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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. 82, No. 6, June 2009

    Public reprimand of Trish Arreazola

    The Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR) and Trish Arreazola, Janesville, entered into an agreement for imposition of a public reprimand, pursuant to SCR 22.09(1). A referee appointed by the Wisconsin Supreme Court approved the agreement, and issued the public reprimand on March 30, 2009, in accordance with SCR 22.09(3). The public reprimand stemmed from a single matter investigated by OLR.

    In June 2003, the State Public Defender (SPD) appointed Arreazola to represent a criminal defendant in two matters pending in Dane County circuit court. Concurrently with the Dane County matters, the defendant faced charges arising out of Columbia County.

    After the client entered pleas in both the Dane and Columbia county cases, a sentence credit issue arose. The client claimed he did not receive full credit for the time he served in prison. A significant gap existed between the time the client completed his sentence in Columbia County and the time he was sentenced in Dane County. The client sought sentence credit for the time he was imprisoned.

    The client specifically and repeatedly requested that Arreazola handle the sentence credit issue. Although Arreazola made some preliminary steps to tackle the issue, she ultimately failed to file any motion requesting sentence credit for her client, resulting in the SPD appointing new counsel on an emergency basis to file a motion with the court and obtain a hearing on the sentence credit issue. As a consequence of Arreazola’s failure to take meaningful action on the client’s behalf, the client remained incarcerated months longer than his sentence required. By failing to take prompt or meaningful action to file a motion with the court and seek relief for her client, Arreazola violated SCR 20:1.3, which states, “A lawyer shall act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client.”

    From August 2007 through January 2008, the client repeatedly tried to contact Arreazola and request information relevant to his request for sentence credit and the status of any motions filed by Arreazola. Arreazola failed to respond to most of these requests. The one time Arreazola communicated with her client, she told him that she had filed a motion for credit with the court, which was untrue. By failing to keep her client reasonably informed about the status of his matter, Arreazola violated SCR 20:1.4(a), which states, in relevant part, “A lawyer shall … (3) keep the client reasonably informed about the status of a matter; …”

    During this same period, Arreazola’s client also made numerous requests for information regarding the status of his request for sentence credit and what efforts Arreazola was taking to advance his claim. Arreazola did not respond to most of the client’s requests for information. As indicated, the one time Arreazola communicated with the client, she told him that she had filed a motion for sentence credit with the court, which was untrue. The client thereafter corresponded directly with the SPD’s office seeking assistance. An attorney manager from the SPD’s office wrote Arreazola on two occasions specifically requesting that Arreazola address her client’s concerns and seek the appropriate relief before the court.

    Arreazola failed to respond adequately to her client’s and the attorney manager’s requests and failed to take further action on her client’s behalf, necessitating the emergency appointment of new counsel to address the sentence credit issue. By failing to respond to her client’s repeated requests for information regarding the status of her efforts concerning requests from the SPD’s office, Arreazola violated SCR 20:1.4(a)(4), which states, in relevant part, “A lawyer shall … promptly comply with reasonable requests by the client for information….”

    Arreazola’s persistent failure to respond to her client’s request for information regarding the sentence credit issue prevented her client from making informed decisions regarding his representation. Accordingly, Arreazola violated SCR 20:1.4(b), which states, in relevant part, “A lawyer shall explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit the client to make informed decisions regarding the representation.”

    On one occasion, Arreazola informed her client that she had filed a motion seeking sentence credit on his behalf. Arreazola prepared a draft motion but never filed the motion with the court. By misrepresenting to her client that she had filed a motion, when in fact she had not, Arreazola engaged in dishonest conduct in violation of SCR 20:8.4(c), which states, “It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to: (c) engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.”

    Arreazola has no prior discipline.

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    Public reprimand of Robert E. Haney

    The OLR and Robert E. Haney, Milwaukee, entered into an agreement for imposition of a public reprimand, pursuant to SCR 22.09(1). A referee appointed by the supreme court approved the agreement and issued the public reprimand on April 21, 2009, in accordance with SCR 22.09(3). The public reprimand stemmed from a single matter investigated by the OLR.

    Haney was appointed by the SPD to represent a man at his criminal trial. On the date of sentencing, the man indicated he wanted to file an appeal. Haney neglected to file the notice of intent to pursue postconviction relief within 20 days as required by statute. The client wrote to Haney inquiring about the status of his appeal and Haney did not respond. Receiving no response from Haney, the client contacted the SPD. The SPD contacted Haney, and he immediately filed the appropriate motions.

    In addition, the client alleged that Haney failed to communicate with him adequately and visited him only once at the House of Correction. During the OLR investigation, Haney provided to the OLR intake staff billing notes that he had previously submitted to the SPD indicating that he visited his client on three occasions. The House of Correction visitation records supported the client’s statement that Haney had made only one visit.

    By failing to timely file the notice of intent, Haney violated SCR 20:1.3, which states, “A lawyer shall act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client.”

    By failing to respond to his client’s post-sentencing letters or to otherwise keep him informed as to the appeal status, Haney violated former SCR 20:1.4(a) (effective before July 1, 2007), which stated, “A lawyer shall keep a client reasonably informed about the status of a matter and promptly comply with reasonable requests for information,” and SCR 20:1.4(a)(3) and (4), which states, “A lawyer shall keep the client reasonably informed about the status of the matter; and promptly comply with reasonable requests by the client for information.”

    By misrepresenting to the SPD and to the OLR intake staff the number of visits he made to his client, Haney violated SCR 20:8.4(c), which states, “It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to … engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.”

    Haney has one prior private reprimand, imposed in 2001.

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    Public reprimand of Nancy L. Bergstrom

    The OLR and Nancy L. Bergstrom, Merrill, entered into an agreement for imposition of a public reprimand, pursuant to SCR 22.09(1). A referee appointed by the supreme court approved the agreement, and issued the public reprimand on April 1, 2009, in accordance with SCR 22.09(3). Public Reprimand No. 2009-OLR-4.

    In her capacity as Lincoln County corporation counsel, Bergstrom issued a press release that contained factual misrepresentations concerning the nature and extent of contacts between her office and another county agency. Bergstrom’s conduct violated SCR 20:8.4(c), which states, “It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to … engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.” Bergstrom had no prior discipline.   

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