Public reprimand of Ronald Shikora
On Jan. 24, 2013, the Wisconsin Supreme Court issued a public reprimand of Ronald C. Shikora, Milwaukee, based on the following conduct.
Shikora’s client was charged with felony child abuse and intended to offer an alibi defense. Section 971.23(8) of the Wisconsin Statutes requires a defendant to give the state notice of an alibi defense 30 days before his or her trial is scheduled to start, but Shikora filed the notice of alibi 16 days before trial. The court granted a motion to exclude testimony of two alibi witnesses.
During motions before trial, Shikora objected to an expert witness’s testimony for which he claimed he had not received a report and to the admission of a tape recording he claimed he had not received in discovery. The state had provided Shikora with both the report and the tape recording, but he did not realize he had them. The assistant district attorney (ADA) found the expert witness report in Shikora’s in-court file.
Before trial, the court ordered that witnesses be sequestered. Shikora knew the sequestration order applied to a particular defense witness, and that the witness was informed he was not to talk about his testimony with anyone until directed by the court. However, during the trial, the ADA observed Shikora talking with the defense witness, in the presence of the defendant (Shikora’s client). The ADA heard Shikora say, “You can’t testify to that, only he can.” The ADA moved to strike the witness’s testimony based on violation of the sequestration order, and the judge granted the motion.
The result of Shikora’s failure to provide timely notice of the alibi defense and his violation of the sequestration order was exclusion of the testimony of three defense witnesses. The jury returned a guilty verdict. The client received a six-year sentence: confinement of 18 months and extended supervision for 4.5 years.
By failing to provide timely notice of alibi, resulting in a ruling that the defense could not be presented at trial; violating the trial judge’s sequestration order, resulting in the exclusion of a favorable defense witness’s testimony; and failing to adequately prepare for trial, as demonstrated by Shikora’s unfamiliarity with principal evidence being offered by the prosecution, Shikora failed to provide competent representation, in violation of SCR 20:1.1.
By discussing the testimony of a defense witness in the presence of the client while knowing of the trial judge’s sequestration order, Shikora knowingly disobeyed an obligation under the rules of a tribunal, in violation of SCR 20:3.4(c).
In 2003, Shikora received a private reprimand.
Disciplinary proceeding against
Eva E. Ritter
On Jan. 4, 2013, the Wisconsin Supreme Court publicly reprimanded Eva E. Ritter, Woodbury, Minn. The court further ordered Ritter to pay the disciplinary action’s full cost, $6,978.68. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Ritter, 2013 WI 3.
The Office of the State Public Defender (SPD) appointed Ritter to represent a criminal defendant. Ritter hired a third party (the preparer) to prepare an independent presentence investigation (PSI) report concerning the defendant. The preparer completed the report and sent it to Ritter along with a $1,500 invoice for services provided. Ritter submitted to the SPD an invoice, which included amounts for her own fee and the preparer’s fee. In August 2009, the SPD sent Ritter a check that covered Ritter’s fee and the fee of the preparer. Although the check represented funds belonging in part to a third party, Ritter neither deposited the funds into her trust account nor notified the preparer that she had received the funds. Instead, Ritter endorsed the check, deposited it into her business account, and used the funds for her own purposes. The preparer sought payment from Ritter, who promised to pay, but did not. The preparer then sued Ritter in small claims court, obtaining a default judgment in June 2010, which Ritter satisfied in August 2010.
Ritter’s conduct violated SCR 20:1.15(b)(1) and (d)(1) but the court agreed that various health issues were mitigating circumstances.
Ritter received a prior public reprimand in 2007.
Disciplinary proceeding against
John R. Dade
In a decision dated Feb. 21, 2013, the Wisconsin Supreme Court suspended the law license of John R. Dade, Whitewater, for 60 days, effective March 21, 2013. Because Dade entered into a stipulation under SCR 22.12, the court did not impose costs. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Dade, 2013 WI 21.
Dade’s misconduct related to the representation of a client as the petitioner in a divorce action in 2010. On March 1, 2010, a pretrial conference was held. Dade appeared on behalf of the client, and the client’s husband appeared pro se. The pretrial order required the parties to file a final financial disclosure statement with the court and with the opposing party or counsel no later than March 31. Dade failed to timely file the final financial disclosure statement.
The March 1 pretrial order also stated that both parties were to file a trial brief with the clerk of court, the court’s judicial assistant, and each other no later than April 29. Dade failed to timely file the trial brief.
The pretrial order scheduled the trial for May 5. The pretrial order stated that failure to comply with the terms of the order would be considered cause for imposing sanctions, including dismissal of the action.
On March 30, the client told Dade’s office manager that she would be out of town on May 5, and she requested a change of the trial date. Dade failed to respond. The client left a message at Dade’s office on April 17, asking about changing the trial date and requesting that Dade call her back. Dade failed to respond. On April 26, the client informed Dade’s office manager that she wanted to change the May 5 court date, she had already left two messages, she had not received a call back from Dade, and she wanted Dade to call her back. The client also sent an e-mail to Dade in regard to adjourning the trial.
On May 5, Dade appeared at the trial and offered the final financial disclosure statement and trial brief to the court. The court dismissed the case, saying the matter had not been diligently prosecuted.
By failing to file a final financial disclosure statement and trial brief by the court-ordered deadline set forth in the pretrial order, and otherwise failing to diligently prosecute this case, resulting in dismissal of the action, Dade violated SCR 20:1.3.
By failing to file a final financial disclosure statement and trial brief by the court-ordered deadline set forth in the pretrial order, Dade violated SCR 20:3.4(c).
By failing to respond to the client’s telephone calls with regard to adjourning the trial date, Dade violated SCR 20:1.4(a)(4).
Dade’s disciplinary history includes a private reprimand in 1991, a public reprimand in 2007, a 60-day suspension in 2007, and a public reprimand in 2012.
Public reprimand of
Sherman Ward Hackbarth
On Jan. 25, 2013, the Wisconsin Supreme Court publicly reprimanded Sherman Ward Hackbarth, whose most recent addresses were in Madison and Milton. In addition, the court ordered Hackbarth to pay $1,000 restitution to the Wisconsin Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection and to pay the full cost of the disciplinary proceeding. The court stated that Hackbarth’s law license remains administratively suspended and ordered that before Hackbarth may practice law in Wisconsin, he must provide evidence to the court that he has satisfied his obligations relating to continuing legal education (CLE) reporting, bar dues and assessments, and trust account certification, or, alternatively, that he has obtained waivers from the Board of Bar Examiners of his CLE reporting obligation and from the State Bar of Wisconsin of his bar dues and assessments and trust-account-certification obligations. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Hackbarth, 2013 WI 12.
Hackbarth’s public reprimand was based on professional misconduct committed in connection with his representation of a Wisconsin limited liability company (LLC).
In late August or early September 2009, Hackbarth agreed to represent the LLC in connection with its acquisition of another business. The LLC’s principals made clear to Hackbarth that time was of the essence, because it expected to start operating the new business in October 2009. The LLC paid Hackbarth $1,000 as an advanced fee, but Hackbarth did not draft any documents or take other action to assist the LLC with the acquisition. He also failed to respond to numerous emails and telephone calls from the LLC’s principals. The LLC terminated Hackbarth’s representation and demanded a refund of the $1,000 advanced fee. Hackbarth did not refund any portion of the fee or otherwise respond to the LLC’s demands. The LLC filed a grievance with the Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR). Hackbarth initially agreed to provide the OLR with information regarding the grievance, but he failed to do so.
Hackbarth violated SCR 20:1.3 by failing to advance the LLC’s interests in its business acquisition attempt.
Hackbarth violated SCR 20:1.4(a)(2), (3), and (4) and (b) by failing to communicate in any way with the LLC’s principals after receiving the $1,000 advanced fee.
Hackbarth violated SCR 20:1.16(d) by failing to refund the $1,000 advanced fee after he failed to perform any of the work for which he was hired.
Hackbarth violated SCR 22.03(2) and (6), enforced via SCR 20:8.4(h), by failing to cooperate with the OLR’s investigation of this matter.
Hackbarth has no prior discipline.
Disciplinary proceeding against
Robert J. Smead
On Feb. 20, 2013, the Wisconsin Supreme Court publicly reprimanded Robert J. Smead, Larsen. The court also ordered Smead to pay the cost of the disciplinary proceeding. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Smead, 2013 WI 19.
Smead’s misconduct related to his representation of a client in a criminal matter. In July 2007, the client paid Smead $2,000 for the representation. However, Smead did not prepare a written fee agreement detailing the scope of the representation, the basis or rate of the fee, and the purpose and effect of the advanced fee. Smead also did not deposit the fee into a client trust account.
In October 2007, the court suspended Smead for failing to cooperate in an Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR) investigation. Smead failed to advise his client, the presiding court, or opposing counsel that the supreme court had suspended his law license. When the client attempted to call Smead in October 2007 seeking to learn the status of his case, Smead’s telephone was disconnected. The client then emailed Smead, who responded and provided the client with Smead’s new telephone number. However, Smead did not respond to the client’s subsequent inquiries and did not advise the client of his suspension. When the client learned that Smead was suspended, Smead did not respond to the client’s refund request. Ultimately, the client hired new counsel and submitted a claim for reimbursement with the Wisconsin Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection.
By failing to prepare a written fee agreement, Smead violated SCR 20:1.5(b)(1) and (2). By failing to deposit the $2,000 advanced fee into his trust account, Smead violated SCR 20:1.15(b)(4). By charging the client $2,000 for representation in a criminal matter that Smead did not complete, Smead charged an unreasonable fee, in violation of SCR 20:1.5(a). By failing to meaningfully respond to the client’s telephone calls or reasonably consult with the client regarding the representation, Smead violated SCR 20:1.4(a)(2). By failing to respond to the client’s request for a refund, Smead violated SCR 20:1.5(b)(3). By failing to refund unearned fees, Smead violated SCR 20:1.16(d).
Pursuant to a stipulation, Smead made $2,000 restitution to the fund. Smead’s disciplinary history consists of two consecutive 60-day license suspensions imposed in 2010 and a public reprimand in 2011.
Disciplinary proceeding against Everett E. Wood
On Jan. 25, 2013, the Wisconsin Supreme Court suspended the law license of Everett E. Wood, Hubertus, for six months, commencing March 1, 2013. In addition, the court ordered that Wood pay to one client restitution of $752.50, plus interest. The court also ordered Wood to pay the cost of the disciplinary proceeding, $19,959.24. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Wood, 2013 WI 11.
Wood’s misconduct consisted of 28 violations in eight matters, including six client matters, an inquiry regarding his continuing to practice law while administratively suspended, and an inquiry relating to his trust account. In many of the client matters, Wood failed to provide diligent representation and did not communicate with clients either proactively or in response to their requests for information. Also, in several instances, Wood failed to cooperate with the Office of Lawyer Regulation.
With respect to his client trust account, Wood failed to maintain required records, such as individual client ledgers, deposit records, and disbursement records, and he disbursed settlement funds that, because of an ongoing dispute regarding the terms of the settlement agreement, should have remained in trust.
Wood had no prior discipline.
Disciplinary proceeding against Donald Hahnfeld
On Jan. 30, 2013, the Wisconsin Supreme Court revoked the law license of Donald A. Hahnfeld, Milwaukee. The court also ordered Hahnfeld to pay restitution of $32,800 to one client and $14,400 to the Wisconsin Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection and to pay the cost of the disciplinary proceeding. Disciplinary Proceedings against Hahnfeld, 2013 WI 14.
Hahnfeld committed 11 acts of misconduct in three different matters. Seven of the counts stemmed from Hahnfeld’s representation of a client who was pursuing a civil action against the client’s ex-wife to recover marital assets the client believed the ex-wife had hidden or undervalued during the couple’s divorce proceedings. The client paid Hahnfeld a $30,000 flat advanced fee in March 2002. Hahnfeld subsequently received additional funds on the client’s behalf, and from those funds, Hahnfeld took additional payments totaling $37,000. Hahnfeld did not obtain the client’s authorization to take these funds, which Hahnfeld claimed were additional fees for the civil matter.
Hahnfeld filed suit on the client’s behalf in March 2004, two years after he was hired, but failed to prosecute the case, resulting in its dismissal with prejudice in October 2005. The client terminated the representation in December 2005 and demanded a refund. Hahnfeld refused to refund any fees, and the client subsequently sued Hahnfeld for malpractice. Hahnfeld settled the malpractice case but then defaulted on the agreement.
Hahnfeld violated the following rules: SCR 20:1.3, by his lack of diligence in pursuing the case; SCR 20:1.15(b), by failing to notify the client of funds Hahnfeld received on the client’s behalf; SCR 20:8.4(f), by failing to comply with the Marine standard establishing the manner in which a lawyer may take client funds for payment of fees; SCR 20:8.4(c), by converting the client’s funds to his own use; SCR 20:1.15(e)(6), by failing to maintain trust account records for six years after termination of the representation; and SCR 22.03(2) and SCR 22.04(1), by failing to cooperate with the Office of Lawyer Regulation’s (OLR’s) investigation.
In the second matter, Hahnfeld failed to provide competent representation to a client charged with fifth-offense operating while intoxicated (OWI). Hahnfeld failed to adequately investigate, analyze, and discuss the client’s prior convictions and legal options and failed to present relevant information and argument about those prior convictions to the circuit court. Hahnfeld thereby failed to provide competent representation, in violation of SCR 20:1.1. In addition, Hahnfeld failed to cooperate with the OLR’s investigation and thereby violated SCR 22.03(2), which is enforced via SCR 20:8.4(f).
In the third matter, Hahnfeld continued to practice law while suspended for failure to comply with continuing legal education requirements, in violation of SCR 31.10(1). In addition, Hahnfeld failed to cooperate with the OLR in its investigation and thereby violated SCR 22.03(2).
Hahnfeld received public reprimands in 1993 and 2003. In 2007, Hahnfeld’s license was suspended for 60 days. In 2012, Hahnfeld received a one-year license suspension.
Disciplinary proceeding against
Lisa A. Webber-Hicks
On Jan. 23, 2013, the Wisconsin Supreme Court publicly reprimanded Lisa A. Webber-Hicks, Oliver Springs, Tennessee, as discipline reciprocal to a May 25, 2012 Supreme Court of Tennessee order publicly censuring Webber-Hicks, who had practiced in Tennessee under the names Lisa Anne Temple and Lisa Anne Webber. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Webber-Hicks, 2013 WI 9.
The Tennessee public censure arose out of Webber-Hicks’ misconduct in violation of Supreme Court of Tennessee Rules 1.4(a), 1.5(a), 5.5(a), 8.1(a) and (b), and 8.4(a), (c), (d), and (g). Webber Hicks agreed to represent a client in a divorce while her license was suspended and did not inform the client of her suspension. She did not file the divorce action, and she misrepresented that she had obtained a divorce decree. Webber-Hicks also failed to communicate with the client and failed to return fees after agreeing to do so.
In 2012, the Wisconsin Supreme Court suspended Webber-Hicks’ Wisconsin law license for four years and publicly reprimanded her.
Public reprimand of Donald C. Dudley
The Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR) and Donald C. Dudley, Milwaukee, 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 Jan. 31, 2013, in accordance with SCR 22.09(3).
The Office of the State Public Defender (SPD) appointed Dudley in November 2011 to represent a client in three involuntary termination-of-parental-rights (TPR) cases filed against her by the Milwaukee County district attorney. In connection with the representation, the client revealed confidential and intimate personal information to Dudley.
Dudley communicated regularly by email with the client, in some instances confirming appointment and court dates and deadlines. However, in January 2012, Dudley began sending personal emails to the client. Eventually, Dudley began including sex-related content in the emails. For example, Dudley offered to provide the client with a “foot rub,” told the client that he wished he could take care of “that wonderful body of yours,” and indicated that he was willing to be the client’s “servant” and “little man” and that he could be “naughty and inappropriate” with her. The client showed the emails to her social worker, who reported the matter to the SPD. After being reported, Dudley withdrew from the representation.
By sending sexually suggestive email messages to the client while representing her, Dudley engaged in a concurrent conflict of interest, in violation of SCR 20:1.7(a). By failing to withdraw from the representation after sending the email messages, Dudley violated SCR 20:1.16(a). Dudley’s conduct also violated SCR 20:8.4(f), which provides, “It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to: … (f) violate a … supreme court decision … regulating the conduct of lawyers …” as it relates to Disciplinary Proceedings against Gibson, 124 Wis. 2d 466, 369 N.W. 2d 695 (1985). Moreover, Dudley’s email messages harassed the client on the basis of her sex, in violation of SCR 20:8.4(i), and, in addition, constituted offensive conduct, in violation of SCR 20:8.4(g) and SCR 40.15.
Dudley had no prior discipline.
Public reprimand of Colleen J. Locke
The Office of Lawyer Regulation and Colleen J. Locke, Jefferson, 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 in accordance with SCR 22.09(3) on Jan. 24, 2013. The misconduct related to two separate matters.
In the first matter, Locke violated SCR 20:1.1, by failing to correctly file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy petition and accompanying schedules on behalf of a client, despite numerous opportunities to do so and specific advice from the bankruptcy trustee, thereby causing the client additional delay and expense. By failing to timely respond to the bankruptcy trustee’s motion to dismiss the client’s Chapter 13 bankruptcy matter, Locke violated SCR 20:1.3. By accepting an advanced fee with the expectation that the total fee would be at least $2,500 and by failing to enter into a written fee agreement with the client, Locke violated SCR 20:1.5(b)(1) and (2).
In the second matter, during her own divorce proceedings, by falsely testifying that she was unrepresented by counsel in her previous divorce, Locke violated SCR 20:8.4(c).
Locke received a prior public reprimand in 2009.
Disciplinary proceeding against Benjamin J. Harris
On Jan. 23, 2013, the Wisconsin Supreme Court suspended the law license of Benjamin J. Harris, Milwaukee, for five months, effective Feb. 25, 2013; ordered Harris to participate in counseling for depression; and ordered Harris to pay the cost of the proceedings. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Harris, 2013 WI 8.
The court found that the Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR) proved 10 counts of misconduct against Harris relating to four client matters. Harris had stipulated to four of the misconduct counts.
In the first matter, by failing to timely file a findings of fact, conclusions of law, and judgment of divorce in the client’s divorce matter and by failing to promptly prepare a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO), despite the client’s numerous requests that he do so and knowing that time was of the essence, Harris violated SCR 20:1.3. By failing to respond to the client’s numerous emails and telephone calls regarding the status of the findings and the QDRO, Harris violated SCR 20:1.4(a)(3).
In the second matter, by failing to timely advance estate proceedings on behalf of the client, Harris violated SCR 20:1.3. By failing to respond to the client’s numerous requests for a status update, Harris violated SCR 20:1.4(a)(4). By failing to notify the client of a license suspension to which he was then subject or to advise the client to seek legal advice elsewhere, Harris violated SCR 22.26(1)(a) and (b).
In the third matter, by failing to consult with the client concerning the method and means of pursuing her claims and by failing to discuss with the client the potential dismissal of the legal malpractice claim so as to proceed with resolution of a judgment against her, Harris violated SCR 20:1.2(a). By failing to discuss his strategy with the client, Harris violated SCR 20:1.4(a)(2) and (3). By failing to advise the client about the dismissal of the legal malpractice case, by advising the client that the action was pending after he knew it had been dismissed, and by intentionally allowing the dismissal to occur with the goal of misleading a creditor and gain advantage for the clients, Harris violated SCR 20:8.4(c).
In the fourth matter, by failing to contact the client between February 2009 and August 2009 regarding the dismissal of her divorce case and by failing to respond to the client’s numerous telephone calls seeking information about the status of her case, Harris violated SCR 20:1.4(a)(3) and (4). By failing to timely respond to the OLR’s multiple written requests for information regarding this investigation, Harris violated SCR 22.03(2) and (6), enforceable via SCR 20:8.4(h).
The discipline in the current case represented a progression from a private reprimand issued to Harris in 2007, a public reprimand issued in 2008, and a 60-day suspension in 2010, each of which involved violations of supreme court rules governing diligence and communication with clients.
Public reprimand of
Alexander E. Brown
The Office of Lawyer Regulation and Alexander E. Brown, currently of Milwaukee and previously of Eagle River, 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 in accordance with SCR 22.09(3).
Brown was twice charged with third-offense operating while intoxicated (OWI) during the autumn of 2009, with the charges being filed on successive days in Oneida and Vilas Counties. Brown also appeared at a September 2009 motion hearing in Oneida County Circuit Court while intoxicated.
Brown received treatment for alcohol addiction and indicates he has maintained absolute sobriety since 2010. The two OWI cases against him were consolidated. Brown was convicted of third- and fourth-offense OWI charges in June 2010.
By appearing under the influence of an intoxicant at a motion hearing, Brown violated SCR 20:1.1. By engaging in conduct leading to separate criminal convictions of third- and fourth-offense OWI, Brown, in each instance, violated SCR 20:8.4(b). Brown had no prior discipline.