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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. 85, No. 7, July 2012

    Public reprimand of Jasmyne B. Ngo

    The Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR) and Jasmyne B. Ngo, Oswego, Ill., agreed to an 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 April 29, 2012, in accordance with SCR 22.09(3). Public Reprimand No. 2012-OLR-5.

    Ngo graduated from Marquette University Law School in 2004. She was admitted to practice law in Wisconsin in February 2006 and, sometime before September 2008, registered to practice patent law before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Ngo sat for the Illinois bar exam and received notice that she had passed the exam, but because of family reasons, never completed the character and fitness portion of the admissions process.

    In September 2008, Ngo interviewed for employment with an Illinois law firm, which offered her a part-time position and asked if she would be certified to practice law in Illinois soon. Ngo stated that she would, believing that it was just a formality to complete the character and fitness portion of the admissions process. Ngo began work with the firm in September 2008.

    Shortly after accepting the position, Ngo learned that because her application had been pending without progress for three years, she would have to reapply for admission in Illinois and would have to use the "long version" of the application process, rather than the "short version." Ngo continued to work at the firm and did not advise the firm that she would not be admitted to practice law in Illinois "soon."

    When one of the firm's partners asked Ngo when she expected to be sworn in and become registered as an attorney in Illinois, Ngo told him Jan. 16, 2009. After that date, Ngo told the partner that she had been sworn in as an attorney and admitted to practice in Illinois. Later, when a partner asked Ngo for her Illinois bar registration number, she gave him a false number. When the partner confronted Ngo, she admitted that she had lied to the firm about her admission and that she was not registered in Illinois.

    By representing to the firm that she had been admitted to the practice of law in Illinois, Ngo violated SCR 20:8.4(c) and (f), and engaged in misconduct similar to that in Disciplinary Proceedings Against Shea, 190 Wis. 2d 560, 527 N.W.2d 314 (1995), wherein the supreme court found as a type of misconduct an attorney's pattern of conduct that "constituted a breach of his fiduciary duty to his law firm and his duty of honesty in his professional dealings with it."

    Ngo has no prior discipline.

    Disciplinary proceedings against Paul W. Humphrey

    On March 30, 2012, the Wisconsin Supreme Court suspended the law license of Paul W. Humphrey, Madison, for 30 days, effective May 7, 2012, and ordered Humphrey to pay the cost of the disciplinary proceeding. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Humphrey, 2012 WI 32.

    Humphrey's misconduct occurred in the course of his prosecution of the defendant in a criminal case filed in Dane County Circuit Court. Contrary to SCR 20:3.3(a)(1) and 20:8.4(c), Humphrey made misrepresentations in an affidavit concerning when certain accident scene photographs had been made available to the defense. At a pre-trial hearing in the matter, Humphrey violated SCR 20:3.3(a)(1) and 20:8.4(c) when he falsely told the court that he did not know at that time where certain accident scene photographs were located.

    Humphrey had no prior discipline.

    Disciplinary proceedings against T. Christopher Kelly

    On May 23, 2012, the supreme court revoked the law license of T. Christopher Kelly, 56, Madison. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Kelly, 2012 WI 55. The court ordered Kelly to pay restitution of $31,541.50 to the Wisconsin Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection. The court also ordered Kelly to pay the cost of the proceeding.

    The OLR's complaint had alleged 51 counts of misconduct regarding 12 different clients, including multiple violations of SCR 20:1.3, 20:1.4(a), and 20:1.16(d) for mishandling client matters, as well as violations of SCR 22.03(2) and 22.03(6) for failing to cooperate with OLR investigations. The court found that Kelly defaulted to the OLR's complaint.

    Kelly's misconduct generally followed a pattern whereby at the outset of a representation, he collected a substantial advance "flat" fee in exchange for his promise to assess a convicted individual's case for possible postconviction or appellate redress. Kelly either did no substantial work or he began work but then stopped before it was completed. Kelly routinely failed to respond to client inquiries, or he would indicate that he was working on the matter but then would not perform the promised service. Kelly also failed to respond to the OLR's requests for information, which resulted in a temporary suspension of his license in 2009.

    Kelly had no prior discipline.

    Disciplinary proceedings against Joseph L. Sommers

    On March 30, 2012, the supreme court suspended the law license of Joseph L. Sommers,Oregon, for 30 days, effective May 7, 2012, and ordered Sommers to pay one-half of the $94,612.56 cost of the disciplinary proceeding. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Sommers, 2012 WI 33.

    Sommers' misconduct occurred in the course of his representation of the defendant in a criminal case filed in Dane County Circuit Court. By engaging in loud, disorderly, contemptuous, or insolent behavior during a hearing in the criminal case and by accusing the presiding judge falsely, or with reckless disregard to truth or falsity, of covering up for the prosecution, having tunnel vision, having a vested interest in the state's case, lacking nerve to enforce his own rulings, and running a kangaroo court, Sommers engaged in conduct intended to disrupt a tribunal in violation of SCR 20:3.5(c); made statements known to be false or with reckless disregard as to their truth or falsity concerning the integrity of a judge, in violation of SCR 20:8.2(a); and violated the Attorney's Oath, SCR 40.15, which states in part, "I will maintain the respect due to courts of justice and judicial officers," contrary to SCR 20:8.4(g). Sommers also made inappropriate extrajudicial statements and improperly contributed to pretrial publicity, contrary to SCR 20:3.6.

    Sommers had no prior discipline.

    Disciplinary proceedings against Bridget E. Boyle

    The supreme court suspended the law license of Bridget Boyle, Milwaukee, for 60 days, effective June 27, 2012. The court also ordered Boyle to pay the cost of the disciplinary proceeding and to pay restitution of $5,000, plus interest, to the Wisconsin Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Boyle, 2012 WI 54.

    Boyle's misconduct encompassed 11 counts of misconduct with respect to three client matters. In the first matter, Boyle accepted a $5,000 advanced fee to assist a defendant seeking postconviction relief. Over the next several years, Boyle failed to file any pleadings on the client's behalf, to return many of the client's telephone calls, and to respond to his requests for information concerning fees and expenses. The court found that Boyle violated SCR 20:1.3, former SCR 20:1.4(a), current SCR 20:1.4(a)(3) and (4), and SCR 20:1.5(b)(3).

    In a second matter, Boyle represented a client on a direct appeal of his criminal conviction. After the appeal was denied, the client requested the return of his file. Boyle never forwarded the file to the client. The court found that Boyle violated SCR 20:1.16(d).

    The court also found that Boyle failed to cooperate with the OLR's investigation in these two matters and failed to cooperate with an investigation in a third client matter. Boyle failed to 1) fully disclose all facts and circumstances pertaining to the alleged misconduct, 2) provide relevant information to the OLR or answer questions fully, and 3) furnish documents. Boyle also engaged in acts of dishonesty by backdating letters to the OLR purporting to show compliance with investigative deadlines. The court found that Boyle violated SCR 22.03(2), SCR 22.03(6) (enforced via SCR 20:8.4(h)), and SCR 20:8.4(c).

    Boyle has one prior private reprimand.

    Disciplinary proceedings against J. Manuel Raneda

    The supreme court suspended the law license of J. Manuel Raneda, formerly of Milwaukee, for one year, effective June 4, 2012, and ordered Raneda to pay the cost of the disciplinary proceeding. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Raneda, 2012 WI 42.

    Raneda's misconduct encompassed 14 counts of misconduct with respect to two client matters. In the first matter, Raneda defended a client in an eviction action brought by a landlord. During the litigation, the court ordered the client to deposit unpaid rental payments into Raneda's trust account and to leave the money there until further order of the court. Notwithstanding multiple declarations in affidavits, pleadings, and argument that the client had deposited the funds into his trust account and that the funds remained in the account, Raneda had previously withdrawn the funds to pay himself attorney fees, in contravention of the court's order. Raneda failed to inform the court or opposing counsel that he had removed the funds to pay his fees. Raneda's conduct violated SCR 20:1.15(d)(2) and (3), SCR 20:3.3(a)(1) and (3), SCR 20:3.4(c) and (d), and SCR 20:8.4(c).

    In the second matter, Raneda agreed to represent the purchaser of a home who claimed that the sellers made deceptive and misleading statements in connection with the sale. After accepting a $5,000 advanced fee, Raneda wrote a demand letter and performed some research into the matter, but subsequently failed to take any further action in the case or respond to requests from his client for case status and an accounting. Raneda also failed to surrender the client's file to successor counsel, refund any unearned fees, or timely cooperate with the OLR's investigation. Raneda's conduct violated SCR 20:1.15(b)(1) and (4), SCR 20:1.3, SCR 20:1.4(a)(3) and (4), SCR 20:1.5(b)(3), SCR 20:1.16(d), and SCR 22.03(2) and (6), which are enforceable through SCR 20:8.4(h).

    Raneda had no disciplinary history.

    Disciplinary proceeding against John R. Loew

    On April 27, 2012 the supreme court publicly reprimanded John R. Loew, Milwaukee. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Loew, 2012 WI 40.

    In October 2007, a woman met with and hired Loew to prepare her estate plan. On Oct. 11, 2007, the supreme court suspended Loew's law license pursuant to SCR 22.03(4) based on his willful failure to cooperate with OLR investigations of other matters. On that same date, the court mailed Loew's notice of suspension to his home and office addresses. Loew did not advise his new client of his suspension.

    On Oct. 12, 2007, Loew mailed the client drafts of her estate planning documents and requested that she comment on the drafts. On Oct. 15, 2007, Loew sent the client a bill for $650 for legal services, which she paid. Between November 2007 and the spring of 2008, the client called Loew multiple times to advise him of some changes that she wanted him to make to the documents. Loew did not respond.

    In the summer of 2008, the client hired successor counsel, who sent Loew a letter requesting that Loew refund the client's fees. Loew sent a refund check.

    By failing to respond to the client's telephone calls regarding his representation of her, Loew violated SCR 20:1.4(a)(4). By failing to properly inform the client of his license suspension and consequent inability to act as an attorney and that the client should seek legal advice elsewhere, Loew violated SCR 22.26(1)(a) and (b), enforceable via SCR 20:8.4(f).

    Loew's disciplinary history includes a 60-day license suspension imposed in 2010.

    Disciplinary proceedings against Aaron J. Rollins

    On May 9, 2012, the supreme court suspended the law license of Aaron J. Rollins, a California resident, for 60 days and ordered him to pay the full cost of the disciplinary proceeding. Disciplinary Proceeding Against Rollins, 2012 WI 48.

    Rollins was admitted to practice law in Wisconsin in 2001. His license is administratively suspended for Rollins' failure to pay bar dues and assessments and failure to comply with CLE reporting requirements.

    On Feb. 26, 2010, Rollins entered a no-contest plea to one count of misdemeanor grand theft in violation of the California Penal Code. The Los Angeles County Superior Court sentenced Rollins to serve 24 months on summary probation, with conditions that included 1) serving one day in the Los Angeles County jail; 2) paying court costs totaling $95; 3) paying $100 restitution; and 4) performing 100 hours of community service. Rollins did not notify the Wisconsin Supreme Court or the OLR of his conviction.

    Rollins did not answer or otherwise appear in the disciplinary proceeding, and a referee found by default the following:

    1. by engaging in conduct resulting in a misdemeanor conviction for one count of grand theft, Rollins violated SCR 20:8.4(b), which prohibits an attorney from engaging in criminal conduct that reflects adversely on honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer in other respects;
    2. by failing to provide the OLR and the supreme court clerk with written notice within five days of his criminal conviction, Rollins violated SCR 21.15(5) and SCR 20:8.4(f); and
    3. by failing to provide a written response to the OLR's investigative inquiry and to fully and fairly disclose the facts and circumstances pertaining to the alleged misconduct, Rollins violated SCR 22.03(2).

    Rollins had no prior discipline.

    Disciplinary proceedings against Stephan W. Addison

    On April 4, 2012, the supreme court suspended the Wisconsin law license of Stephan W. Addison, currently of Madison, for 60 days, effective May 7, 2012. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Addison, 2012 WI 38. Pursuant to SCR 22.22, the court imposed discipline reciprocal to a 60-day suspension imposed by the Illinois Supreme Court. At the time of the misconduct, Addison lived and practiced law in Illinois, where he is also licensed.

    The misconduct occurred on Aug. 7, 2005, in Green Lake, Wis. According to the Illinois stipulation of facts, Addison "while intoxicated, engaged in sexual activity with [a woman] while on the hood of a motor vehicle that was parked on a public boat ramp in Green Lake, Wisconsin." The woman subsequently complained to the police about the incident.

    The state of Wisconsin filed criminal charges against Addison. In 2005, the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission (IARDC) and the Wisconsin OLR opened investigations. In December 2006, Addison pleaded no contest to one felony count of second-degree reckless endangerment and two misdemeanor counts of sexual gratification in public. The circuit court imposed a stayed sentence of five years of initial confinement and five years of extended supervision, placed Addison on probation for three years, sentenced him to 30 days in jail, and ordered him to complete 500 hours of community service.

    Following the conclusion of the criminal case and proceedings in a disciplinary case brought by the IARDC, Addison entered a stipulation with the IARDC for a 60-day suspension of his Illinois law license for misconduct that consisted of 1) violating Rule 8.4(a)(3) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (IRPC) by committing a criminal act that reflects adversely on his honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer in other respects; 2) engaging in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice, in violation of IRPC 8.4(a)(5); and 3) engaging in conduct that tends to defeat the administration of justice or bring the courts or legal profession into disrepute, in violation of Illinois Supreme Court Rule 770. The Illinois Supreme Court accepted the stipulation and suspended Addison accordingly, effective Dec. 3, 2010. The OLR thereafter filed a complaint seeking reciprocal discipline, which the Wisconsin Supreme Court imposed.

    Addison had no prior discipline in Wisconsin.

    Disciplinary proceeding against Benjamin C. Butler

    On April 4, 2012, the supreme court suspended the Wisconsin law license of Benjamin C. Butler, Chicago, for 30 days, effective April 4, 2012. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Butler, 2012 WI 37. Pursuant to SCR 22.22, the court imposed discipline reciprocal to a 30-day suspension imposed by the Illinois Supreme Court. At the time of the misconduct, Butler lived and practiced law in Illinois, where he is also licensed.

    The misconduct occurred on Aug. 7, 2005 in Green Lake, Wis. According to the Illinois stipulation of facts, Butler "while intoxicated, engaged in sexual activity with [a woman] while on the hood of a motor vehicle that was parked on a public boat ramp in Green Lake, Wisconsin." The woman subsequently complained to the police about the incident.

    The state of Wisconsin filed criminal charges against Butler. In 2005, the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission (IARDC) and the Wisconsin OLR opened investigations. In December 2006, Butler pleaded no contest to one felony count of second-degree reckless endangerment. The court imposed and stayed a sentence of 18 months of initial confinement and 24 months of extended supervision, placed Butler on probation for three years, and ordered him to complete 300 hours of community service.

    Following the conclusion of the criminal case and proceedings in a disciplinary case brought by the IARDC, Butler entered a stipulation with the IARDC for a 30-day suspension of his Illinois law license for misconduct that consisted of 1) violating Rule 8.4(a)(3) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (IRPC) by committing a criminal act that reflects adversely on his honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer in other respects; 2) engaging in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice, in violation of IRPC 8.4(a)(5); and 3) engaging in conduct that tends to defeat the administration of justice or bring the courts or legal profession into disrepute, in violation of Illinois Supreme Court Rule 770. The Illinois Supreme Court accepted the stipulation and suspended Butler accordingly, effective Dec. 3, 2010. The OLR thereafter filed a complaint seeking reciprocal discipline, which the Wisconsin Supreme Court imposed.

    Butler had no prior discipline in Wisconsin.

    Disciplinary proceeding against Anne E. Brown

    On May 18, 2012, the supreme court suspended the law license of Anne E. Brown, Eau Claire, for two years. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Brown, 2012 WI 51. Brown's misconduct occurred in three family law matters involving three clients.

    In the first matter, a divorce case, the court found the following:

    1. by failing to hold in trust and instead using for her own purposes at least $4,636.42 of the $4,681.51 in insurance proceeds belonging to the client and the client's former husband, Brown violated SCR 20:1.15(b)(1) and 20:8.4(c);
    2. by failing to hold her client's advanced fee of $3,000 in trust until earned, Brown violated SCR 20:1.15(b)(4);
    3. by falsely informing the client that she did not have insurance funds available to distribute because someone else had been stealing from her trust account, Brown violated SCR 20:8.4(c);
    4. by failing to maintain a transaction register, an individual client ledger, and a monthly reconciliation report, Brown violated SCR 20:1.15(f)(1)a., b., and g.;
    5. by certifying to the State Bar of Wisconsin in her fiscal 2008 and 2009 dues statements that she had complied with each of the recordkeeping requirements set forth in SCR 20:1.15(f), Brown filed false certificates with the State Bar, in violation of SCR 20:1.15(i)(4); and
    6. by failing to timely respond to the OLR's multiple written requests for information regarding the investigation of this matter, Brown violated SCR 22.03(2) and (6), enforced by SCR 20:8.4(h).

    In the second matter, a child custody and support case, the court found the following:

    1. by failing to enter into a written fee agreement with the client, from whom she had accepted a $2,500 advanced fee, Brown violated SCR 20:1.5(b)(1); and
    2. by failing to hold the client's advanced fee payment in trust until earned, Brown violated SCR 20:1.15(b)(4).

    In the third matter, a divorce case, the court found the following:

    1. by failing to hold in trust the $2,580 advanced fee paid by the client, and instead depositing such funds to her business bank account, Brown violated SCR 20:1.15(b)(1) and (4); and
    2. by failing to timely respond to the OLR's multiple written requests for information regarding the investigation of the client's grievance, Brown violated SCR 22.03(2) and (6), enforced via SCR 20:8.4(h).

    Brown's prior discipline consists of private reprimands imposed in 2006 and 2007.

    Public reprimand of Michael W. Starkweather

    The OLR and Michael W. Starkweather, Sandy, Utah, agreed to an 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 May 16, 2012, in accordance with SCR 22.09(3).

    Starkweather is the sole owner of Advantia Law Group (Advantia), whose primary place of business is in Sandy, Utah. Starkweather is licensed to practice law only by Wisconsin; he is not admitted to practice law in Utah or in federal bankruptcy court in that state. Starkweather is registered as a patent attorney before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

    One matter investigated by the OLR involved Starkweather's representation of clients in two bankruptcy cases. Starkweather's biography page at his firm's website did not indicate that he was not licensed to practice law in Utah nor did it otherwise indicate the jurisdictions in which he was licensed to practice. Advantia's website listed a Utah office and a California office. Advantia, however, did not have a California office in the traditional sense of what constitutes an office.

    By representing clients as lead attorney in their bankruptcy cases in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Utah, and appearing at hearings before a trustee in the cases, without being admitted to practice in that court, Starkweather violated SCR 20:5.5(a)(1).

    By failing to indicate on his website biography page the jurisdictional limitations of his practice, Starkweather violated SCR 20:7.1(a). By listing a California office for Advantia on its website when Advantia did not have an actual California office, Starkweather violated SCR 20:7.1(a).

    In a second matter investigated by the OLR, a man hired Advantia to represent him in a bankruptcy. An Advantia attorney other than Starkweather was assigned to the matter.

    By failing to provide written notice to the client at least five business days before the date on which a $1,800 disbursement was made from his trust account to his business account for the purpose of paying fees, Starkweather violated SCR 20:1.15(g)(1).

    By depositing the client's $1,800 credit card payment into his trust account at his bank in Utah, Starkweather violated SCR 20:1.15(e)(4)(e). By having a Utah IOLTA trust account, when he is only licensed in Wisconsin, Starkweather violated SCR 20:1.15(e)(1)(a). Because Starkweather did not earn the $1,800 advanced fee paid by the client, by failing to refund the fee without condition, Starkweather violated SCR 20:1.16(d).

    In connection with his violation of SCR 20:1.15(e)(1), as a prior condition to the imposition of this consent public reprimand, Starkweather closed his Utah trust account.

    Starkweather has no prior discipline.




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