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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. 81, No. 5, May 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.

    Disciplinary proceeding against Gary R. George

    On March 26, 2008, the Wisconsin Supreme Court suspended the law license of Gary R. George, 54, Milwaukee, for four years and three months, retroactive to April 1, 2004, the effective date of a previous summary suspension ordered by the court. In addition, the court ordered that George pay the $14,064.72 cost of the disciplinary proceeding. Disciplinary Proceedings Against George, 2008 WI 21.

    The earlier summary suspension was based on George's entering a guilty plea to one count of conspiracy to commit offenses involving federal program funds.

    The supreme court determined that George's conduct violated SCR 20:8.4(b). Although the Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR) sought, and the referee in the matter recommended, that George's license be revoked, the court concluded that a 51-month suspension was appropriate. The court found persuasive the OLR's argument that, because at the time of his misconduct George was acting not only as an attorney but also as an elected official, the misconduct "not only involved dishonesty, it violated the public's trust and served to undermine the public's confidence in its elected officials." The court nevertheless concluded that, because this was the only disciplinary complaint ever filed against George, because of George's public service, and because his "prospects for rehabilitation are real," George's misconduct "does not warrant the harshest penalty of revocation."

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    Disciplinary proceeding against Linda C. Smith

    On March 21, 2008, the Wisconsin Supreme Court suspended the law license of Linda C. Smith, Atlanta, Ga., for two years. The court also ordered Smith to pay restitution of $425.69 plus interest to an estate's creditor and to pay the $3,504.07 cost of the disciplinary proceeding. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Smith, 2008 WI 17.

    Smith engaged in 17 counts of misconduct, first alleged in grievances filed by three individuals who were all involved with Smith in a failed business transaction to purchase and operate a restaurant. Smith twice violated former SCR 20:1.15(a) (effective before July 1, 2007) by failing to hold client funds in trust, and she violated former SCR 20:1.15(b) (effective before July 1, 2007) by failing to timely disburse funds to a client.

    Smith twice violated former SCR 20:1.7(b) (effective before July 1, 2007) by representing two clients when her representation was materially limited by her own interests, without obtaining written consent from the clients. Smith also personally paid an outstanding lien in an estate she was representing, thereby providing financial assistance to a client in connection with pending litigation, in violation of former SCR 20:1.8(e) (effective before July 1, 2007).

    Additionally, Smith used client funds held in trust to pay a lien on the estate's truck, used trust account funds to pay for expenditures of the restaurant business, and misrepresented the financial condition of the business venture to the co-owner and to the seller, resulting in four violations of SCR 20:8.4(c) for conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation. Smith also violated former SCR 20:3.3(a)(1) (effective before July 1, 2007) because one of her false statements was made to a court. Smith twice violated SCRs 20:8.4(a) and (b) for conduct related to her handling of the liquor license for the restaurant. SCR 20:8.4(a) states it is misconduct for a lawyer to attempt to violate the professional conduct rules, to induce another to do so, or to do so through the acts of another, and SCR 20:8.4(b) prohibits the commission of a criminal act that reflects adversely on a lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer. Finally, Smith's misconduct included five instances of failing to cooperate with the OLR's investigation, in violation of SCR 22.03(6). Smith had no prior discipline.

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    Disciplinary proceeding against Eric L. Crandall

    In a March 4, 2008 decision, the Wisconsin Supreme Court imposed a public reprimand on Eric L. Crandall, New Richmond. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Crandall, 2008 WI 14.

    A married couple hired Crandall to remove errors from their credit report. Crandall noticed that a company had accessed the male client's credit report. Although the man said he had no account with the company, he was mistaken.

    Crandall sued the company, which provided proof of the account to Crandall, but he refused to dismiss the lawsuit. The company moved for summary judgment. Crandall failed to file an affidavit signed by the male client or any other response in opposition to the motion. The court dismissed the case. Crandall failed to tell his clients that the case was dismissed.

    When the company renewed a request for sanctions, Crandall filed a brief and the man's affidavit that opposed the summary judgment motion. Crandall failed to inform the couple when the court entered against the man a sanctions judgment of more than $4,700. The couple later reached an agreement to pay $1,600 to the company. On three occasions, the couple requested the case file from Crandall, but he did not comply for eight months.

    During the OLR's investigation, the supreme court temporarily suspended Crandall's license until he provided information requested by the OLR. After being reinstated, he again ignored an OLR request for information.

    During the disciplinary proceeding, Crandall stipulated to having committed the six counts of misconduct alleged by the OLR. When the referee recommended a public reprimand and the imposition of costs, Crandall made an untimely attempt to appeal the referee's recommendation, which the court denied.

    The court concluded that Crandall violated former SCR 20:3.1(a)(1) and (2) (advancing a meritless claim), former 20:1.3 (lack of diligence), former 20:1.4(a) (failing to keep a client informed), former 20:1.16(d) (failing to return a file), and 21.15(4) and 22.03(2) and (6) (noncooperation with the OLR). The former rules were in effect before July 1, 2007. The court ordered Crandall to pay partial restitution of $1,000 to his clients within 60 days of the discipline order and to pay the cost of the disciplinary proceeding.

    Crandall's license previously was suspended for three months in February 2006 as discipline reciprocal to that imposed by the Minnesota Supreme Court for misconduct involving neglect and failure to communicate, to comply with discovery rules, and to cooperate with disciplinary authorities.

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    Public reprimand of James Moldenhauer

    The OLR and James Moldenhauer, Eau Claire, 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 25, 2008, in accordance with SCR 22.09(3).

    Moldenhauer represented a client in a probate matter. Moldenhauer failed to advance the client's interests in closing the estate of the client's father by taking almost a year to close the estate. He also failed during that time to take steps to obtain a closing certificate from the Wisconsin Department of Revenue so the estate could be closed, in violation of SCR 20:1.3, which requires a lawyer to act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client. Additionally, by failing to respond to the client's numerous requests for information about the status of the estate and why it had not been closed, Moldenhauer violated former SCR 20:1.4(a) (effective before July 1, 2007). Finally, by failing to appear at three hearings after having been ordered by the court to appear and show cause on three separate dates, and by failing to timely respond to an additional court order, Moldenhauer disobeyed obligations under the rules of a tribunal, in violation of former SCR 20:3.4(c) (effective before July 1, 2007).

    Moldenhauer has prior discipline. In 2006, Moldenhauer received a public reprimand for violating SCR 20:1.3 and SCR 20:1.16(d) in two matters and for failing to cooperate in both matters. In 1996, Moldenhauer received a private reprimand for violations of SCR 20:1.3, 20:1.4(a,) and 20:1.15(b) in a probate matter.

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    Hearing to reinstate David V. Jennings

    On June 19, 2008, at 9 a.m., a public hearing will be held before referee Tim Vocke in Room 45, Milwaukee State Office Building, 819 N. 6th St., Milwaukee, on the petition of David V. Jennings III, Cedarburg, to reinstate his Wisconsin 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 Jennings, 172 Wis. 2d 638, 493 N.W.2d 375 (1993), the Wisconsin Supreme Court granted Jennings' petition for the revocation of his license by consent as discipline for professional misconduct. In his petition, Jennings stated that he could not successfully defend against allegations of professional misconduct under investigation by the Board of Attorneys Professional Responsibility concerning his unauthorized distributions of approximately $550,000 from bank accounts of two companies he represented in bankruptcy; he deposited in his personal accounts most of the funds, including a $200,000 settlement he received on behalf of one of those companies that he failed to report.

    To be reinstated, Jennings must substantiate 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 order of suspension or revocation and with SCR 22.26.

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

    Private Reprimand Summaries

    The Wisconsin Supreme Court permits the Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR) to publish, for educational purposes, in an official State Bar publication a summary of facts and professional conduct rule violations in matters in which the OLR imposed private reprimands. The summaries do not disclose information identifying the reprimanded attorneys. The following summaries of selected private reprimands, imposed by the OLR, are printed to help attorneys avoid similar misconduct problems. Some of the summaries may indicate violations of the rules that were in effect prior to July 1, 2007. The current rules proscribe the same types of misconduct. Under the new rules of lawyer regulation, a court-appointed referee will impose private reprimands with consent of the attorney. See SCR 22.09 (2000).

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