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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.
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    Wisconsin LawyerWisconsin Lawyer
    Vol. 81, No. 12, December 2008

    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.

    Reinstatement of Brian B. Burke

    On Oct. 9, 2008, the Wisconsin Supreme Court reinstated the law license of Brian B. Burke, 50, Milwaukee. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Burke, 2008 WI 119.

    The supreme court summarily suspended the law license of Burke, a former Wisconsin state senator, on Jan. 3, 2006, following his conviction in state court of one felony count of misconduct in public office, relating to using state employees to work on his campaign for state attorney general in 2002, and one misdemeanor count of obstructing an officer, relating to withholding information relating to a staff member’s work history when Burke knew it had been subpoenaed. Another count of misconduct in public office, relating to falsifying expense vouchers to receive per diem expense money, was dismissed and read in for sentencing purposes. In the criminal case, Burke was sentenced to six months in jail and ordered to pay a fine. The supreme court subsequently suspended Burke’s license for two years, retroactive to the date he was summarily suspended. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Burke, 2007 WI 46, 300 Wis. 2d 198, 730 N.W. 2d 651.

    Following a hearing in the reinstatement proceeding, a court-appointed referee filed a report recommending reinstatement. Neither the Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR) nor the Board of Bar Examiners opposed the referee’s recommendation. The court reinstated Burke’s license and ordered him to pay the $3,876.39 cost of the reinstatement proceeding within 180 days.

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    Disciplinary proceeding against Keith R. Hughes

    The supreme court suspended the law license of Keith R. Hughes, 49, Eagle River, for three years, retroactive to Sept. 11, 2007, the date on which the court summarily suspended his license for the same misconduct on which the disciplinary proceeding was based. Hughes also was ordered to pay the $1,185.08 cost of the disciplinary proceeding. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Hughes, 2008 WI 120.

    In April 2007, Hughes entered a plea agreement and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371. Hughes’s misconduct involved conspiring to use the proceeds of credit card loans, without repayment, to purchase a house in Alabama. The credit card companies wrote off as bad debt or referred to collection approximately 28 credit card loans totaling more than $270,000 in principal, plus additional fees and interest.

    Hughes agreed to pay $146,100 restitution as ordered by the federal court for the principal amounts owed to the credit card issuers. Hughes cooperated with authorities in the prosecution of the coconspirator and paid a significant amount of restitution before sentencing. Hughes was sentenced to a prison term of one year and one day.

    The OLR and Hughes stipulated that his criminal conduct violated SCR 20:8.4(b).

    In 1999, Hughes consented to a private reprimand for incompetence and obtaining a prospective malpractice waiver from a client.

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    Public reprimand of Michael J. Collins

    The OLR and Michael J. Collins, Madison, 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. 29, 2008, in accordance with SCR 22.09(3).

    Collins entered into a business relationship with a man who was a social acquaintance. The business involved the purchase and renovation of a house. Before and during the business relationship, Collins gave the man advice on bankruptcy and debt-related matters. There was no written agreement concerning the business.

    The OLR informed Collins that he was being investigated for a potential conflict of interest arising from the client’s allegation that Collins had improperly entered into a business transaction with him while acting as his attorney. Collins denied the attorney-client relationship, stating that he gave “friendly advice.” The client then provided copies of the invoices and the letters Collins’s office generated regarding the client’s bankruptcy and debt collection.

    By entering into a business arrangement with a client without giving the client a reasonable opportunity to seek the advice of independent counsel and without obtaining the client’s written consent, Collins violated former SCR 20:1.8(a) (effective before July 1, 2007). By misrepresenting to the OLR the extent and content of his contacts with the client, Collins violated SCR 20:8.4(h) and 22.03(6).

    Collins’s prior discipline consisted of a 60-day suspension in 2004 and public reprimands in 1995 and in 1989.

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    Disciplinary proceeding against Michelle L. Tully

    On Oct. 29, 2008, the supreme court suspended the Wisconsin law license of Michelle L. Tully, Lake Villa, Ill., for three years as discipline reciprocal to a Sept. 20, 2006 order of the Illinois Supreme Court, disbarring on consent Tully’s Illinois law license for three years. Tully also failed to notify Wisconsin’s OLR of her Illinois discipline within 20 days of the discipline, contrary to SCR 22.22(1).

    The Illinois disbarment on consent arose out of Tully’s violation of the Illinois Rules of Professional Misconduct, consisting of seven conversions of client funds; failure to promptly deliver client funds or other property; conduct involving dishonesty, deceit, fraud, or misrepresentation; conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice; and conduct that tends to defeat the administration of justice or to bring the courts or legal profession into disrepute.

    In a previous Wisconsin disciplinary matter in August 2005, Tully’s law license was suspended for two years for multiple counts of misconduct; her Wisconsin law license remains suspended.

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