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    Lawyer Discipline

    The Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR), 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 OLR has offices 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.
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    Wisconsin LawyerWisconsin Lawyer
    Vol. 80, No. 12,  December 2007

     

    Disciplinary proceeding against James M. Gedlen

    On Oct. 2, 2007, the Wisconsin Supreme Court revoked the law license of James M. Gedlen, Milwaukee. The court also ordered Gedlen to pay the cost of the disciplinary proceeding. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Gedlen, 2007 WI 121.

    The revocation was based on 28 counts of misconduct, including eight counts of criminal conduct and dishonesty, in violation of SCR 20:8.4(b) and (c), stemming from Gedlen's conversion from multiple clients of more than $103,000, a portion of which was used to prevent the foreclosure of Gedlen's home.

    Gedlen also violated former SCR 20:1.15(a) and (b)(1) by failing to hold client and third party funds in trust, and former SCR 20:1.15(b) and (d)(1) by failing to disburse a divorce client's homestead proceeds despite the client's repeated requests. He failed to respond to that client's requests for an accounting and for information regarding the location of the funds, in violation of SCR 20:1.15(d)(2), and made misrepresentations to the client regarding the reasons for the delay in disbursing the funds, contrary to SCR 20:8.4(c). When the client filed a grievance and the Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR) began investigating the delay, Gedlen obtained a $65,000 loan from a third party and deposited the loan to his trust account, in violation of former SCR 20:1.15(b)(3). He then paid the client and misrepresented to the OLR that the funds had always been in his trust account, in violation of SCR 20:8.4(f) and SCR 22.03(2) and (6).

    In addition, Gedlen repeatedly used unearned fees to pay business expenses and failed to hold such funds in trust and comply with the requirements relating to the disbursement of fees, in violation of former SCR 20:1.15(b)(4), SCR 20:8.4(f), and SCR 20:1.15(g).

    On 12 occasions, Gedlen disbursed funds from trust on the same date that he deposited the funds, in violation of former SCR 20:1.15(a) and (e)(5)a. He also failed to maintain client ledgers and records relating to the reconciliation process and failed to properly identify the purpose of each disbursement on his trust account checks, in violation of former SCR 20:1.15(e) and (f)(1)b., g. and e.

    Finally, during the OLR's investigation of the activity in Gedlen's trust account, Gedlen produced six check stubs that had been altered to conceal information and later failed to respond to OLR inquiries in several matters, including the handling of funds held in trust in his own divorce proceeding, in violation of SCR 20:8.4(f), SCR 22.03(2) and (6), and SCR 20:8.4(c). Gedlen had no prior discipline.

    Disciplinary proceeding against Michael R. Inglimo

    On Oct. 18, 2007, the supreme court suspended the law license of Michael R. Inglimo, Superior, for three years, effective Nov. 19, 2007. The court also ordered Inglimo to pay the $42,400.96 cost of the disciplinary proceeding. Finally, the court ordered Inglimo to abstain from using, possessing, manufacturing, or delivering illegal controlled substances during his suspension and to submit to monthly random drug screenings for one year before petitioning for reinstatement. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Inglimo, 2007 WI 126.

    A referee determined that Inglimo violated 10 of 15 misconduct counts alleged by the OLR. On appeal, and after its own independent review of the record, the court determined that Inglimo engaged in 14 of the 15 misconduct violations alleged by the OLR. On six separate occasions, Inglimo violated SCR 20:8.4(b) by committing criminal acts that reflected adversely on his honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer in other respects. Three of those violations pertained to Inglimo's use of marijuana with three different clients, and one of those instances also involved the use of marijuana with a minor. A fourth violation pertained to Inglimo's misdemeanor conviction for possession of THC, which was based on his use of marijuana with two clients. Inglimo violated SCR 20:8.4(b) a fifth time when he used cocaine with a client. Inglimo's sixth violation of SCR 20:8.4(b) was for supplying marijuana to a client.

    Inglimo's misconduct also included four trust account rule violations. Inglimo twice violated former SCR 20:1.15(a), effective before July 1, 2004, by failing to hold in trust at least $386 of funds belonging to clients, and by depositing and maintaining personal funds in his client trust account. Inglimo also failed to keep the required trust account records, in violation of former SCR 20:1.15(e), effective before July 1, 2004, and he violated former SCR 20:1.15(g), effective before July 1, 2004, by falsely certifying on his annual State Bar dues statements that he had complied with the recordkeeping requirements.

    Inglimo engaged in dishonest conduct, in violation of SCR 20:8.4(c), by disbursing at least $2,661.47 from his client trust account on behalf of two clients, when funds in that amount were not on deposit for those clients. Inglimo also disbursed funds from his trust account for two other clients, when he knew no funds were on deposit for them.

    Inglimo violated former SCR 20:1.7(b), effective before July 1, 2007, by engaging in a significant social relationship with the wife of a divorce client.

    Inglimo violated SCR 20:1.7(b) a second time when he had sexual relations with the wife of a different client.

    Inglimo also violated SCR 21.15(5) by failing to notify the clerk of the supreme court and the OLR within five days of his conviction for possession of THC.

    Finally, the court concluded that although Inglimo engaged in a three-way sexual encounter with a client and the client's girlfriend, the conduct did not constitute having sexual relations with a client under former SCR 20:1.8(k), because the client and Inglimo did not touch each other.

    Inglimo had no prior discipline.

    Disciplinary proceeding against Donald A. Hahnfeld

    On Oct. 4, 2007, the supreme court suspended the law license of Donald A. Hahnfeld, Brookfield, for 60 days, commencing Nov. 8, 2007. In addition, the court ordered that Hahnfeld undergo a psychological and alcohol and other drug abuse (AODA) evaluation within 30 days of the order and that his reinstatement be conditioned on his receiving a satisfactory AODA evaluation. Finally, the court ordered Hahnfeld to pay the full cost of the disciplinary proceeding. Disciplinary Proceedings against Hahnfeld, 2007 WI 123.

    Hahnfeld's suspension resulted from his misconduct in three matters. In the first matter, Hahnfeld represented a man regarding a postjudgment divorce matter. An associate in Hahnfeld's firm initially had primary responsibility in representing the client in the family law matter and in a business dispute. The associate had obtained an order in May 2003 addressing some property division issues that had not been resolved in the divorce and was directed by the court to prepare a written order. The associate left the firm a short time later. Hahnfeld assumed responsibility for the client's case, including the drafting of the order, which was needed to effectuate the disbursement of funds being held in Hahnfeld's trust account. Hahnfeld failed to draft the order, despite repeated urging from his client and opposing counsel. Hahnfeld violated SCR 20:1.3 by failing to draft the order. In addition, because Hahnfeld's failure to draft the order prevented the prompt release of funds held in his trust account for the parties, Hahnfeld violated SCR 20:1.15(b). Hahnfeld also violated SCR 20:1.4(a) by failing to properly communicate with his client, and SCR 22.03(2) by failing to timely respond to the grievance.

    In the second matter, Hahnfeld represented a woman in her divorce. On conclusion of the trial, Hahnfeld failed to submit the findings of fact, conclusions of law, and judgment of divorce within the 30-day time limit. Hahnfeld also failed to draft a quit claim deed to allow the transfer of the homestead to the woman's sole possession. This conduct violated SCR 20:1.3. Also, at this point in the representation, Hahnfeld for the first time informed the woman that his fee would be $11,000 to $12,000, which was substantially more than previous estimates he had provided. Neither at the outset of the representation nor during the course of the representation had Hahnfeld sufficiently explained the basis or rate of his fee to the client. He never provided her an itemized bill until responding to the grievance, months after the client terminated the representation. The itemized bill presented charges that totaled more than $25,000, far in excess of Hahnfeld's previous estimates. Hahnfeld's conduct with respect to the fee violated former SCR 20:1.5(b) in that he had not explained the basis or rate of the fee to the client as required by the rule. Hahnfeld also violated SCR 20:1.16(d) by failing to return the client's file to her immediately on termination of the representation, and SCR 22.03(2) by failing to respond to the grievance within 20 days.

    In the third matter, in July 2004 Hahnfeld accepted a $750 flat fee from a man to represent the man at a hearing to modify visitation in a paternity matter. At the time Hahnfeld was hired, a hearing date already had been scheduled. Hahnfeld rescheduled the hearing to accommodate his own schedule. Hahnfeld then failed to appear at the hearing and did not respond to the client's telephone calls on that day or after the hearing. Hahnfeld attributed his failure to appear to a mistake in calendaring the matter. Hahnfeld did not return the client's fee until January 2005. The court found that Hahnfeld violated SCR 20:1.4(a) by failing to communicate with his client, and SCR 20:1.16(d) by failing to promptly refund the unearned fee. The court also found that Hahnfeld violated SCR 21.15(4) and SCR 22.03(2) and (6) by failing to timely respond to the grievance and to the OLR's request for additional information during the course of the investigation.

    In determining the appropriate sanction recommendation, the referee considered Hahnfeld's two prior public reprimands, as well as his pattern of neglecting client matters.

    Petition to reinstate Nancy A. Schlieve

    On Jan. 22, 2008, at 9 a.m., a rescheduled public hearing will be held before referee Russell L. Hanson at the Eau Claire County Courthouse, room 2521, 721 Oxford Ave., Eau Claire, on the petition of Nancy A. Schlieve, Eau Claire, 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.

    On Oct. 15, 1998, the supreme court indefinitely suspended Schlieve's license due to a medical incapacity. Schlieve's conduct leading to her medical incapacity suspension occurred when she failed to perform her duties as an attorney in a manner acceptable to professional standards, which resulted in danger to her clients and to the public. The court determined that the seriousness of Schlieve's misconduct established in the proceeding and its relation to her medical incapacity required the indefinite suspension of her law license until she was able to establish she no longer had a medical incapacity that interfered with her practice of law and until she did not present a danger to clients, the courts, and the public.

    To be reinstated, Schlieve has the burden of substantiating by clear, satisfactory, and convincing evidence that the medical incapacity has been removed and that she is fit to resume the practice of law, with or without conditions.

    Relevant information may be provided to or obtained from OLR investigator Melody Rader-Johnson or OLR director Keith L. Sellen, 110 E. Main St., Suite 315, Madison, WI 53703; (877) 315-6941.

    Petition to reinstate Kristin Gernetzke

    A public hearing will commence at 9 a.m. on Jan. 18, 2008, before referee Thomas H. Taylor in room B390 (basement level) at the La Crosse County Administration Building, 400 4th St. N., La Crosse, on the petition of Kristin Gernetzke, Onalaska, 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 Gernetzke, 2007 WI 6, 298 Wis. 2d 607, 725 N.W.2d 942, the supreme court suspended Gernetzke's law license for six months, effective March 2, 2007, as discipline for professional misconduct in connection with improper billing practices.

    Gernetzke's misconduct included submitting improper and undocumented billings to the Office of the State Public Defender (SPD). Gernetzke had submitted numerous billings under a category described as "develop legal theory" without creating proper documentation that was required for that entry to be acceptable. Gernetzke and the OLR stipulated that the billing entries so designated were without support, improper, inflated, and constituted a violation of SCR 20:8.4(c), which proscribes conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation.

    To be reinstated, Gernetzke has the burden of substantiating by clear, satisfactory, and convincing evidence that she has the moral character to practice law in Wisconsin, her resumption of the practice of law will not be detrimental to the administration of justice or subversive of the public interest, all of her representations in her reinstatement petition are substantiated, and she has complied fully with the terms of the suspension order and with supreme court rules.

    Relevant information may be provided to or obtained from OLR investigator Mary Ahlstrom or OLR director Keith Sellen, 110 E. Main St., Suite 315, Madison, WI 53703; (877) 315-6941.




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