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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. 83, No. 3, March 2010

    Public Reprimand of Jacquelyn Champagne

    The Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR) and Jacquelyn Champagne, Milwaukee, entered into an agreement for imposition of a public reprimand, pursuant to SCR 22.09(1). A supreme court-appointed referee approved the agreement, and issued the public reprimand on Dec. 7, 2009, in accordance with SCR 22.09(3). The public reprimand stemmed from a single matter investigated by the OLR.

    Champagne, while a litigation associate at a Milwaukee law firm, represented a client in litigation arising out of a guardianship and protective placement matter. The original petition for guardianship and protective placement (the petition) was not filed before the transfer of the ward and a court had not approved the transfer, as required by law. That happened, in part, because messengers arrived at the clerk’s office after it was closed on the day of transfer (July 1, 2003) and returned the next morning (July 2, 2003) to file the petition.

    Champagne was not responsible for the initial preparation or filing of the petition. In addition, Champagne was under the supervision of other partners at the firm, who guided her in her positions at appearances before various tribunals. Still, Champagne knew that the petition had not been filed before the patient was transferred and knew that the statutory requirements for transferring a patient had not been followed. Despite this knowledge, Champagne made several false statements to courts related to these facts.

    On Dec. 1, 2003, Champagne asserted to the court that “[the hospital’s] petition for permanent guardianship had already been filed at the time the transfer was made,” and that the transfer had occurred lawfully.

    On Jan. 14, 2004, Champagne submitted a brief to the circuit court stating that the patient transfer took place “pursuant to Wis. Stat. § 50.06.”

    On June 9, 2005, Champagne filed a brief in Milwaukee County Circuit Court in support of a motion to dismiss a lawsuit stating, “Prior to [the patient’s] transfer … [the hospital] filed a petition for permanent guardianship and protective placement.”

    On Dec. 7, 2005, Champagne appeared on behalf of her client before the court of appeals and specifically informed the court during oral argument that the petition had been filed on July 1, 2003, when in fact the petition had been filed on July 2, 2003. Champagne even prepared a blow-up exhibit that referenced the improper date and referred to it during oral argument.

    On Aug. 28, 2006, Champagne submitted a brief to the court of appeals in which she claimed, “On July 1, 2003, [the hospital] filed a petition for permanent guardianship and protective placement of [the patient]….”

    On March 29, 2007, Champagne filed a brief in the court of appeals that referenced a procedural history that falsely claimed the original petition had been filed in a timely fashion.

    On Sept. 10, 2007, Champagne filed an additional brief in the court of appeals that stated, “… counsel for the [hospital] believes [the patient’s] guardianship petition was filed on July 1, 2003 and that the July 2, 2003 courthouse file-stamp on the petition is incorrect.”

    By making these statements, Champagne knowingly made false statements of fact or law to a tribunal, in violation of former and current SCR 20:3.3(a)(1), which states, in relevant part, “(a) A lawyer shall not knowingly: (1) make a false statement of fact or law to a tribunal.”

    In the fall of 2004, pursuant to a grievance filed by the son of the transferred patient, the OLR investigated the circumstances surrounding the late filing of the petition. At that time, Champagne informed the OLR intake staff that the petition had been filed on July 1, 2003, but incorrectly file-stamped on July 2, 2003. By informing the OLR intake staff that the petition had been filed on July 1, 2003, but file-stamped on July 2, 2003, knowing that the petition had not been filed before the transfer and that the petition had not been filed on July 1, 2003, Champagne made a misrepresentation to the OLR 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….”

    Champagne has no prior discipline.

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    Public Reprimand of Michael Chernin

    The OLR and Michael Chernin, Milwaukee, entered into an agreement for imposition of a public reprimand pursuant to SCR 22.09(1). A supreme court-appointed referee approved the agreement, and issued the public reprimand on Nov. 2, 2009, in accordance with SCR 22.09(3).

    In February 2007, a man received a municipal disorderly-conduct citation. He wished to contest the ticket and on his own entered a not-guilty plea. Thereafter, on referral by a mutual friend, the man contacted Chernin for assistance. Chernin did not request and the man did not pay a fee.

    A pretrial hearing was set for May 14, 2007. Chernin agreed to appear at the hearing on the man’s behalf. The man offered to also appear, but Chernin advised that his personal appearance was not necessary. Chernin failed to appear at the hearing and a default judgment was entered against his client. Chernin’s efforts to resolve the matter before the pretrial hearing by speaking to the city attorney assigned to the case were unsuccessful, and he therefore decided not to appear. However, the client was not aware of this decision, which was contrary to his wish to contest the ticket. The client believed that Chernin was pursuing the matter on his behalf.

    Shortly after the pretrial hearing, the client received notice of the default judgment and the $175 fine assessed against him. He contacted Chernin for an explanation. Chernin apologized and told the client that he would take care of the matter by attempting to negotiate a stipulation with the city attorney’s office. Throughout the year following the entry of the default judgment, the client continued to contact Chernin for updates regarding his case. He placed more than 35 calls to Chernin but succeeded in speaking with him on only a handful of occasions for a few minutes and obtained no substantive information. Chernin continued to tell the client that he would attempt to work out a stipulation. Chernin took no other action and gave the client no advice as to how he might handle the matter on his own. Eventually the city certified the debt for the tax-refund-interception program, and the Department of Revenue intercepted the client’s tax refund in partial payment of the fine. The client then filed a grievance.

    By failing to appear at the pretrial hearing to contest the citation and instead allowing a default judgment to be entered against his client, Chernin failed to abide by his client’s decisions concerning the objectives of the representation and thereby violated SCR 20:1.2(a). By failing to appear at the pretrial and by failing to pursue the case further following the entry of the default judgment, Chernin violated SCR 20:1.3, which requires an attorney to act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client. Chernin also failed to communicate with his client and respond to his requests for information. This conduct violated former SCR 20:1.4(a) (for the period up to July 1, 2007) and current SCR 20:1.4(a)(4) (for the period beginning July 1, 2007).

    Chernin was privately reprimanded in 1993, 1997, 1998, and 1999 for similar misconduct. Chernin’s disciplinary history was a significant aggravating factor in determining the appropriate sanction for his misconduct in this matter.

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    Disciplinary Proceedings against Jay M. Langkamp

    On Dec. 1, 2009, the Wisconsin Supreme Court suspended the law license of Jay M. Langkamp for 60 days. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Jay M. Langkamp, 2009 WI 102.

    Langkamp, who no longer practices law in Wisconsin, stipulated to the commission of 15 counts of misconduct involving four separate clients. The first client, B.C., hired Langkamp in October 2006 to represent him in eight traffic cases. Without advising the court or his client, Langkamp moved to New York in 2007 and failed to appear at scheduled hearings in the cases. After B.C. filed a grievance, Langkamp also failed to respond to inquiries from the OLR. Langkamp’s failure to protect his client’s interests or to communicate with his client and Langkamp’s unilateral termination of the representation constituted violations of SCR 20:1.3, 20:1.4(a)(3), and 20:1.16(d). Langkamp’s failure to cooperate with the OLR violated SCR 22.03(2) and (6), enforceable via SCR 20:8.4(h).

    In January 2007, Langkamp agreed to represent R.W. in a felony drug case. Langkamp was late for two court hearings and missed a third hearing. Langkamp also failed to timely return numerous telephone calls from R.W. and did not advise the court of R.W.’s new address. While waiting in court for Langkamp, R.W. learned from the district attorney that Langkamp had moved to New York. After R.W.’s aunt filed a grievance with the OLR, Langkamp failed to provide a written response to the grievance. Langkamp’s failure to advance R.W.’s interests or to appear at a court hearing, his failure to communicate adequately with R.W. and the court, and his unilateral termination of the representation (including failing to refund unearned fees) violated SCR 20:1.3, 20:1.4(a)(3) and (4), and 20:1.16(d). Langkamp’s failure to cooperate in the OLR investigation violated SCR 22.03(2) and (6), enforceable via SCR 20:8.4(h).

    In a third matter, Langkamp agreed to represent A.B. in a criminal case and a divorce. A.B. had communication problems with Langkamp, whose fax machine did not work and who failed to deliver pleadings to A.B. After entering a plea in the criminal case, A.B. sent to Langkamp crucial documents related to the divorce proceedings, but Langkamp never responded nor sent the documents to the attorney representing A.B.’s spouse. After opposing counsel filed a motion for contempt against A.B. for failure to provide joint tax returns and other financial information, A.B. tried to speak with Langkamp, sending more than 10 emails and leaving more than 20 voice messages, but Langkamp did not respond. At one point, A.B. received a call from Langkamp’s landlord advising A.B. that Langkamp had moved to New York months earlier. While Langkamp appeared on behalf of A.B. at a subsequent hearing, he later failed to respond to any further attempts by A.B. to reach him and he did not refund A.B.’s fee. Langkamp also failed to respond to A.B.’s grievance. Langkamp’s failure to advance or protect A.B.’s interests, his failure to communicate adequately with A.B., and his unilateral termination of the representation of A.B. violated SCR 20:1.3, 20:1.4(a), and 20:1.16(d). By failing to cooperate in the OLR investigation, Langkamp violated SCR 22.03(2) and (6), enforceable via SCR 20:8.4(h).

    The fourth client matter involved W.J., who hired Langkamp in December 2001 to represent him in a criminal matter. Following a conviction, Langkamp met with W.J.’s spouse and agreed to seek postconviction relief and file an appeal. Although Langkamp ordered transcripts, he never filed anything further. Langkamp also failed to respond to numerous telephone calls from W.J.’s spouse regarding the appeal and did not communicate with W.J. again regarding the appeal or other postconviction options. Ultimately, W.J. hired other appellate counsel. Langkamp’s failure to communicate with W.J. regarding his postconviction options and appellate deadlines, failure to seek postconviction relief or file an appeal, and failure to communicate with the client violated SCR 20:1.2(a), 20:1.3, and 20:1.4(b).

    In suspending Langkamp for 60 days, the court noted that Langkamp had no prior disciplinary history, had relocated to New York to work with special education students, and did not intend to practice law further.

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    Disciplinary Proceedings against John R. Maynard

    On Dec. 29, 2009, the supreme court suspended the law license of John R. Maynard for 90 days, effective Feb. 1, 2010. The court further ordered Maynard to pay the cost of the disciplinary proceedings. Disciplinary Proceedings Against John R. Maynard, 2009 WI 106.

    Maynard joined a Grafton, Wis., law firm in 2005 as a shareholder, and later in 2006 became of counsel to the firm. In July 2006, Maynard established a private post office box in the name of his law firm, falsely representing himself as a “Principal” of the law firm. Thereafter, Maynard sent invoices to firm clients requesting that they mail payments to him at the post-office-box address. Maynard did not tell anyone at his firm that he had established a post office box. Maynard thereafter accepted payments from firm clients and deposited the funds into his personal checking account. Maynard also endorsed a check made payable to the law firm even though he was no longer a shareholder and had no authority to endorse firm checks.

    In suspending Maynard’s law license for 90 days, the court found that Maynard violated former SCR 20:1.15(d)(1) (effective before July 1, 2007) by receiving funds for legal services but not notifying his firm about the receipt of those funds and not delivering those funds to the firm or a trustee. By representing himself as a “Principal” on a postal application form, and by sending invoices to clients on firm letterhead and directing them to send money to a post office box to which he alone had access and for which he had no express authority, Maynard violated former SCR 20:7.1(a) and former SCR 20:7.5(a) (both effective before July 1, 2007). In addition, the court determined that Maynard’s client-billing scheme involved dishonesty, fraud, deceit, and misrepresentation in violation of SCR 20:8.4(c).

    Maynard has no prior disciplinary history.

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    Public Reprimand of Grant C. Killoran

    The OLR and Grant C. Killoran, Milwaukee, entered into an agreement for imposition of a public reprimand, pursuant to SCR 22.09(1). A supreme court-appointed referee approved the agreement, and issued the public reprimand on Jan. 4, 2010, in accordance with SCR 22.09(3). The public reprimand stemmed from a single matter investigated by the OLR.

    Killoran, while a litigation partner at a large Milwaukee law firm, represented a client in several lawsuits and appeals that followed a guardianship and protective placement matter. The original petition for guardianship and protective placement (the petition) was not filed before the ward was transferred, as required by law. That happened, in part, because messengers arrived at the clerk’s office after it was closed on the day of transfer (July 1, 2003) and returned the next morning (July 2, 2003) to file the petition.

    Neither Killoran nor the associate whom he supervised were responsible for or involved in preparing or filing the petition, and Killoran was not materially involved in the guardianship proceeding, which was dismissed in 2004. At some point, Killoran learned that the petition had not been filed before the ward was transferred (July 1, 2003), but instead was filed the following day (July 2, 2003). On March 10, 2006, Killoran appeared in a court proceeding, informed the court that the petition had been filed before the transfer of the ward on July 1, 2003, and “got hit by a file stamp the next day.” By making this statement to the circuit court, Killoran knowingly made a false statement of fact or law to a tribunal, in violation of former SCR 20:3.3(a)(1) (effective before July 1, 2007), which stated, in relevant part, “(a) A lawyer shall not knowingly: (1) make a false statement of fact or law to a tribunal.”

    In other litigation subsequent to the guardianship matter, the associate whom Killoran directly supervised made statements to courts that were false.

    On June 9, 2005, in a brief filed in Milwaukee County Circuit Court, the associate stated that, “Prior to [the patient’s] transfer … [the hospital] filed a petition for permanent guardianship and protective placement.”

    On Dec. 7, 2005, Killoran and the associate appeared before the court of appeals. In oral argument before the court, the associate specifically informed the court that the petition had been filed on July 1, 2003, when in fact the petition had been filed on July 2, 2003 (and was file-stamped with the date July 2, 2003). The associate also prepared a blow-up exhibit that referenced the improper date and referred to it during oral argument.

    On Aug. 28, 2006, in a brief to the court of appeals, the associate stated, “On July 1, 2003, [the client] filed a petition for permanent guardianship …” knowing that the petition had not been filed on July 1, 2003.

    On March 29, 2007, in another matter pending before the court of appeals, the associate represented to the court in a brief that referenced a procedural history that the original petition had been filed on July 1, 2003, when the petition had been filed on July 2, 2003.

    On Sept. 10, 2007, the associate whom Killoran supervised filed an additional brief in another matter stating that the file-stamp on the petition was incorrect, knowing that the statement was false.

    By allowing the associate to make statements to courts that were in violation of former and current SCR 20:3.3(a) and knowing of the conduct at the time, Killoran violated former and current SCR 20:5.1(c), which states, in relevant part, “A lawyer shall be responsible for another lawyer’s violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct if: … (2) the lawyer is a partner … in the law firm in which the other lawyer practices, or has direct supervisory authority over the other lawyer, and knows of the conduct at a time when its consequences can be avoided or mitigated but fails to take reasonable remedial action.”

    Killoran has no prior discipline.

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    Disciplinary Proceedings against Terry L. Nussberger

    On Dec. 4, 2009, pursuant to a stipulation filed by the OLR and Terry L. Nussberger, Ladysmith, the supreme court publicly reprimanded Nussberger. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Nussberger, 2009 WI 103.

    Nussberger’s misconduct occurred in connection with his representation of the personal representative in a probate estate. Nussberger failed to value the estate assets in a timely and accurate manner; failed to determine before applicable deadlines whether the estate was required to file state and federal estate-tax returns; and prepared and filed an inventory and amended inventory that incorrectly used the redemption value of the decedent’s savings bonds rather than the date-of-death value. Nussberger’s conduct violated SCR 20:1.1, which requires an attorney to provide competent representation, defined as requiring “the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation.”

    In violation of SCR 20:1.3, which requires an attorney to act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client, Nussberger failed to file an estate inventory until almost a year after the filing deadline and failed to file estate-tax returns for almost three years after the filing deadline.

    Nussberger’s prior discipline consisted of a 2003 public reprimand and a 60-day license suspension imposed in 2006. 

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