Vol. 81, No. 3, March
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
Disciplinary proceeding against Stephen M. Compton
On Jan. 16, 2008, the Wisconsin Supreme Court suspended the law
of Stephen M. Compton, Delavan, for 60 days, and ordered Compton to pay
of the disciplinary proceeding. Disciplinary Proceedings Against
Compton, 2008 WI 3.
Compton represented criminal defendants by appointment of the Office
the State Public Defender (SPD). In the fall of 2000, Compton was
represent J.M., who ultimately was incarcerated at a state
institution. In January 2002, Compton allowed J.M., who was a former
to assist Compton in doing legal research on Compton's cases while
Compton forwarded a client's case file to J.M. at the correctional
institution without his client's prior knowledge or approval. J.M.
legal research on this file for Compton. The court found that during
incarceration, Compton did not have effective procedures in place to
to ensure that J.M.'s conduct was compatible with Compton's
obligations, or to ensure that J.M would be able to maintain the
of the client matter while working from prison.
The court held that by failing to adequately supervise J.M. while
was performing legal work from prison, Compton violated former SCR
and (b), effective before July 1, 2007.
After J.M. was released from prison in May 2002, Compton hired J.M.
a paralegal. From May 2002 to July 2002, J.M. worked on several case
The SPD's billing policies require that an appointed attorney submit
bills for reimbursement for "reasonable hours" the attorney
has spent working on
client matters. The policies further provide that work done by another
attorney will not be reimbursed unless specifically approved.
Despite this policy, Compton billed the SPD for approximately 120
of work performed by J.M. In three cases, Compton falsely certified
had done all the legal work on the cases, when in fact J.M. had done
The court concluded that by billing the SPD for 120 hours of work at
the appointed attorney rate when that work actually was performed by
Compton engaged in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or
in violation of SCR 20:8.4(c).
Compton had been publicly reprimanded in 2002.
Disciplinary proceeding against Jeffrey D.
The supreme court suspended the law license of Jeffrey D. Berlin,
of Grafton, for six months effective Jan. 17, 2008. In addition, the
ordered that Berlin pay the full cost of the disciplinary proceeding.
Disciplinary Proceedings Against Berlin, 2008 WI 4.
Berlin's suspension was based on eight counts of professional
misconduct committed in connection with two client matters.
In the first matter, Berlin represented a client individually and in
her capacity as the purported special administrator of her deceased
estate. Berlin violated former SCR 20:1.8(g), in effect through June
by participating in making an aggregate settlement of both the
individual claims and the claims of her husband's estate, without
consulting with and
obtaining the informed consent of the client and someone authorized by
probate court to act on behalf of the estate. Berlin also violated SCR
by engaging in a course of conduct intended to allocate the entirety
aggregate settlement to the client individually, including by
or advising his cocounsel to dismiss the probate case without advising
probate court that a settlement of claims belonging to the estate had
and to distribute the entire net settlement proceeds to the client
individually, when he knew that there were outstanding claims against
In the second matter, Berlin represented a client as a part-time
staff attorney for the Wisconsin Professional Police Association
violated SCR 20:1.3 by failing to timely file a brief on behalf of his
to seek the consent of opposing counsel and the court to extend the
file the brief, and by failing to take any action with regard to the
resulting order to show cause why the case should not be dismissed.
violated SCR 20:1.4(a) by failing to inform the client that he had
failed to file
the brief or obtain a time extension in which to file it, and that the
had issued an order to show cause. Berlin violated SCR 20:8.4(c) by
false statements to his supervisor regarding the client's brief and by
to affirmatively advise his supervisor that the court had issued the
show cause. Berlin also made a misrepresentation to the Office of
Regulation (OLR) in the course of its investigation, in violation of
SCR 20:8.4(f) as
it relates to the requirements of SCR 22.03(6).
Additionally, in both matters Berlin violated SCR 20:8.4(f) as it
relates to the requirements of SCR 22.03(6) by failing to provide the
information requested during the course of both investigations.
Berlin was publicly reprimanded in August 2005 for three counts of
failing to act with reasonable diligence and promptness in
representing a client,
three counts of failing to keep a client reasonably informed of the
status of a
matter, two trust account violations, and three counts of failing to
unearned advanced fees. Public Reprimand of Jeffrey D. Berlin. 2005-4
Disciplinary proceeding against George H. Losby
In a Jan. 29, 2008 decision, the supreme court suspended the law
of George H. Losby, Eau Claire, for 18 months, effective March 3, 2008.
Disciplinary Proceedings Against Losby, 2008 WI 8.
The court accepted the referee's conclusion that Losby had engaged
10 counts of misconduct involving three probate estates. Losby failed
fiduciary income tax returns and failed to act with reasonable
closing the estates, contrary to SCR 20:1.3. In two of the estates, he
accounts that falsely reported the amount of fees he had taken and the
of certain income and tax liabilities, contrary to SCR 20:3.3(a)(1).
same two estates, he took more fees than he was entitled to receive,
SCR 20:8.4(c), and failed to cooperate with the OLR's investigation,
SCR 20:8.4(f) as it relates to SCR 22.03(6). In one of the estates,
also failed to appear at hearings and meet court-imposed filing
contrary to SCR 20:3.4(c).
Losby was ordered to pay restitution in two of the estates. He had
Public reprimand of Joseph C. Crawford
The OLR and Joseph C. Crawford, La Pointe, entered into an agreement
imposition of a public reprimand, pursuant to SCR 22.09(1). A referee
the supreme court thereafter approved the agreement and issued the
reprimand on Dec. 27, 2007, in accordance with SCR 22.09(3). The public
stemmed from a single matter investigated by the OLR.
Crawford represented a client pro bono in misdemeanor criminal
in Bayfield County. Crawford and the district attorney entered into an
extrajudicial agreement under which the defendant would leave the
state for three
years, after which time the district attorney would seek dismissal of
The client appeared in court, pleaded no contest to initial charges,
the state before the sentencing hearing.
Crawford and the district attorney did not advise the court of the
arrangement during either the plea hearing or the subsequent
Knowing that his client would not appear at the sentencing hearing
the arrangement with the district attorney, Crawford encouraged his
commit the crime of bail jumping, in violation of former SCR
before July 1, 2007. By failing to advise the court at the plea
sentencing hearing of the facts associated with the arrangement with
district attorney, Crawford engaged in conduct involving dishonesty,
or misrepresentation in violation of SCR 20:8.4(c). Furthermore,
allowed his client to testify falsely during the plea colloquy
regarding the absence
of promises or inducements and failed to take reasonable remedial
correct the false testimony in violation of former SCR 20:3.3(a)(4),
effective before July 1, 2007.
Crawford had no prior disciplinary history.
Public reprimand of Sallie L. Rubenzer
The OLR and Sallie L. Rubenzer, West Bend, entered into an agreement
imposition of a public reprimand pursuant to SCR 22.09(1). A referee
the supreme court thereafter approved the agreement and issued the
reprimand on Dec. 27, 2007, in accordance with SCR 22.09(3).
Rubenzer was found guilty on Dec. 13, 2006, of her fourth operating
while intoxicated (OWI) offense. Her conduct violated SCR 20:8.4(b),
provides that it is misconduct for a lawyer to commit a criminal act
adversely on the lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a
in other respects. In addition, Rubenzer failed to report the guilty
the OLR and to the clerk of the supreme court and thereby violated SCR
21.15(5), which states that it is misconduct for an attorney who is
found guilty or
convicted of a crime to fail to report the finding or conviction
days to the clerk of the supreme court and to the OLR.
The OWI charge on which the reprimand is based arose out of an
that occurred Aug. 19, 2006. Rubenzer was seen driving erratically,
driving in the wrong direction on city streets. A person whose vehicle
was nearly hit
by Rubenzer's contacted police. The officer responding to the call
that Rubenzer was impaired and arrested her. A blood test showed
blood alcohol concentration to be .298.
Rubenzer pleaded no contest. At sentencing on Jan. 25, 2007, the
ordered Rubenzer to serve eight months in jail commencing on that day.
court also suspended Rubenzer's driver's license for 33 months and
fined her $2,400.
Rubenzer had prior discipline, including a 2004 private reprimand
violating SCR 20:8.4(b) by committing her third OWI offense.