Vol. 83, No. 9, September 2010
Petition to Reinstate Thomas E. Warmington
A public hearing will be held at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2010, before referee Hannah C. Dugan at the Milwaukee Bar Association on the petition of Thomas E. Warmington, Brookfield, 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 Thomas E. Warmington, 212 Wis. 2d 657, 568 N.W.2d 641 (1997), the Wisconsin Supreme Court revoked Warmington’s law license based on misconduct in four separate matters, including trust account violations, failing to respond to a client’s telephone calls regarding her settlement, failing to return advance payments of fees, failing to diligently and competently represent a client, and failing to cooperate with the disciplinary authority in its investigation.
To be reinstated, Warmington has the burden of substantiating by clear, satisfactory, and convincing evidence that 1) he has the moral character to practice law in Wisconsin, 2) his resumption of the practice of law will not be detrimental to the administration of justice or subversive of the public interest, 3) all his representations in his reinstatement petition are substantiated, and 4) 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 Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR) investigator Lorry Eldien or OLR assistant litigation counsel Julie M. Scott, 110 E. Main St., Suite 315, Madison, WI 53703. The OLR’s toll free number is (877) 315-6941.
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Disciplinary Proceeding against Scott F. Anderson
On May 21, 2010, the supreme court suspended the law license of Scott F. Anderson, Milwaukee, for 60 days effective June 28, 2010, and ordered Anderson to pay the cost of the disciplinary proceeding. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Anderson, 2010 WI 39.
Anderson’s suspension was based on professional misconduct committed in connection with his representation of a client in a criminal matter and in forfeiture matters concerning related seized assets.
Anderson violated SCR 20:1.3 by failing to file claims timely and failing to take action on the client’s behalf with regard to the civil forfeiture actions.
Anderson violated former SCR 20:1.4(a) (in effect before June 30, 2007) by failing to respond to the client’s reasonable requests for information and to communicate case developments to the client in a timely manner.
Anderson violated SCR 20:1.4(b) by failing to explain to the client the effect of correspondence and pleadings related to the forfeiture actions; failing to explain the implications of an assistant district attorney’s letter related to the client’s case; and failing to explain the implications of the state’s dismissal of the state case, including that the case was dismissed because similar charges were filed in federal court, and that Anderson’s representation would not include representation with regard to the federal charges.
Anderson was publicly reprimanded in 2004 and 2005. In 1999 he received a private reprimand for violations of SCR 20:1.4(a) and SCR 20:1.3.
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Disciplinary Proceeding against James W. Frisch
On July 2, 2010, the supreme court publicly reprimanded James W. Frisch, Milwaukee, and ordered Frisch to pay $1,500 of the cost of the disciplinary proceeding. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Frisch, 2010 WI 60.
Frisch’s public reprimand was based on professional misconduct committed in connection with his employment by the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office.
Frisch violated SCR 20:1.3 and SCR 20:3.2 by failing to act with diligence and promptness in handling the prosecutions assigned to him and by failing to take all actions reasonably necessary to expedite the litigation of those matters.
Frisch violated SCR 20:3.4(c) by failing to obey court orders to produce specified items of discovery in three cases and SCR 20:3.4(d) by failing to comply with legally proper discovery requests in those cases.
The court noted several aggravating and mitigating factors supporting the imposition of a public reprimand and the assessment of less than the full cost of the proceeding against Frisch.
Frisch had no prior discipline.
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Reinstatement of Michael A. Gral
On March 9, 2010, the supreme court reinstated the law license of Michael A. Gral, Milwaukee, with conditions. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Gral, 2010 WI 14.
The court had suspended Gral’s license for three years, effective Feb. 27, 2006, the date on which the court summarily suspended Gral’s license based on a federal criminal conviction for mail fraud. The OLR and Gral entered into a stipulation by which Gral entered a plea of no contest to the OLR’s complaint charging Gral with a violation of SCR 20:8.4(b), which states that it is professional misconduct for a lawyer to commit a criminal act that reflects adversely on the honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness of a lawyer in other respects. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Gral, 2007 WI 22.
Following a hearing on Gral’s reinstatement petition, a court-appointed referee recommended that Gral’s petition be granted with conditions on his practice.
The court granted the petition, with the following conditions: 1) during the first three years after his reinstatement, Gral is prohibited from representing any clients with whom he is or has been involved with by way of personal real estate investments, of any kind or nature, whether directly or through any business entity; 2) for a period beginning during the fourth year after his reinstatement, until six years after his reinstatement, Gral must file with the OLR a written notice within 10 days of entering into any agreement with a client under SCR 20:1.8(a), which notice must contain a general description of the transaction; and 3) Gral must file an annual report with the OLR during the term of this condition summarizing his compliance with any waivers obtained under SCR 20:1.8(a). The court further ordered that within 60 days of the date of the order, Gral pay the cost of the proceeding.
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Disciplinary Proceeding against Maureen B. Fitzgerald
On July 28, 2010, the supreme court suspended the law license of Maureen B. Fitzgerald, Milwaukee, for six months. In addition, the court ordered that Fitzgerald pay the cost of the disciplinary proceeding. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Fitzgerald, 2010 WI 99.
Fitzgerald’s law license has been suspended continuously, for various reasons, since May 9, 2006, when her license was temporarily suspended for her failure to cooperate with an OLR investigation. On June 2, 2006, Fitzgerald received a 90-day suspension for professional misconduct. On July 17, 2008, she received a 60-day suspension for professional misconduct. Fitzgerald has not sought reinstatement of her license.
Fitzgerald’s current suspension is based on five counts of misconduct relating to her representation of a client in a criminal matter. Fitzgerald was representing the client at the time of the May 9, 2006, suspension of her license. She failed to inform her client of her license suspension, in violation of SCR 22.26(1)(a). (Fitzgerald also continued to represent the client after she was suspended. That matter was addressed in the 2008 disciplinary proceeding.) Fitzgerald failed to provide the client’s file to successor counsel, in violation of SCR 20:1.16(d). Fitzgerald failed to respond to the OLR’s initial request for a response to the client’s grievance until being personally served with a request that she do so, in violation of SCR 22.03(2). She later failed to respond to another request for information from the OLR, in violation of SCR 22.03(6). Fitzgerald also violated SCR 22.03(6) when she misrepresented to the OLR that she had sent the client’s file to successor counsel.
In imposing the six-month suspension, the court noted that this was Fitzgerald’s third disciplinary proceeding in four years. The court also noted Fitzgerald’s consistent failure to conform to the Rules of Professional Conduct and the fact that she had lied to cover up her misconduct.
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Disciplinary Proceeding against Leonard V. Brady
On July 27, 2010, the supreme court granted the petition for consensual license revocation filed by Leonard V. Brady pursuant to SCR 22.19. Brady’s petition acknowledged he could not successfully defend against multiple allegations of misconduct relating to two probate matters. The court ordered Brady to pay restitution in the two matters and in a third matter pending with the OLR. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Brady, 2010 WI 98.
In the first matter, Brady was named guardian of the estate for CP. During his time as guardian, Brady failed to file income tax returns for the estate, failed to timely file annual accountings with the court, failed to maintain detailed records of investments, failed to adequately track the estate’s assets, and paid himself and others from the estate without the court’s approval. Records suggest that Brady paid himself excessive fees and converted a substantial amount of the estate’s funds for his personal use, including sending a significant amount of the estate’s funds overseas.
CP died in December 2007. Following her death, despite repeated court orders that he do so, Brady failed to turn over funds belonging to the estate, including but not limited to funds that had been sent overseas. He also failed to turn over certain records relating to his management and control of the estate.
An accountant hired by CP’s heirs to conduct a forensic examination of the estate concluded that it was “only reasonable to conclude” that there had been “a likelihood of commingling, embezzlement and fraud in the reporting of assets; an intent to deprive the estate of funds by Attorney Brady; [and] numerous overcharges for services rendered by Mr. Brady.” A judgment was entered against Brady and in favor of Ohio Casualty Insurance Co. in the amount of $1,015,813.21 with regard to this matter. Brady was ordered to pay that amount in restitution.
The OLR was investigating possible violations of SCR 20:1.5(a), SCR 20:1.15(b)(1), (d)(1), and (d)(2),
SCR 20: 3.4(c), and SCR 20:8.4(b), (c), and (f) with regard to this matter.
In the second matter, Brady served as personal representative for the estate of RM. In that capacity, Brady received approximately $195,000 in life insurance proceeds. Brady failed to turn over to the successor personal representative approximately $188,000 of those proceeds, despite being ordered to do so by the court. He also failed to provide an accounting of the approximately $188,000 he should have been holding on behalf of the estate. The circuit court approved a stipulation for judgment against Brady and for Universal Surety Co. in the amount of $87,681.19 with regard to this matter. The court ordered Brady to pay that amount in restitution.
The OLR was investigating possible violations of SCR 20:1.15(b)(1) and
(d)(1), SCR 20: 3.4(c), and SCR 20:8.4(b) and (c).
The OLR asked that Brady be required to make restitution to a third client, EP, in the amount of $1,500. EP’s grievance was pending with the OLR at the time Brady’s petition was filed. The court ordered Brady to make restitution to EP.
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Disciplinary Proceeding against Edward J. Varga
On June 22, 2010, the supreme court ordered that the Wisconsin law license of Edward J. Varga, Aurora, Ill., be revoked reciprocal to discipline imposed in Illinois. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Varga, 2010 WI 48.
The Illinois order of disbarment arose out of Varga’s misconduct in Illinois, arising out of 18 counts of failing to act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client, 17 counts of failing to keep a client reasonably informed about the status of a matter and promptly comply with reasonable requests for information, 18 counts of failing to promptly refund any part of a fee paid in advance that has not been earned, 19 counts of conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice, 19 counts of conduct that tends to defeat the administration of justice or bring the courts or the legal profession into disrepute, and one count of failing to respond to a lawful demand for information from the Illinois lawyer disciplinary authorities.
Varga also failed to notify the OLR of the Illinois discipline within 20 days of its effective date.
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