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    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.
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    Wisconsin LawyerWisconsin Lawyer
    Vol. 80, No. 3, March 2007

     

    Reinstatement of Alan D. Eisenberg

    On Jan. 19, 2007, the Wisconsin Supreme Court reinstated the law license of Alan D. Eisenberg and ordered him to pay the cost of the reinstatement proceeding within 60 days. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Eisenberg, 2007 WI 7.

    The court had suspended Eisenberg's license for one year, effective April 6, 2004. The misconduct leading to the suspension included failing to take steps to protect a client's interests when terminating representation; failing to disclose all relevant information to the Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR); engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation; knowingly making a false statement of fact to a tribunal; engaging in conduct intended to disrupt a tribunal; violating the attorney's oath; entering into a business transaction with a client; using means that have no substantial purpose other than to embarrass, delay, or burden a third person in the course of representing a client; and knowingly making a false statement of material fact or law to a third person. Eisenberg twice previously had his license suspended and also had been publicly reprimanded.

    Following a hearing on Eisenberg's petition for reinstatement, a referee concluded that Eisenberg had not met the standards for reinstatement. However, in a 4-3 opinion, the Wisconsin Supreme Court concluded that the standards were met and granted Eisenberg's reinstatement petition.

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    Disciplinary proceeding against Rodney T. Carroll

    On Jan. 23, 2007, in a reciprocal discipline matter, the Wisconsin Supreme Court revoked the Wisconsin law license of Rodney T. Carroll, 33, Dubuque, Iowa. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Carroll, 2007 WI 8.

    Carroll's Wisconsin law license previously had been summarily suspended on Oct. 19, 2004, based on his conviction for second-degree felony theft and fraudulent conversion of funds belonging to the Dubuque Arts Council, the same conduct that ultimately led to the Wisconsin revocation. On Sept. 22, 2006, the Iowa Supreme Court revoked Carroll's Iowa law license for the same misconduct.

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    Disciplinary proceeding against Richard A. Engelbrecht

    On Jan. 5, 2007, the Wisconsin Supreme Court suspended the law license of Richard A. Engelbrecht, 62, Green Bay, for six months based on a stipulation between Engelbrecht and the OLR. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Engelbrecht, 2007 WI 2.

    In one matter, Engelbrecht failed to hold a $200 bankruptcy filing fee in his trust account, failed for more than two years to file a bankruptcy action for which he had been paid, and failed to cooperate with the OLR's investigation. In a second matter, Engelbrecht failed to file a divorce action for three years, failed to keep records regarding trust account transactions, failed to submit full trust account records for the OLR's inspection, and failed to cooperate with the OLR's investigation. Engelbrecht thereby violated SCR 20:1.3 and 22.03(6) and former SCR 20:1.15(a), (e), (f), 20:1.3, and 22.03(6). Engelbrecht had been disciplined twice previously.

    Engelbrecht also stipulated that as a condition of any reinstatement, he would furnish the OLR with all trust account records from 2001 to 2005 not previously provided.

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    Disciplinary proceeding against John E. Sheehan

    On Jan. 5, 2007, the Wisconsin Supreme Court revoked the law license of John E. Sheehan, 63, Beloit. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Sheehan, 2007 WI 3. In his petition for consensual revocation, Sheehan acknowledged that he could not defend against seven counts of misconduct that had been charged in a disciplinary action (including commingling client and personal funds, failing to keep required trust account records, failing to deliver and account for client funds, and misappropriating funds from multiple clients), and that he could not defend against multiple other misconduct allegations that were under investigation by the OLR.

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    Disciplinary proceeding against Kristin J. Gernetzke

    The Wisconsin Supreme Court suspended the law license of Kristin J. Gernetzke, Onalaska, for six months, effective March 2, 2007. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Gernetzke, 2007 WI 6.

    Gernetzke admitted to having submitted 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, and inflated, and constituted a violation of SCR 20:8.4(c), which proscribes conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation.

    Gernetzke and the OLR also stipulated that restitution was appropriate. At the time of the stipulation, Gernetzke had made restitution to the SPD of $5,000. Gernetzke and the SPD were working out a payment plan for Gernetzke to repay the SPD additional restitution of more than $8,700. Gernetzke also may owe restitution to the law firm where she formerly was employed.

    Gernetzke had no prior discipline.

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    Disciplinary proceeding against Louis E. Neuendorf

    The Wisconsin Supreme Court revoked the law license of Louis E. Neuendorf, Sandwich, Ill., effective Jan. 23, 2007, as discipline reciprocal to that imposed on Neuendorf by the Illinois Supreme Court on Sept. 24, 2004. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Neuendorf, 2007 WI 9.

    The revocation of Neuendorf's Illinois law license resulted from Neuendorf engaging in 11 counts of misconduct, including multiple instances of practicing law after receiving a 90-day Illinois license suspension in 2001; engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation; engaging in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice; and engaging in conduct that tends to defeat the administration of justice or to bring the courts or the legal profession into disrepute.

    Neuendorf initially sent a handwritten letter to the OLR referencing a "gross miscarriage of injustice" by the Illinois Supreme Court concerning its disbarment order, and stated that due to his advanced age and failing health, he did not wish to respond to the OLR's complaint. A referee was appointed to conduct an evidentiary hearing; however, Neuendorf thereafter did not appear or otherwise respond.

    Because Neuendorf failed to show that the imposition of identical discipline would be unwarranted, the Wisconsin Supreme Court revoked his Wisconsin law license and ordered him to pay the cost of the disciplinary proceeding.

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    Disciplinary proceeding against James J. Ermert

    On Jan. 23, 2007, the Wisconsin Supreme Court suspended the law license of James J. Ermert, Racine, for 60 days, effective March 2, 2007. In addition, the court ordered Ermert to pay the cost of the disciplinary proceeding within 60 days. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Ermert, 2007 WI 10.

    Ermert's suspension was based on four counts of misconduct relating to his representation of two clients. The first matter involved his representation of a client in a divorce action. By failing to diligently pursue the client's interest in obtaining a divorce, Ermert violated SCR 20:1.3. By misrepresenting to the client that hearings had been scheduled in her divorce action when none were scheduled, and by then misrepresenting to her that those nonscheduled hearings had been canceled, Ermert violated SCR 20:8.4(c). Ermert also failed to promptly respond to the client's reasonable requests for information, and failed to provide accurate information regarding the status of her matter in violation of SCR 20:1.4(a).

    The second matter also involved Ermert's representation of a client in a divorce. Following the client's divorce, Ermert was to draft and file two quit claim deeds to address two pieces of real estate owned by the client and her former husband. Ermert never filed the deeds. The deeds eventually were drafted by a mortgage or title company and Ermert refunded $250 the client had paid him to prepare and file the deeds. By failing to file the quit claim deeds in a timely fashion, Ermert violated SCR 20:1.3.

    Ermert has been disciplined on five prior occasions. In 1987 he was privately reprimanded for failing to file a bankruptcy petition on behalf of a client for more than two years despite repeated representations to the client that the petition would be filed. In 1989 he was publicly reprimanded for failing to act on behalf of a criminal defense client whom he was appointed to represent by the SPD. In 1990 he was privately reprimanded for failing to file findings of fact, conclusions of law, and the judgment in a divorce case. In 1994 the court suspended Ermert's license for 60 days for failing to file an action for which he had been retained and for misrepresenting to his client that the action had been filed and that hearing dates had been obtained. In 2003 Ermert received a consensual public reprimand for failing to close the probate of an estate for more than 30 months and for failing to timely file a brief and failing to keep his client reasonably informed about the status of her case in a second matter.

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    Disciplinary proceeding against Robert H. Paul

    On Jan. 23, 2007, the Wisconsin Supreme Court suspended the law license of Robert H. Paul for 60 days. Paul formerly practiced in Mishicot and currently resides in Chicago. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Paul, 2007 WI 11.

    Paul's suspension was based on eight counts of misconduct relating to his representation of one client. In March 2000, the client hired Paul to represent her in a personal injury action and a worker's compensation claim resulting from injuries she sustained in December 1999 at a stable where the client boarded her two horses and where she asserted she worked to pay for her horses' board.

    In August 2000 Paul filed a personal injury suit on the client's behalf against the stable and its owners. In July 2001 Paul filed the client's "uninsured employer's claim form" with the Department of Workforce Development, Worker's Compensation Division. In his letter to the department with the client's claim form, Paul stated that a stipulation had been entered dismissing the personal injury suit when no such stipulation had been entered as of the date of the letter, thereby knowingly making a false statement of fact to a tribunal, in violation of SCR 20:3.3(a)(1).

    On Aug. 22, 2001, the personal injury suit was dismissed with prejudice pursuant to a stipulation signed by Paul. By failing to seek the client's permission before signing this stipulation, failing to inform the client that he had filed the stipulation dismissing her case, and failing to provide the client with a copy of the stipulation, Paul violated SCR 20:1.2(a).

    Paul took no action on the client's worker's compensation claim between Dec. 3, 2003, and Dec. 17, 2004. On Dec. 17, 2004, the administrative law judge assigned to the case dismissed it without prejudice due to lack of prosecution and the department's inability to contact either the client or Paul. By failing to diligently pursue the client's interests in her worker's compensation case between Dec. 3, 2003 and Dec. 17, 2004, Paul violated SCR 20:1.3.

    By failing to promptly respond to the client's reasonable requests for information regarding the status of her case; failing to promptly notify the client of his move to Illinois; and failing to provide accurate information to the client regarding the status of her personal injury suit and her worker's compensation case, Paul violated SCR 20:1.4(a). Further, by failing to provide the client with sufficient information as to the type of claims he might pursue on her behalf, the difficulties he was having with the worker's compensation claim, his intent to dismiss the personal injury suit with prejudice, and the order of dismissal entered on Dec. 17, 2004, in the worker's compensation case, and with regard to each of these developments, by failing to explain the ramifications to the client so that she could make informed decisions regarding her representation, Paul violated SCR 20:1.4(b).

    In November 2004 and January and March 2005, the client and her successor counsel attempted to obtain the client's file from Paul, which Paul did not provide until April 21, 2005, after Paul received correspondence from the OLR. By failing to timely respond to the client's and her counsel's attempts to obtain the file, Paul violated SCR 20:1.16(d).

    In the summer of 2003, Paul made false and deceptive statements to the client and the client's uncle regarding case status, in violation of SCR 20:8.4(c).

    Paul misrepresented to the OLR the extent and content of his contacts with the client and the client's uncle, in violation of SCR 20:8.4(f) and 22.03(6).

    The OLR and Paul stipulated to a 60-day suspension of Paul's Wisconsin law license. The referee recommended the stipulated sanction and the court adopted the referee's recommendation. Paul's Wisconsin law license has been suspended since June 6, 2005, due to his failure to comply with mandatory continuing legal education requirements.

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    Disciplinary proceeding against Willie J. Nunnery

    The Wisconsin Supreme Court suspended the law license of Willie J. Nunnery, Madison, for two months, effective Feb. 6, 2007. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Nunnery, 2007 WI 1. Nunnery also was ordered to pay the $8,219.97 cost of the disciplinary proceeding. The court further ordered that Nunnery's reinstatement be conditioned on payment of the sanctions imposed in one client matter.

    Nunnery's misconduct stemmed from his handling of six client matters between 1997 and 2003. The violations included failing to competently represent two clients, contrary to SCR 20:1.1; failing to act with reasonable diligence and promptness in connection with three client matters, in violation of SCR 20:1.3; failing to keep three clients reasonably informed about the status of their matters and promptly comply with reasonable requests for information, in violation of SCR 20:1.4(a); failing to explain matters to the extent reasonably necessary to permit two clients to make informed decisions concerning the representation, in violation of SCR 20:1.4(b); failing to reduce a contingency fee agreement to writing in one client matter, in violation of SCR 20:1.5(c); failing to deposit a client check into a client trust account, in violation of SCR 20:1.15(a); and knowingly advancing a claim that was unwarranted under existing law in one client matter, contrary to SCR 20:3.1(a)(1).

    Nunnery had no prior discipline.

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