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    Wisconsin LawyerWisconsin Lawyer
    Vol. 79, No. 12, December 2006

    Lawyer Discipline

    The Office of Lawyer Regulation, 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 lawyers. The Office of Lawyer Regulation has offices located at 110 E. Main St., Suite 315, Madison, WI 53703; toll-free (877) 315-6941. The full text of items summarized in this column can be viewed at www.wicourts.gov/olr.

    Lawyer Discipline

    Disciplinary proceedings against LeRoy Kramer

    On Oct. 10, 2006, the Wisconsin Supreme Court publicly reprimanded LeRoy Kramer, Harbor Springs, Mich., as discipline reciprocal to a public reprimand imposed against Kramer's Michigan law license by the State of Michigan Attorney Discipline Board on April 25, 2006, effective May 17, 2006. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Kramer, 2006 WI 117.

    The Michigan public reprimand arose out of Kramer's violation of Michigan Rule of Professional Conduct 1.1(a) by failing to provide competent representation to a client.

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    Disciplinary proceedings against Bruce Nash

    On Oct. 10, 2006, the Wisconsin Supreme Court suspended the Wisconsin law license of Bruce Nash, last known to have practiced in Chicago, for one year, as discipline reciprocal to a one-year suspension imposed against Nash's Illinois law license by the Illinois Supreme Court, effective Dec. 13, 2005. Nash also failed to notify Wisconsin's Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR) of his Illinois suspension within 20 days of that suspension, contrary to SCR 22.22(1). Disciplinary Proceedings Against Nash, 2006 WI 116.

    The Illinois suspension arose out of Nash's violation of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (IPRC) and involved practicing law in a jurisdiction where doing so violated the regulation of the legal profession in that jurisdiction, in violation of Rule 5.5(a), IRPC; conduct that was prejudicial to the administration of justice, in violation of Rule 8.4(a)(5), IRPC; and conduct that tended to defeat the administration of justice or to bring the courts or the legal profession into disrepute, in violation of Illinois SCR 771.

    Nash's Wisconsin law license has been suspended since 1989 for nonpayment of dues and since 1990 for CLE noncompliance. Nash also received a one-year reciprocal disciplinary suspension from the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 2003.

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    Disciplinary proceedings against J.E. Nugent

    On Oct. 10, 2006, the Wisconsin Supreme Court suspended the law license of J.E. Nugent for 60 days, effective Nov. 21, 2006. The court also ordered Nugent to pay the $4,911.70 cost of the disciplinary proceeding. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Nugent, 2006 WI 114.

    The court adopted a referee's findings of fact and conclusions of law and determined that Nugent engaged in six instances of misconduct. In one matter, Nugent failed to file state personal income tax returns and corporate tax returns for his law firm for 1996 through 2001, in violation of supreme court decisions regulating the conduct of lawyers, contrary to SCR 20:8.4(f). Nugent also willfully failed to respond to OLR investigative letters, in violation of SCR 22.03(6).

    In the other matter, Nugent represented a client in two different cases. In one case, Nugent failed to reduce the contingent fee agreement to writing and ultimately failed to provide his client with a written statement of the matter's outcome showing the remittance to the client, in violation of SCR 20:1.5(c). Nugent also failed to provide copies of important documents to the client and failed to respond to the client's status inquiries, in violation of SCR 20:1.4(a). In the other case, Nugent violated former SCR 20:1.15(b) by failing to promptly notify the client of his receipt of garnishment proceeds and by failing to promptly deliver the proceeds to the client. Nugent also failed to respond to multiple OLR requests for supplemental information, in violation of SCR 22.03(6).

    Nugent received a private reprimand in 1986 and a public reprimand in 2003.

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    Disciplinary proceedings against Todd J. Beatse (a/k/a T. James Beatse)

    On Oct. 11, 2006, the supreme court publicly reprimanded Todd J. Beatse, 40, LaCrosse, for professional misconduct. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Beatse, 2006 WI 115.

    Beatse was employed as a Monroe County assistant district attorney. On or about Jan. 24 or 25, 2005, Beatse left his office to attend court hearings. While he was out of his office, a coworker who was shutting down Beatse's computer discovered pornographic images that had been downloaded from the Internet and minimized on the bottom of the computer screen. An investigation of the source of the pornography and of Beatse's computer usage ensued. It was discovered that Beatse had spent numerous hours viewing pornographic images on the Internet, had lied about the source of the pornography, had continued to view pornography after he had been informed it was unacceptable, had used the state's email system to send and receive sexually explicit email messages, and had made inappropriate comments to a Monroe County employee in a work environment.

    By lying to his coworkers and his supervisor about the source of and reason for pornography on his work computer, by lying about his continued viewing of pornography on his work computer after it was discovered, and by lying about sending and receiving sexually explicit emails, Beatse engaged in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation, in violation of SCR 20:8.4(c).

    By making offensive comments to the county employee and by using the state email system to send and receive numerous messages containing inappropriate sexual and other offensive content, Beatse violated the attorney's oath, including the requirement to "abstain from all offensive personality," see SCR 40.15, thereby also violating SCR 20:8.4(g).

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    Public reprimand of Thomas A. Van Beckum

    On Oct. 5, 2006, the supreme court publicly reprimanded Thomas A. Van Beckum, Kenosha, by consent for having committed five counts of professional misconduct involving a grievance matter.

    Van Beckum's public reprimand resulted from misconduct that included failing to act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client; failing to keep a client reasonably informed about the status of a matter and failing to promptly comply with reasonable requests for information; failing to provide the client with reasonable notice of Van Beckum's need to withdraw from the representation before a June 14, 2004, hearing; failing after June 15, 2004, to cooperate with the client's and successor counsel's efforts to obtain information relevant to the case so that successor counsel could adequately advise and represent the client; falsely advising the circuit court on June 14, 2004, that: 1) the client was aware of the June 14, 2004, hearing and its subject matter; 2) the client had been informed about Van Beckum's personal problems and need to withdraw; and 3) the client wanted to prosecute the case without counsel; and providing false information to the client regarding the case status and progress, including that extensions had been granted on the various deadlines in the scheduling order when no such extensions had been granted.

    Van Beckum had not previously been disciplined for professional misconduct.

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    Public reprimand of James G. Moldenhauer

    The OLR and James G. Moldenhauer, Eau Claire, 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 Oct. 3, 2006, in accordance with SCR 22.09(3). The public reprimand stemmed from two matters investigated by the OLR.

    In the first matter, a client hired Moldenhauer to represent her in resolving federal and state tax liabilities stemming from the operation of a business by her husband, who had died unexpectedly. According to the client, the goal of the representation was to negotiate reductions in the amounts owed and to enter affordable payment plan agreements with the state and the federal governments. Moldenhauer failed to advance the client's interests in any appreciable manner in the approximately six-year-long period that he represented her, in violation of SCR 20:1.3. The client hired successor counsel. Moldenhauer failed to timely or meaningfully address successor counsel's specific, written requests for the client's file, in violation of SCR 20:1.16(d). In violation of SCR 22.03(2) and 22.03(6), Moldenhauer failed to timely file a written response to the client's grievance after service by ordinary mail and personal service and filed a response only after the OLR filed a motion in the supreme court pursuant to SCR 22.03(4).

    The second matter involved Moldenhauer's representation of a client in a divorce. Following termination of the representation, Moldenhauer violated SCR 20:1.16(d) by failing to timely provide the client with an itemized billing statement and a refund of the unearned portion of the funds advanced by the client, either on his own initiative or in response to the client's specific requests. Moldenhauer eventually provided the requested itemized statement and returned the unearned portion of the advanced funds. In violation of SCR 22.03(2) and 22.03(6), Moldenhauer failed to timely file a written response to the client's grievance after service by ordinary mail and personal service and filed a response only after the OLR filed a motion in the supreme court pursuant to SCR 22.03(4).

    Moldenhauer received a private reprimand in 1996 for violations of SCR 20:1.3, 20:1.4(a), and former SCR 20:1.15(b) in a probate matter.

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    Public reprimand of Kimberly A. Theobald

    The OLR and Kimberly A. Theobald, Waukesha, 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 in accordance with SCR 22.09(3) on Oct. 5, 2006. The public reprimand stemmed from three matters investigated by the OLR.

    In the first matter, Theobald represented a client who had been sued by her ex-husband, who sought the return of certain personal property. Theobald failed to timely answer the civil complaint and failed to appear at two hearings in the matter, in violation of SCR 20:1.3. Theobald failed to answer many of the client's telephone calls over approximately four months, in violation of SCR 20:1.4(a). The investigation disclosed that Theobald was maintaining certain of her earned fees, and other funds belonging to her, in her trust account for significant periods of time, contrary to former SCR 20:1.15(a), effective through June 30, 2004. In violation of former SCR 20:1.15(e), also effective through June 30, 2004, Theobald failed to maintain and keep a trust account transaction register and client ledgers that showed a consistent and accurate running balance, the source of each deposit, and the purpose of each disbursement, and she failed to maintain duplicate deposit slips.

    In the second matter, a client hired Theobald as successor counsel in seeking the custody and placement of the client's minor grandson, who had lived with the client following the death of the child's mother. The child's father contested the client's efforts. The parties reached an agreement in the matter, and Theobald was responsible for preparing a stipulation that reflected the agreement terms. Theobald failed to timely do so, in violation of SCR 20:1.3. The child's father complained that Theobald's client was not following the terms of the parties' agreement, and that Theobald had not reduced the agreement to writing. The father obtained a hearing, which Theobald was unable to attend, and at which the court awarded sole custody and primary placement to the father. Theobald then filed an untimely appeal, in violation of SCR 20:1.3. Theobald did not file a timely written response to the client's grievance, in violation of SCR 22.03(2) and 20:8.4(f).

    In the third matter, a client hired Theobald in 2001 to represent him in a custody and placement dispute between the client and his ex-girlfriend, the mother of his child. Theobald violated SCR 20:1.3 by failing to prepare and file a motion to amend a placement order, and by failing to prepare and file a contempt order following a hearing at which the adverse party was found in contempt and at which the court commissioner asked Theobald to prepare the contempt order. Theobald violated SCR 20:1.4(a) by failing to return many of the client's telephone calls, emails, and letters over more than six months and by failing to inform the client that Theobald would not complete a motion to amend placement until the client's bill was paid in full.

    Theobald received a public reprimand in 2004 for misconduct involving violations of SCR 20:1.3, 20:1.4(a), and 22.03(2).

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    Reinstatement of Robert L. Sherry denied

    On Oct. 31, 2006, the Wisconsin Supreme Court denied Robert L. Sherry's petition for reinstatement of his law license and ordered him to pay the cost of the reinstatement proceeding. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Sherry, 2006 WI 119.

    On Aug. 13, 2003, the supreme court suspended Sherry's license for nine months, based on 21 counts of misconduct involving his representation of several clients. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Sherry, 2003 WI 123. Sherry's license had been under suspension since a 2001 administrative suspension for noncompliance with CLE requirements and a subsequent 2001 suspension for failure to cooperate with an OLR investigation.

    On July 25, 2005, Sherry filed a petition for reinstatement of his law license. However, Sherry failed to respond to the OLR's reinstatement questionnaire and failed to appear at a final scheduling conference. The referee then recommended that Sherry's petition be denied. The court adopted the referee's report and concluded that Sherry failed to demonstrate by clear, satisfactory, and convincing evidence that his resumption of the practice of law would not be detrimental to the administration of justice or subversive of the public interest.

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    Hearing to reinstate Gricel Echavarria

    On Jan. 29, 2007, at 9 a.m., a public hearing will be held before referee Catherine Rottier at the Boardman Law Firm, 4th Floor, U.S. Bank Building, Capitol Square, Madison, on the petition of Gricel Echavarria, Madison, to reinstate her law license. Any interested person may appear at the hearing and be heard in support of, or in opposition to, the petition for reinstatement.

    In Disciplinary Proceedings Against Echavarria, 2004 WI 51, 271 Wis. 2d 289, Echavarria's law license was suspended for two years, effective Nov. 17, 2003, for her commission of criminal conduct in conspiring to produce and transfer false identification documents, counterfeit resident alien cards, and counterfeit Social Security cards, which conduct resulted in her conviction of a federal felony.

    To be reinstated, Echavarria has the burden of substantiating by clear, satisfactory, and convincing evidence that: 1) she has the moral character to practice law in Wisconsin; 2) her resumption of the practice of law will not be detrimental to the administration of justice or subversive of the public interest; 3) her representations in the petition, including the representations required by SCR 22.29(4)(a)-(m) and 22.29(5), are substantiated; and 4) she has complied fully with the terms of the suspension or revocation order and with the requirements of SCR 22.26.

    Relevant information may be provided to or obtained from OLR investigator Mary Ahlstrom or OLR assistant litigation counsel William F. Bedker, 110 E. Main St., Suite 315, Madison, WI 53703, (877) 315-6941.

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    Hearing to reinstate Arik J. Guenther

    On Jan. 23, 2007, at 9 a.m., a public hearing will be held before referee Kim M. Peterson in Room A, Fond du Lac County Courthouse, City-County Government Center, 160 S. Macy St., Fond du Lac, on the petition of Arik J. Guenther, Fond du Lac, to reinstate his law license. Any interested person may appear at the hearing and be heard in support of, or in opposition to, the petition for reinstatement.

    In Disciplinary Proceedings Against Guenther, 2005 WI 133, 285 Wis. 2d 587, the supreme court suspended Guenther's law license for eight months, effective Aug. 30, 2005. The court's order concerned two separate but related disciplinary actions in which the referees had recommended a six-month suspension and a two-month suspension and had collectively found a total of 15 counts of misconduct.

    Guenther's misconduct included failing to keep a client reasonably informed and engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, deceit, or misrepresentation in a divorce matter; failing to provide an accurate accounting of the client's funds still held in trust, removing more fees than he was owed, and failing to provide an accurate accounting to the OLR; failing to maintain complete trust account records, failing to submit complete records for the OLR's inspection, and falsely certifying that he was retaining required trust account records; failing to hold numerous client funds in trust; failing to cooperate with the OLR investigation; dishonest or fraudulent conduct; failing to appropriately supervise a nonlawyer's conduct; and failing to properly deposit and record the funds he received and to document the amounts he was forwarding to the client or paying himself for fees, while he failed to hold client funds in trust and failed to provide requested trust account records for the OLR's inspection.

    Guenther was ordered to file quarterly trust account reports with the OLR for two years as a condition of reinstatement. In its order, the court noted that Guenther had received three prior private reprimands.

    To be reinstated, Guenther has the burden of substantiating by clear, satisfactory, and convincing evidence that: 1) he has the moral character to practice law in Wisconsin; 2) his resumption of the practice of law will not be detrimental to the administration of justice or subversive of the public interest; 3) all of his representations in his reinstatement petition are substantiated; and 4) he has complied fully with the terms of the suspension or revocation order and with SCR 22.26.

    Relevant information may be provided to or obtained from OLR investigator Nancy L. Warner or OLR litigation counsel William J. Weigel, 110 E. Main St., Suite 315, Madison, WI 53703, (877) 315-6941.

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