Vol. 80, No. 5, May 2007
Disciplinary proceedings against Patrick M. Cooper
On March 23, 2007, the Wisconsin Supreme Court suspended the law license of Patrick M. Cooper, Mequon, for three years. The court also ordered that Cooper pay the full cost of the disciplinary proceeding. Disciplinary Proceedings against Cooper, 2007 WI 37.
Cooper was admitted to the State Bar in 1993 and practiced law in Wisconsin (most recently from offices in Glendale and Mequon) through October 2005, when his law license was administratively suspended for Cooper's failure to pay his mandatory State Bar dues. In December 2005, Cooper's license was temporarily suspended for Cooper's failure to cooperate with the Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR) in the investigation of these matters.
The court adopted the referee's findings that Cooper had committed at least 35 separate instances of professional misconduct that affected seven clients and a retained expert.
Specifically, the court found that Cooper repeatedly violated SCR 20:8.4(c) by issuing at least 17 checks totaling $25,656.85 from his business account when he knew that his business account was either overdrawn or held no money when the checks were issued. Cooper also converted to his own use $4,424.99 in funds delivered to him in connection with a settlement involving one of his clients and $660 in funds delivered to him for payment to an expert Cooper retained. Further, Cooper induced an expert he hired to provide an assessment to deliver the assessment by promising to make "immediate" payment of $660 when Cooper knew that he had insufficient funds, and then issued a check to the expert for that amount, knowing the account was overdrawn. Cooper also made numerous misrepresentations to clients about the status of their cases and the actions he was taking.
The court also found that Cooper had violated: 1) former SCR 20:1.15(a) and SCR 20:1.15(b) (both in effect before July 1, 2004), including by depositing funds belonging to clients and third parties into his personal account rather than a trust account; 2) SCR 22.03(6) (which is actionable pursuant to SCR 20:8.4(f)) by failing to cooperate with the OLR's investigation of these matters, including by making several material misrepresentations to the OLR; 3) SCR 20:1.5(e) by engaging in improper fee splitting; 4) SCR 20:1.16(d) by failing to promptly deliver clients' files to successor counsel; 5) SCR 20:1.4(a) by failing to keep his clients reasonably informed about the status of their cases or failing to respond to their reasonable requests for information; 6) SCR 20:1.4(b) by failing to provide clients with sufficient information to make informed decisions regarding their cases; and 7) SCR 20:1.3 by failing to act with reasonable diligence in four client matters.
Top of page
Public reprimand of Roger L. Imes
The OLR and Roger L. Imes, La Crosse, agreed to the 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 March 19, 2007, in accordance with SCR 22.09(3).
A client hired Imes in December 1997 to represent her in a worker's compensation claim and short- and long-term disability benefits claims against her employer. Ultimately, the short-term disability claim was resolved to the client's satisfaction, the worker's compensation claim was not pursued, and only the long-term disability claim remained.
During the course of the almost six-year-long representation, Imes violated SCR 20:1.3 when he failed to inquire about the status of a March 1998 letter he sent to the insurer (to apply for long-term disability benefits), despite having received no response from the insurer for almost a year, and when he failed to resubmit his letter with information requested by the insurer when it contacted him in early 1999.
Subsequently, Imes violated SCR 20:1.1 by failing to file proof of the long-term disability claim with the insurer, as required by the insurer's policy, and by failing to have the claim processed through administrative channels, before filing a December 1999 lawsuit against the insurer. These failures caused the action to be dismissed without prejudice. Imes then filed the client's claim with the insurer. After the client's administrative remedies were exhausted in October 2001, Imes again violated SCR 20:1.3 by failing, for more than 14 months, to file a second action against the insurer challenging its decision to deny the client's claim.
Imes also violated SCR 20:1.1 when he failed to ascertain the time frame within which a legal action could be commenced against the insurer pursuant to the insurer's policy provisions, failed to use his law office's calendaring system to alert him to contract-based deadlines, and failed to file a second action against the insurer until five and one-half years after the onset of the client's disability, which was long after the contractual deadline for doing so.
Imes again violated SCR 20:1.3 when he failed, in the second action, to file a response to the insurer's motion for summary judgment by the deadline established by court order. On June 3, 2003, the court granted the insurer's motion for summary judgment based on the untimeliness of the lawsuit and the lack of a response from the plaintiff to the motion. Imes did not communicate with the client until Dec. 3, 2003, when he met with her to discuss the previous months' events. The client then terminated the representation.
Imes violated SCR 20:1.4(a) when he failed to keep the client adequately informed about the status of her matter in 1999, failed to notify the client of the dismissal of her second lawsuit, failed to inform the client of a motion he made for relief from that judgment and of the court's July 9, 2003, denial of that motion, and failed to communicate in any way with his client between the June 2003 dismissal of her lawsuit and Dec. 3, 2003.
Finally, Imes violated SCR 20:1.16(d) when, on termination of the representation, he failed to provide the client with a copy of her file for more than four months, despite her repeated requests for it.
Imes was privately reprimanded in 1994 for failing to comply with SCR 20:1.7(a).
Top of page
Disciplinary proceedings against Charles James Holley
On March 21, 2007, the Wisconsin Supreme Court suspended for 60 days the Wisconsin law license of Charles James Holley, Chicago, as discipline reciprocal to a 60-day suspension of Holley's Illinois law license imposed by the Supreme Court of Illinois on Jan. 13, 2006, effective Feb. 3, 2006. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Holley, 2007 WI 34.
The misconduct leading to the Illinois license suspension arose out of: 1) Holley's failing to keep funds belonging to clients or third parties separate from his own funds, which led to his unintentional conversion of approximately $10,000 of those funds when he used them for his own business expenses, in violation of Illinois Rule of Professional Conduct 1.15(a); 2) Holley's failing to promptly deliver to a client funds that the client was entitled to receive, in violation of Illinois Rule of Professional Conduct 1.15(b); and 3) conduct that was prejudicial to the administration of justice, in violation of Illinois Rule of Professional Conduct 8.4(a)(4), and that tended to defeat the administration of justice or to bring the legal profession into disrepute, contrary to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 770.
Holley's Wisconsin law license is currently suspended for Holley's failure to comply with his continuing legal education requirements and failure to pay his State Bar dues.
Top of page
Reinstatement of Jonathan A. Olson
On March 9, 2007, the Wisconsin Supreme Court reinstated, subject to conditions, the law license of Jonathan A. Olson. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Olson, 2007 WI 28. The court had suspended Olson's license for one year, effective April 27, 1998, based on Olson's felony conviction for the theft of funds from his law firm's checking account. Olson filed his petition for reinstatement on Sept. 26, 2005.
After a reinstatement hearing, the referee recommended, and the court adopted, the following conditions: 1) Olson must continue to make monthly restitution payments; 2) Olson is prohibited from handling funds or having check-writing authority for any law-related business other than one for which he is the sole lawyer-owner; 3) if Olson does legal work as a sole proprietor he cannot accept legal fees until the work has been performed or unless the funds are deposited to and kept in his client trust account until the work is performed; 4) Olson shall provide quarterly affidavits to the OLR regarding his compliance with these conditions for two years or until restitution is paid in full, whichever is later; and 5) if Olson works as a sole proprietor, he shall submit quarterly trust account records for the OLR's inspection for two years from the date the trust account is first opened.
Top of page
Rescheduled hearing to reinstate Arik J. Guenther
On June 12, 2007, at 9 a.m., a public hearing will be held before referee Kim M. Peterson at the 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.
Any person wishing to appear at the public hearing or to provide any information relating to the potential reinstatement of Guenther's law license may contact OLR litigation counsel William J. Weigel at 110 E. Main St., Suite 315, Madison, WI 53703, (608) 267-8915.
Top of page
Hearing to reinstate Michael A. Mandelman
A public hearing will commence at 1 p.m. on June 14, 2007, and continue at 9 a.m. on June 15, 2007, until the hearing is concluded before referee Stan Hack at the offices of DeWitt, Ross & Stevens S.C., 13935 Bishops Dr., Room 300, Brookfield, on the petition of Michael A. Mandelman, Milwaukee, 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.
In Disciplinary Proceedings Against Mandelman, 2006 WI 45, ___ Wis.2d ___, 714 N.W.2d 512, the Wisconsin Supreme Court suspended Mandelman's law license for nine months, effective June 21, 2006, as discipline for professional misconduct in connection with his representation of five clients and for misconduct unrelated to his representation of clients.
Mandelman's misconduct included violating a fee agreement, neglecting cases, failing to respond to a client's requests for information, possessing a conflict of interest, and failing to make reasonable efforts to ensure that his firm had in effect measures giving reasonable assurance that all lawyers in the firm conformed to the Rules of Professional Conduct. Unrelated to his representation of clients, Mandelman failed to file income tax returns and to pay income taxes when due.
Mandelman's other prior discipline consists of a 1990 one-year suspension, an 18-month suspension imposed in 1994, and a private reprimand issued in 1999.
To be reinstated, Mandelman has the burden of substantiating by clear, satisfactory, and convincing evidence that: he has the moral character to practice law in Wisconsin; his resumption of the practice of law will not be detrimental to the administration of justice or subversive of the public interest; all of his representations in his reinstatement petition are substantiated; and he 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 Nancy L. Warner or OLR retained counsel Robert Krohn, P.O. Box 151, Edgerton, WI 53534, (608) 884-3391. The OLR's toll-free telephone number is (877) 315-6941.
Top of page