Vol. 81, No. 9, September
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 Kristin
On July 17, 2008, the Wisconsin Supreme Court reinstated the law
license of Kristin
J. Gernetzke and ordered her to pay the $2,895.92 cost of the
Disciplinary Proceedings Against Gernetzke, 2008 WI 100.
The court had suspended Gernetzke's license for six months,
effective March 2,
2007, as a result of improper and undocumented billings that Gernetzke
submitted to the
Office of the State Public Defender (SPD). Disciplinary Proceedings
2007 WI 6, 298 Wis. 2d 607, 725 N.W. 2d 942.
After a hearing on Gernetzke's petition, a referee concluded
that Gernetzke had
met the standard for reinstatement set forth in SCR 22.31(1) and
her license. The referee noted that Gernetzke had paid full restitution
to the SPD's
office. The court adopted the referee's recommendation and imposed
require Gernetzke to be directly supervised by another attorney for
three years from the date
she resumes practicing law and to report such compliance to the Office
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Disciplinary proceeding against Joan M.
The supreme court suspended the law license of Joan M. Boyd, Shawano,
months, effective Aug. 25, 2008. The court also ordered Boyd to pay
restitution to her
clients and to pay the cost of the disciplinary proceeding.
Disciplinary Proceedings Against Boyd, 2008 WI 103. Boyd's
suspension related to five counts of misconduct in three
unrelated client matters.
The first and second counts related to Boyd's representation of
a couple in a
bankruptcy. After learning that the clients had a house fire, Boyd filed
schedules that did not disclose the insurance proceeds the clients
received and did not
accurately report the clients' assets and purchases they made with
insurance money. Boyd
thereby violated SCR 20:1.1, which requires competent representation.
Boyd also failed to
attend a meeting of creditors after her clients told her that they were
not going to attend
the hearing, in violation of SCR 20:1.3, which requires reasonable
promptness in representing a client.
The third count related to Boyd's representation of a client in
Boyd filed an unnecessary bankruptcy petition for her client and
repeatedly tried to exempt
a nonexempt investment account from the bankruptcy estate, in violation
of SCR 20:1.1.
The fourth and fifth counts related to Boyd's representation of
a client in a
criminal postconviction matter. Boyd handled the matter despite her
and failed to prepare for a hearing on a motion, in violation of SCR
violated SCR 20:8.4(c) by misrepresenting her experience in criminal law
to the client's
mother before the client and his mother decided to hire Boyd.
Boyd had received two prior public reprimands.
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Disciplinary proceeding against Maureen B.
On July 17, 2008, the supreme court suspended the law license of
Fitzgerald, Milwaukee, for 60 days and ordered her to pay restitution to
Disciplinary Proceedings Against Fitzgerald, 2008 WI 101.
On May 9, 2006, Fitzgerald's law license was temporarily
Fitzgerald's failure to cooperate with an OLR investigation. On June 2,
2006, Fitzgerald received
a 90-day suspension for professional misconduct. She has not sought
Fitzgerald's current suspension is based on six counts of
misconduct relating to
two matters. In the first matter, Fitzgerald appeared on behalf of four
her license was suspended, in violation of SCR 22.26(2). Fitzgerald
billed and accepted
payment from the SPD for those appearances, in violation of SCR
failed to cooperate with the OLR's investigation of the matter, in
violation of 22.03(2).
In the second matter, Fitzgerald entered a not guilty plea on
behalf of a client
while her license was suspended, in violation of SCR 22.26(2).
Fitzgerald misled the
Jefferson County circuit court clerk about her license status, in
violation of SCR
20:8.4(c). Fitzgerald failed to cooperate with the OLR's investigation
of the matter, in
violation of SCR 22.03(2).
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Disciplinary proceeding against R.L.
On July 15, 2008, the supreme court suspended the law license of R.L.
Milwaukee, for 60 days effective Aug. 25, 2008, and ordered him to pay
the full $3,710.27 cost
of the disciplinary proceeding. Disciplinary Proceedings Against
McNeely, 2008 WI 91.
McNeely's suspension was based on three counts of professional
in connection with his representation of a client, in the client's
capacities as an
individual and as the purported special administrator of her deceased
McNeely violated former SCR 20:1.8(g) (effective before July 1,
participating in making an aggregate settlement of both the client's
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 the probate court to act on
behalf of the estate.
McNeely violated SCR 20:3.3(a)(1) by making false statements of
fact to the
Milwaukee County register in probate regarding a petition for special
administration of the
estate, notably by failing to disclose that a settlement had been
reached that resulted in
release of the estate's claims in a personal injury matter.
McNeely also violated SCR 20:8.4(c), which prohibits conduct
dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation, by engaging in a course
of conduct intended to
allocate the entire aggregate settlement of the client's individual
claims and the
estate's claims in a personal injury matter to the client individually
and to distribute the
entire net settlement proceeds to the client individually, when McNeely
there were outstanding claims against the estate.
McNeely had no prior discipline.
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Disciplinary proceeding against Terrence J.
On July 8, 2008, the supreme court suspended the law license of
Terrence J. Woods,
Oconto Falls, for 90 days, effective Aug. 11, 2008, and ordered him to
pay the full
$2,009.83 cost of the disciplinary proceeding. Disciplinary
Woods, 2008 WI 79.
The court accepted a stipulation between Woods and the OLR in
which Woods entered a
no contest plea to allegations that he engaged in four counts of
misconduct during his
representation of clients. The allegations included failing to file an
and amended budget in a bankruptcy proceeding, resulting in the
dismissal of the
bankruptcy action, in violation of SCR 20:1.3; failing to keep a client
informed about the status
of a bankruptcy petition, including the court's order to file an amended
plan and budget,
in violation of former SCR 20:1.4(a); representing both a husband and a
wife in a
bankruptcy proceeding even though he represented one spouse in divorce
restraining order matters, without consulting with both spouses or
obtaining written conflict
waivers, in violation of former SCR 20:1.7(a); and failing to return to
a client funds
advanced in connection with a bankruptcy proceeding, in violation of
former SCR 20:1.16(d).
Woods had been the subject of five prior disciplinary orders:
reprimands (1993 and 2003), a private reprimand (1996), and two
court-imposed, 60-day suspensions.
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Disciplinary proceeding against Carlos A.
On July 30, 2008, the supreme court suspended the law license of
Gamino, Waukesha, for 18 months, effective Sept. 2, 2008. The court also
ordered Gamino to
complete 24 credits of approved continuing legal education coursework in
and professional responsibility and to pay the $16,281.02 cost of the
proceeding. Disciplinary Proceedings Against
Gamino, 2008 WI 107.
Gamino agreed to jointly represent both spouses in a divorce
spouses previously had been represented by separate attorneys, but the
that they save money by finding one attorney to represent them both. The
parties had had
a lengthy marriage, and the wife was a victim of domestic violence, in
and receiving Social Security disability payments. Gamino violated
former SCR 20:1.7(a)
(effective before July 1, 2007) by representing both parties in an
proceeding, when he could not have reasonably believed that the wife's
interests would not
be adversely affected by the dual representation and when he failed to
written consent of either party to the dual representation.
Additionally, by failing to advise the wife that the divorce had
for failure to prosecute and that he had filed a motion to reopen the
matter, and by
failing to inform the wife, until the day of the default divorce
hearing, that he was only
going to represent her husband and not her, Gamino failed to keep the
informed about the status of the divorce action, in violation of former
(effective before July 1, 2007).
Further, Gamino failed to make adequate inquiry into the
assets, the wife's health condition and disability status, and domestic
violence the wife
had experienced, and he failed to advise the wife of her rights to fair
violation of SCR 20:1.1, which requires an attorney to provide competent
Gamino also violated former SCR 20:1.9(a) (effective before July
1, 2007) when
he continued to represent the husband after he ceased representing the
obtaining the wife's written consent to Gamino's representation of her
court adopted the referee's findings that the stipulated marital
settlement agreement did
not give the wife the $98,000 that she was to get from her husband's
accounts, and that Gamino had crucial knowledge about the wife that
created an insurmountable
conflict that made his continued representation of the husband
Finally, Gamino violated former SCR 20:1.16(d) (effective before
July 1, 2007) when
he failed to provide the wife's file to her successor counsel on
Gamino was previously disciplined by the court. In 2005, the
Gamino for six months for engaging in a sexual relationship with a
client in one matter and in
a sexual relationship with a juvenile client's mother in another matter.
made false representations to a court and to the OLR about his conduct.
In 2006, Gamino
received a public reprimand for failing to act with reasonable
diligence, failing to
immediately refund unearned fees, contacting a client after receiving
successor counsel had been retained, and committing a trust account
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Public reprimand of Peter J. Kovac
The OLR and Peter J. Kovac, 61, Milwaukee, agreed to the imposition
of a public
reprimand, pursuant to SCR 22.09(1). A referee appointed by the supreme
the agreement and issued a public reprimand on April 21, 2008.
Kovac's misconduct stemmed from his handling of four client
matters. In the
first matter, Kovac was appointed to provide appellate-level
representation to a man
sentenced to life in prison for a conviction of first-degree intentional
homicide while using
a dangerous weapon and to 20 years' imprisonment for a conviction of
first-degree intentional homicide while using a dangerous weapon. Kovac
failed to competently
represent the client, in violation of SCR 20:1.1; failed to act with
and promptness in representing the client, in violation of SCR 20:1.3;
failed to keep
the client reasonably informed about the status of a matter and promptly
reasonable requests for information, in violation of SCR 20:1.4(a); and
cooperate with the investigation of the grievance, in violation of SCR
therefore violated a supreme court rule regulating lawyer conduct, in
violation of SCR 20:8.4(f).
In the second matter, a client hired Kovac to represent him on a
charge of party to a crime of first-degree intentional homicide while
armed. The client
was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. The client also hired
seek postconviction relief. Kovac failed to act with reasonable
diligence and promptness
in representing the client, contrary to SCR 20:1.3, and failed to keep
reasonably informed about the status of a matter, contrary to SCR
The third matter involved Kovac's representation of a client who
was convicted of
two drug-related felonies. Kovac failed to act with reasonable diligence
in representing the client, in violation of SCR 20:1.3, and failed to
keep the client
reasonably informed about the status of his matter, in violation of SCR
Kovac also failed to cooperate with the investigation of the client's
violation of SCR 22.03(2) and 20:8.4(f).
In the fourth matter, Kovac was hired to represent a client in a
involving drug trafficking and related firearms offenses. Kovac engaged
impermissible conflict of interest, in violation of former SCR 20:1.7(b)
(effective before July
1, 2007), and failed to cooperate with the investigation of the
grievance, in violation
of SCR 22.03(2) and 20:8.4(f).
Kovac had no prior discipline.
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Public reprimand of William P. Skemp
The OLR and William P. Skemp, La Crosse, entered into an agreement
for imposition of
a public reprimand, pursuant to SCR 22.09(1). A referee appointed by the
court approved the agreement and issued the public reprimand in
accordance with SCR 22.09(3)
on July 14, 2008. The public reprimand stemmed from two matters
investigated by the OLR.
In the first matter, Skemp represented clients in litigation
relating to a fuel
oil spill on their property. The clients also sought advice from Skemp
regarding the sale
of the property, and he entered into an agreement to purchase the
without giving the clients reasonable opportunity to seek the advice of
and without the clients consenting in writing. By entering into an
agreement to purchase
the real property of his clients, Skemp violated former SCR
20:1.8(a) (effective before July 1, 2007), which governs
transactions between attorneys and clients. Later, Skemp sold
the property and failed to inform the buyer of the fuel oil spill on the
property and sold
it to her even though he was aware of the spill and the expert reports
steps necessary to return the property to pre-spill condition or at
least make the
property habitable and was aware the expert recommendations were not
followed. He thereby
violated SCR 20:8.4(c), which prohibits conduct involving dishonesty,
fraud, deceit, or
In the second matter, Skemp was hired in July 2005 to litigate a
malpractice claim and then failed to advance the clients' interests in
any appreciable manner
before the attorney-client relationship was terminated in late 2007,
including failing to
commence an action or make any kind of filing in the matter on the
Skemp thereby violated SCR 20:1.3, which states, "A lawyer shall
act with reasonable
diligence and promptness in representing a client." By failing to
keep the clients informed of
the status of their case and failing to respond to their numerous
information between September 2006 and July 2007, Skemp violated former
(effective before July 1, 2007), which requires an attorney to keep a
informed about the status of a matter and to promptly comply with
reasonable requests for
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Medical incapacity of John H. Wolf III
On Jan. 23, 2008, the supreme court adopted a stipulation between the
OLR and John
H. Wolf III, 55, Waukesha, and imposed conditions on Wolf's law license
medical incapacity. Medical Incapacity Proceedings Against
Wolf, 2008 WI 7. The court acted pursuant to SCR 22.34 and found
that Wolf currently suffers from a medical incapacity
that at times substantially prevents him from performing to acceptable
standards the duties of an attorney.
Wolf received a public reprimand in 2007 for violating SCR
20:8.4(b) by committing
the criminal acts of misdemeanor operation of a firearm (with a
and disorderly conduct.
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