Vol. 84, No. 2, February 2011
Public reprimand of Scott A. Jackman
The Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR) and Scott A. Jackman, Wausau, entered into an agreement for imposition of a public reprimand, pursuant to SCR 22.09(1). A Wisconsin Supreme Court-appointed referee approved the agreement and issued the public reprimand on Nov. 8, 2010, in accordance with SCR 22.09(3).
In July 2004, Jackman was the subject of a traffic stop conducted by the Wausau Police Department. Jackman was convicted in January 2005 of a misdemeanor, second-offense operating while intoxicated (OWI). By engaging in conduct leading to that conviction, Jackman violated SCR 20:8.4(b), which states, “It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to … commit a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects.” Jackman failed to report his conviction to the clerk of the supreme court and the OLR and thus violated SCR 21.15(5) and 20:8.4(f).
In August 2005, with knowledge that his driver’s license was then revoked as part of the criminal sentence imposed as a result of the January 2005 conviction, Jackman was the subject of a traffic stop in Adams County. He ultimately was convicted of a misdemeanor, first-offense operating while revoked. Jackman’s conduct violated SCR 20:8.4(b). Jackman did not report the conviction to the clerk of the supreme court and the OLR, contrary to SCR 21.15(5) and 20:8.4(f).
In 2009, Jackman was the subject of a traffic stop in the village of Weston, which ultimately led to a misdemeanor conviction of third-offense OWI. Jackman’s conduct violated SCR 20:8.4(b). Jackman timely reported this conviction in the manner required under SCR 21.15(5).
Jackman had no prior discipline.
Disciplinary proceeding against Peter Elliott
On Nov. 3, 2010, the supreme court revoked the law license of Peter T. Elliott, West Allis, effective that day. The court also ordered Elliott to pay $216,302.47 in restitution to two clients and $175,709.09 to the Fund for Client Protection for its reimbursement of two clients’ losses. Elliott was further ordered to pay $942,792.70 in restitution to the bank that was the victim of his check-kiting scheme. The court also required him to pay the cost of the disciplinary proceeding. Although Elliott had no prior discipline, his license had been under temporary suspension since Jan. 13, 2009, based on his willful failure to cooperate with four OLR investigations. Elliott did not answer the OLR’s complaint, and a default judgment was entered by the referee. Office of Lawyer Regulation v. Elliott, 2010 WI 124.
Elliott’s revocation was based on 51 counts of misconduct relating to 12 client matters and the handling of his trust and business accounts. That misconduct included conversion of client and third-party funds (12 counts) (SCR 20:8.4(b), (c),
20:1.15(b)(1)) and failure to promptly disburse funds to the clients and third parties entitled to them (10 counts) (SCR 20:1.15(d)(1)). In addition, the court found that Elliott had violated several trust account and other rules by disbursing funds to himself or his law firm without identifying the purpose of the disbursements (five counts) (SCR 20:1.15(f)(1)e.1.); disbursing checks payable to cash or taking cash withdrawals from his trust account (three counts) (SCR 20:1.15(e)(4)a.); and failing to provide information to clients or respond to a request for an accounting (eight counts) (SCR 20:1.4(a)(1), (3), (4), 20:1.15(d)(2), 20:1.15(g)(1)). Finally, the court found that Elliott repeatedly failed to cooperate with OLR investigations (eight counts) (SCR 20:1.15(e)(7) and SCR 22.03(2) and (6), enforceable through SCR 20:8.4(h)).
The revocation order included a summary of what the court described as a “pattern of deliberately deceitful behavior” in numerous real estate transactions. Elliott received substantial amounts of money relating to those transactions, often days before the closings. He then improperly disbursed funds to himself or his firm or used them to cover payments in prior real estate transactions. In some cases, he disbursed payments when there were insufficient amounts in trust to cover them and then stopped payment to avoid overdrafts. He then made excuses or misrepresentations regarding the reason for the delay in payments or the stop payments.
In the early fall of 2008, Elliott began kiting checks between his business account at one bank and his trust account at another. Between Sept. 24, 2008, and Oct. 31, 2008, Elliott repeatedly issued checks from his business account, each for hundreds of thousands of dollars, when there were insufficient funds in that account to cover the checks. He then deposited those checks into the trust account and almost simultaneously stopped payment on them. This practice resulted in a falsely inflated balance in the trust account, which Elliott then used to make substantial disbursements. For example, on Oct. 3, 2008, Elliott withdrew more than $506,000 from the falsely inflated balance in the trust account to purchase cashier’s checks. One of the cashier’s checks totaled $350,000 and was apparently used to repay a loan that Elliott owed to an individual. Elliott’s fraudulent deposits to the trust account in October 2008 totaled more than $31 million, and the disbursements to himself or his firm from the inflated balance that he created during that period totaled $50,850. In revoking Elliott’s license, the court stated, “we wholeheartedly agree with the referee’s comment that Attorney Elliott is not fit to be licensed as a lawyer in the state of Wisconsin.”
Disciplinary proceeding against John H. Peiss
On Sept. 17, 2010, the supreme court suspended the Wisconsin law license of John H. Peiss, Illinois, for one year as discipline reciprocal to a May 16, 2006, order of the Illinois Supreme Court suspending Peiss’ license to practice law in Illinois for one year. In addition, Peiss failed to notify the OLR of his Illinois discipline within 20 days of the discipline. Office of Lawyer Regulation v. Peiss, 2010 WI 115.
The Illinois one-year suspension arose out of Peiss’ violations of the Illinois Rules of Professional Misconduct, which consisted of the following: conversion of funds; commingling of funds; failure to act with reasonable diligence; failure to keep a client reasonably informed; practicing law in a jurisdiction where doing so violates the regulation of the legal profession in that jurisdiction; making a statement of material fact in connection with the lawyer disciplinary matter that the lawyer knows to be false; and engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation. Peiss’ conduct was found to be prejudicial to the administration of justice and to tend to defeat the administration of justice and bring the courts or the legal profession into disrepute, all in violation of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct.