Vol. 78, No. 10 October
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 Jeffrey D. Berlin
The Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR) and Jeffrey D. Berlin, 53,
Grafton, entered into an agreement for 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 Aug. 8,
2005, in accordance with SCR 22.09(3).
The misconduct leading to the public reprimand occurred in three
separate matters. In the first matter, Berlin timely filed a motion on
behalf of a client to correct a court commissioner's miscalculation of
child support. In March 2003, an agreement was reached before the
scheduled hearing on the motion. Berlin, who was responsible for
drafting the stipulation in the matter, failed to do so for
approximately four months following the parties' agreement as to terms.
The client then hired successor counsel to complete the work in the
Berlin violated SCR 20:1.3 by failing to act with reasonable
diligence and promptness in drafting the stipulation. After the parties'
agreement as to terms, but before the termination of Berlin's
representation, Berlin, in violation of SCR 20:1.4(a), failed to respond
to the client's numerous telephone inquiries and failed to keep the
client informed as to case status. In violation of SCR 20:1.16(d),
Berlin failed to return the unearned portion of the $750 fee he had been
paid to see the case through to conclusion.
In the second matter, Berlin successfully represented a tenant in
reopening a default eviction and damages judgment entered against the
tenant and in obtaining a damages award against the landlord. Then, in
October 2001, the client hired Berlin to pursue a separate fraud claim
against the landlord. The client paid Berlin $2,000 as an advance
payment of fees, which Berlin deposited into his business account, and
not his trust account, contrary to former SCR 20:1.15(a) (which was
effective through June 30, 2004).
Although Berlin made assurances to the client between October 2001
and March 2002 that he would "get a court date" for the fraud claim,
Berlin filed no claim of any sort in that period nor did he take any
measures to significantly advance the client's interests. Sometime after
March 26, 2002, both Berlin and the client developed the belief that the
adverse party had filed for bankruptcy. Berlin thereafter did no work at
all in the matter, although the client continued to call Berlin until
June 2003 seeking status updates, in the belief that Berlin had agreed
to engage in further efforts to determine the viability of a fraud
Berlin violated SCR 20:1.3 by failing to diligently pursue the
client's potential claim in the period from October 2001 to March 2002
and by thereafter failing until June 2003 (when Berlin told the client
he could not continue the representation) to investigate the continuing
viability of pursuing potential claims. Berlin violated SCR 20:1.4(a) by
failing to respond to the client's reasonable telephone inquiries or to
keep the client reasonably informed as to case status. Upon termination
of representation, Berlin violated SCR 20:1.16(d) by failing to timely
provide the client with the case file and by failing to timely calculate
and refund any portion of the fees the client advanced.
In the third matter, Berlin represented a man in a divorce. Between
May 2001 and June 2003, the client's spouse filed three motions to
compel discovery and one motion to enforce an order compelling
discovery. In June 2003, the court found Berlin's client in contempt for
failing to comply with discovery orders. Berlin violated SCR 20:1.4(a)
by failing to inform his client of the spouse's motions, the hearings on
the motions, and the court's contempt order. Berlin further violated SCR
20:1.4(a) by being unresponsive to many of the client's numerous
inquiries about the status of the case. Berlin violated SCR 20:1.3 by
failing to advance the client's interests in any reasonably diligent
manner in the approximately two-year-long period of the representation.
In violation of SCR 20:1.16(d), which governs an attorney's duties on
termination of representation, Berlin did not promptly turn over the
case file to successor counsel, notwithstanding numerous telephone
requests by the client and successor counsel. Berlin finally turned over
the case file after the client sought intervention by Berlin's wife.
Berlin had no prior discipline.
Disciplinary Proceedings against James E.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court suspended the Wisconsin law license of
James E. Pancratz, of Illinois, for three months, effective
retroactively on Oct. 18, 2004, as discipline reciprocal to a
three-month suspension imposed on Pancratz by the Illinois Supreme
Court, also effective on Oct. 18, 2004. Disciplinary Proceedings
Against Pancratz, 2005AP1469-D.
The three-month Illinois suspension resulted from Pancratz's
misconduct consisting of engaging in conduct involving
misrepresentation; engaging in a criminal act that reflects adversely on
the lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness, and fitness as a lawyer (by
making a campaign contribution in the name of another); assisting
another's conduct, when Pancratz knew that the conduct would violate the
Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct; and engaging in conduct that is
prejudicial to the administration of justice.