR 20:1.4(a).

    In the final matter, Jaconi agreed to represent a client and his friend in an ordinance violation matter involving the friend's use of the client's hunting license. Jaconi failed to appear on the plea date without informing his clients that he did not intend to appear, and failed to engage in trial preparation with his clients, contrary to SCR 20:1.3. Jaconi also failed to respond to several requests for information from his clients and failed to have any contact with them between January 2002 and the June 2002 trial date, in violation of SCR 20:1.4(a).

    Jaconi had no prior discipline.

    Summary Suspension of Eric A. Stearn

    On Sept. 2, 2003, the OLR filed a motion requesting that the court enter an order summarily suspending the law license of Eric A. Stearn, or alternatively, for an order that Stearn show cause why his Wisconsin law license should not be summarily suspended. The motion was based on Stearn's pleas of guilty to a serious crime, namely homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle and causing great bodily harm by intoxicated use of a vehicle.

    On Sept. 4, 2003, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ordered Stearn to show cause by Sept. 24, 2003 why the OLR's motion should not be granted. Stearn filed no response. On Nov. 7, 2003, the Wisconsin Supreme Court granted the OLR's motion and summarily suspended Stearn's law license.

    Disciplinary Proceeding against Kevin M. Kelsay

    The Wisconsin Supreme Court suspended the law license of Kevin M. Kelsay, 44, Milwaukee, for six months effective Nov. 12, 2003, for practicing law while his law license was under suspension, in violation of SCR 20:5.5(a) and SCR 22.26(2). Disciplinary Proceedings Against Kelsay, 2003 WI 141.

    While suspended, Kelsay provided legal services to an acquaintance, A.S., who had been injured in an automobile accident while working for his employer. Kelsay advised A.S. to inform the insurance claims adjuster that A.S. would only communicate with the insurance company in writing, so that Kelsay would be able to monitor and manage A.S.'s claim without directly communicating with the insurance company. For approximately two years, Kelsay drafted most, if not all, of the letters that A.S. sent to the insurance company concerning the claim. Eventually A.S. received a settlement of $40,000, and he paid Kelsay approximately $5,000 as a fee. Kelsay also assisted A.S. with filing a worker's compensation claim, including drafting letters to the worker's compensation insurance carrier on A.S.'s behalf. A.S. paid Kelsay approximately 10 percent of his monthly worker's compensation payments.

    Initially, the OLR and Kelsay entered into an agreement for the imposition of a consensual public reprimand. A referee, appointed pursuant to SCR 22.09 to review the reprimand agreement, rejected the proposed discipline as inadequate. Thereafter, the OLR and Kelsay requested that the supreme court review an SCR 22.12 stipulation for a public reprimand. The court rejected the stipulation and directed the matter proceed before another referee. The second referee held a disciplinary hearing and filed a report recommending a public reprimand. The court adopted the second referee's factual findings and conclusions of law, but concluded that Kelsay's misconduct warranted a six-month suspension. Kelsay was ordered to pay the costs of the proceedings.

    Kelsay's prior discipline history includes a three-year license suspension imposed in 1990 (see Disciplinary Proceedings Against Kelsay, 155 Wis. 2d 480, 455 N.W.2d 871 (1990)), and a 1991 private reprimand (now a matter of public record, as a result of the disciplinary prosecution that resulted in the instant six-month suspension).

    When the court imposed the six-month suspension, Kelsay's reinstatement petition from the earlier suspension was pending. That matter remains pending.

    Hearing to Reinstate Bruce J. Meagher

    On April 19, 2004, at 10 a.m., a public hearing will be held before Referee John E. Shannon Jr., in Conference Room E of the County-City Building, 1516 Church St., Stevens Point, on the petition of Bruce J. Meagher, Iola, to reinstate his Wisconsin law license. Any interested person may appear at the hearing and be heard in support of, or in opposition to, the reinstatement petition.

    On Oct. 8, 2003, the Wisconsin Supreme Court suspended Meagher's law license for six months, effective Nov. 12, 2002, the date Meagher's law license was previously summarily suspended. Meagher had pleaded guilty to one count of violating the federal Wire Wagering Act, by virtue of his ownership interest in an offshore gambling operation that took sports bets from U.S. citizens via wire communications. The six-month suspension resulted from a stipulation by which Meagher acknowledged his professional misconduct, consisting of his commission of a criminal act that reflected adversely upon his honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer in other respects. See Disciplinary Proceedings Against Meagher, 2003 WI 132, 669 N.W.2d 733.

    As to reinstatement, Meagher is required to demonstrate by clear, satisfactory, and convincing evidence that, among other things, he has not practiced law or engaged in certain law-work activity during his suspension; his conduct since the suspension has been exemplary and above reproach; he has a proper understanding of and attitude towards the standards that are imposed upon members of the bar and will act in conformity with the standards; he can safely be recommended to the legal profession, the courts, and the public as a person fit to be consulted by others, and to represent them and otherwise act in matters of trust and confidence; he has fully described all of his business activities; he has the moral character to practice law in Wisconsin; and he has fully complied with the suspension order and applicable court rules.

    Further information may be obtained from OLR Investigator Nancy Warner or from OLR Litigation Counsel William J. Weigel, 110 E. Main St., Suite 315, Madison, WI 53703, (877) 315-6941 (toll-free).

    Hearing to Reinstate Leslie J. Webster

    On April 16, 2004, at 9 a.m., a public hearing will be held before Judge Timothy L. Vocke, Referee, at the Pierce County Courthouse, 414 W. Main St., Ellsworth, on the petition of Leslie J. Webster, Ellsworth, to reinstate his Wisconsin law license. Any interested person may appear at the hearing and be heard in support of, or in opposition to, the reinstatement petition.

    Webster's law license was suspended for two years, effective Jan. 21, 1998, based on his federal felony conviction of aiding and abetting the fraudulent concealment of a debtor's property from a bankruptcy trustee, thus committing a criminal act that reflected adversely on his honesty, trustworthiness, and fitness as a lawyer, contrary to SCR 20:8.4(b). Disciplinary Proceedings Against Webster, 217 Wis. 2d 371, 577 N.W.2d 21 (1998).

    Webster's first reinstatement petition was denied by the Wisconsin Supreme Court based upon his failure to comply with requirements governing the conduct of suspended or revoked attorneys, including Webster's continued practice of law during his suspension; his use of an IOLTA trust account while suspended; and his improper telephone listing and improper use of office checks while suspended.

    As to reinstatement, Webster is required to demonstrate by clear, satisfactory, and convincing evidence that, among other things, he has not practiced law or engaged in certain law-work activity during his suspension; his conduct since the suspension has been exemplary and above reproach; he has a proper understanding of and attitude towards the standards that are imposed upon members of the bar and will act in conformity with the standards; he can safely be recommended to the legal profession, the courts, and the public as a person fit to be consulted by others, and to represent them and otherwise act in matters of trust and confidence; he has fully described all of his business activities; he has the moral character to practice law in Wisconsin; and he has fully complied with the suspension order and applicable court rules.

    Further information may be obtained from OLR Investigator Nancy Warner, 110 E. Main St., Suite 315, Madison, WI 53703, (877) 315-6941 (toll free), or from OLR Retained Counsel Marc T. McCrory, Brennan, Steil & Basting S.C., One E. Milwaukee St., Janesville, WI 53545, (608) 756-4141.

    Public Reprimand of Thomas A. Ryan

    The OLR and Thomas A. Ryan, 63, Beloit, agreed to an 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 in accordance with SCR 22.09(3) on Dec. 11, 2003.

    In July 2003, Ryan pleaded guilty to issuing a worthless check in violation of Wis. Stat. section 943.24(2), and was sentenced to probation for three years. No restitution was ordered because Ryan had already repaid the amount at issue. Ryan, who owns and operates a family oil business, had run a kite between two banks in April 2001 and in doing so had deposited checks drawn on the first bank into the account at the second bank. In particular, Ryan presented a check drawn on the first bank for $202,000 when the account did not have sufficient funds to cover the check. The check for $202,000 gave rise to the worthless check charge. Ryan promptly admitted to the misconduct and repaid the amount owed to the second bank.

    By issuing a worthless check Ryan committed a criminal act that reflects adversely on his honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer, in violation of SCR 20:8.4(b).

    Public Reprimand of Glenn J. Blise

    The OLR and Glenn J. Blise, 48, Kenosha, 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 Dec. 17, 2003, in accordance with SCR 22.09(3).

    The reprimand was based upon Blise's misconduct in four matters. In the first matter, Blise agreed to handle a worker's compensation matter for an incarcerated client. The client had previously entered into a limited compromise agreement that allowed him to pursue additional permanency benefits. Blise initially pursued the matter by petitioning in October 1998 to modify the compromise agreement. However, Blise agreed, after a prehearing in June 2000, that filing an application for hearing was the more appropriate channel to obtain additional benefits. Given his client's incarceration, Blise agreed to wait until the client's release before seeking the benefits. Once the client was released, however, Blise failed to pursue the matter and did not respond to his client's inquiries about the status of the matter. Blise thereby violated SCR 20:1.3 and SCR 20:1.4(a). Blise also violated SCR 22.03(2) by failing to respond within 20 days to OLR's request for a written response to the grievance.

    In the second matter, Blise represented a client on several ordinance violations, including operating a vehicle while intoxicated. Blise was paid $2,000 by the client's mother. After an initial appearance in January 2001, Blise did little further work for the client. Blise received a settlement proposal from the town attorney but did not communicate the offer to his client. He thereby violated SCR 20:1.2(a). Blise also violated SCR 20:1.3 by neglecting the matter and SCR 20:1.4(a) by failing to respond to requests for information or otherwise keep his client informed about the status of the matter. Blise failed to respond within 20 days to OLR's request for a written response to the grievance, violating SCR 22.03(2).

    Based upon Blise's failure to cooperate with the OLR in the first and second matters, the court granted the OLR's motion for a suspension of his license pursuant to SCR 22.03(4). Blise then cooperated fully with the investigations and made a full refund in the second matter. His license was reinstated within 20 days.

    In the third matter, Blise represented a husband and wife who were involved in a car accident. Blise settled the wife's claim. After much urging from the clients, Blise filed suit on behalf of the husband just before the statute of limitation ran. Blise, however, did not prosecute the case and it was dismissed nine months later. Blise did not learn of the dismissal until a year later. Blise admitted that he had not adequately communicated with his clients during the representation. Blise, by his neglect of the matter and by his failure to communicate with his clients, violated SCR 20:1.3 and SCR 20:1.4(a).

    In the fourth matter, a client retained Blise in April 2001 to explore an appeal or other postconviction relief. The client's mother paid Blise $7,500. Blise met with the client in April 2001, but thereafter did not communicate with him. When the client filed a grievance in November 2001, Blise indicated that his communication with the client had been lax, but he was prepared to follow through with the appeal. In April 2002, however, the client hired new counsel, because Blise had not responded to his requests for information. Blise then refunded the entire retainer. By failing to advance the man's postconviction matter, Blise violated SCR 20:1.3. By failing to communicate with his client, Blise violated SCR 20:1.4(a).

    Blise had no prior discipline.

    Public Reprimand of Gary J. Schmidt

    Gary J. Schmidt consented to the imposition of a public reprimand in connection with his misconduct in three separate matters. On Dec. 12, 2003, a referee appointed by the supreme court imposed the reprimand, pursuant to SCR 22.09.

    In the first matter, Schmidt represented a client facing criminal charges. After the client's conviction, Schmidt failed to file the statutorily required notice of intent to seek postconviction relief, despite the client's expressed desire to pursue such relief, in violation of SCR 20:1.3. After the client subsequently filed a pro se motion with the court of appeals, Schmidt failed to respond, in violation of SCR 20:3.4(c), to that court's order that he explain his failure to file the notice.

    In the second matter, Schmidt again failed to file a notice of intent to seek postconviction relief on behalf of a criminal client, in violation of SCR 20:1.3; failed to respond to inquiries from the client as to the status of the client's appeal, in violation of SCR 20:1.4(a); and again, after the client filed a pro se motion with the court of appeals, failed to respond to an order, in violation of SCR 20:3.4(c), from the court of appeals that he explain his failure to file the notice.

    In the third matter, Schmidt was appointed by the State Public Defender to represent a client in civil contempt proceedings in connection with a paternity action. Despite his client's desire to seek appellate relief, Schmidt was more than one month late in filing the notice of intent to pursue postconviction relief. Schmidt was late in filing the notice because he failed to research the relevant filing deadline, in violation of SCR 20:1.1. Schmidt subsequently failed to file a motion to extend the time for filing the notice, despite being informed on three separate occasions by the SPD's office that the motion was necessary in order to appoint appellate counsel. This conduct violated SCR 20:1.3. Schmidt had no prior discipline.

    Disciplinary Proceeding against Lauren Brown-Perry

    By order dated Dec. 12, 2003, the Wisconsin Supreme Court adopted a referee's report accepting a stipulation filed by Lauren Brown-Perry, Madison, and the OLR, for findings of professional misconduct and imposition of a one-year retroactive suspension of Brown-Perry's law license.

    Brown-Perry had represented a member of a legal services plan regarding a buyer who backed out of a real estate sale. The matter was settled for $4,000. Brown-Perry informed the client she would receive the full $4,000, as the $1,500 advance fee the client had already paid Brown-Perry would cover all legal expenses. In fact, $1,500 was in excess of the $749 Brown-Perry was entitled to receive at the legal services rate of $70 per hour.

    Brown-Perry had no client trust account and deposited the client's $4,000 to her business account. The funds were soon expended without any payment to the client. Eventually Brown-Perry issued a $2,028 check to the client, which the client refused to cash because it was not in the full amount. Brown-Perry failed to respond to numerous entreaties by the client, who had to retain another attorney to sue Brown-Perry. Their dispute was finally settled with Brown-Perry paying the client $5,000. During the course of the OLR's investigation, Brown-Perry failed to provide the OLR with requested accounting records, and she acknowledged that she had not filed personal income tax returns since 1995.

    Brown-Perry violated SCR 20:1.15(a) for failing to deposit client funds to a trust account; SCR 20:1.15(d) for taking client trust funds without an accounting and severance of interests; SCR 20:1.16(d) for failing to promptly return an unearned retainer; SCR 20:1.15(b) for failing to promptly deliver the client's funds; SCR 20:1.4(a) for failing to respond to the client's requests; SCR 20:8.4(c) for engaging in dishonest conduct; SCR 20:1.15(f) for failing to provide the OLR with requested records; and SCR 20:8.4(f) for failing to file income tax returns, constituting misconduct under State v. Roggensack, 19 Wis. 2d 38, 119 N.W.2d 412 (1963).

    During the disciplinary proceeding, the court indefinitely suspended Brown-Perry's license pending assessment of a medical issue raised by Brown-Perry. The indefinite suspension continued for two years.

    The one-year license suspension for misconduct was imposed retroactive to April 26, 2001, the date on which the indefinite suspension had commenced. Brown-Perry was also ordered to pay the $6,740.53 costs of the proceeding. Brown-Perry's Wisconsin law license will remain suspended until she successfully petitions the court for reinstatement.




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