Vol. 79, No. 10, October
The Wisconsin Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection has helped many
clients over the years. Here three of them speak out about their
Fund for Client Protection Committee members discuss reimbursements
to victims of lawyer theft. From left: Mr. William Neill, Ripon; Deb
Smith, Madison; vice chair Stephen Holden, Rhinelander; fund
administrator Kris Wenzel; committee chair David Reddy, Elkhorn; Wayne
Maffei, Baraboo; and Mr. Steven Behar, Delavan. Missing from photo:
Joseph Wright, Madison.
Gilbert Thomsen thought he could trust Racine lawyer Gerald Proost.
The two men's families had known each other "from way back," says
Thomsen, who has called Racine his home for all of his 77 years.
"[Proost's] father was a family friend - a real estate man who was as
honest as the day is long," Thomsen adds. The same can't be said for his
Thomsen had hired Proost to prepare a will, which Proost did. "Then
one day he told me that if I had any money lying around," Thomsen
reports, "he could get me good interest on it" at a rate of 7
Thomsen gave Proost $16,000. For a time, Thomsen received earnings
checks, but then the checks stopped coming.
"When I didn't get a check," Thomsen recalls, "I'd say, `Jerry, where
is it?' He'd say, `He's supposed to bring some money.' We never did find
out who `he' was. It kept going on like that. [Proost] was stringing me
Finally, Thomsen reported Proost to the county sheriff's department,
which had received other allegations against Proost. What had he done
with Thomsen's money? "That's just it," Thomsen replies. "We still don't
The sheriff's department steered Thomsen to the Client Protection
Fund, which ultimately paid restitution to Thomsen for more than half of
what he'd lost.
"I was thrilled to get it," Thomsen says. "It's wonderful that the
Bar has a fund to settle with people who got [swindled]. It's just
At age 10, Keith and Jamie Kozak's son was diagnosed with attention
deficit hyperactivity disorder. For years, he was on medications that
didn't seem to help. Their son had serious problems in school, and the
Kozaks, of Phillips, felt that school personnel often mistreated
The school referred the Kozaks to a parent advocate, who suggested
they consider legal remedies. She steered them to Joan Marcott, a
paralegal who worked with Janesville attorney John Sanborn.
The Kozaks paid $5,000 down to Sanborn to pursue a lawsuit against
their school district. Some time later, they gave Sanborn another
Marcott kept telling the Kozaks not to worry about the expense. "She
was promising us the world - that we'd have enough money to build a
brand new house," Keith Kozak says. "We didn't want a new house. All we
wanted was to recoup our losses and get something for damages" from the
A few years later, when their son was 14, he was properly diagnosed
with Asperger's disorder, a mild variant of autism. And still the Kozaks
waited for something to happen with their lawsuit.
But, in fact, Sanborn never filed any lawsuit, and the Kozaks learned
that the statute of limitation had expired. Park Falls attorney Dan
Snyder helped the Kozaks by writing to Sanborn to demand return of their
money. The Kozaks never got a dime, and Snyder suggested they contact
the Client Protection Fund.
The fund compensated the Kozaks for their first $5,000. Their second
$5,000 payment, however, had been an account-to-account transfer, and
the receiving account was not in Sanborn's name. Lacking proper
documentation, the fund couldn't pay the other $5,000.
The Kozaks were relieved to get back what they did. "We should have
seen more red flags," says Jamie Kozak of their experience with Sanborn.
"But I think our attention was on getting our son what he needed."
More Than the Money
Rebecca Horien's supervisor was trouble enough. She'd quit working
with him, due to problems she was having with him, although she
continued to work for the same company. Still, her former supervisor
retaliated by making false accusations against her.
Horien, who lives in Fond du Lac, turned to Oshkosh attorney Tom
Fadner for legal help in stopping her ex-supervisor's harassment and
clearing her name. But, as it turned out, Fadner only added to Horien's
When she first hired Fadner, Horien was favorably impressed. His
office looked professional, and he and his staff seemed helpful. She
paid Fadner a $2,000 advance, and he provided some advice initially on
preparing the paperwork for her grievance.
Over time, Horien noticed that the office staff turned over
frequently, or was absent altogether when she stopped by to drop off
paperwork. She caught a glimpse behind what previously had been closed
doors to other rooms in the office suite. Piles of paperwork lay all
over the floor. "It was a mess," she says.
Horien also realized she was doing all the work on her case, and that
the paperwork she brought to Fadner probably was landing somewhere in
those piles on the floor.
But Fadner had Horien's $2,000, and she couldn't afford to hire
another attorney. Eventually, Fadner missed a deadline on filing for a
hearing. After that, Horien asked for $1,500 back out of her original
$2,000. Fadner responded by sending a bill for $2,600 more.
"I was so angry by that point," she says, "having gone through all
that with my supervisor and then having to put up with my lawyer. I'd
spent all those hours writing hundreds of page, and he never read
She called the State Bar to file a complaint. "I wanted to report him
so he couldn't do this to anybody else," she says. In that phone call,
she learned about the Client Protection Fund. She applied for and
received restitution of $1,500.
"The money was wonderful," Horien says. "But more than that was the
caring - that lawyers put up their own money to help people who were
taken advantage of. I didn't expect that. The Bar was a godsend."