Disciplinary Proceeding Against Robert P. D’Arruda
On Nov. 20, 2013, the Wisconsin Supreme Court publicly reprimanded Robert D’Arruda, Milwaukee. In addition, the court ordered D’Arruda to pay the full cost of the disciplinary proceeding and make restitution of $250 to one client. Disciplinary Proceedings Against D’Arruda, 2013 WI 90.
The reprimand involved four matters and multiple misconduct counts. D’Arruda stipulated to most of the misconduct, including that he had failed to cooperate with the Office of Lawyer Regulation’s (OLR’s) investigation in each of the four matters in violation of SCR 22.03(2), enforced via SCR 20:8.4(h).
In one matter, D’Arruda violated SCR 20:1.5(b)(1) and (2), by failing to provide a written fee agreement explaining the basis or rate of his fee and the purpose or effect of the advanced fee he accepted; SCR 20:1.15(b)(4m), by failing to hold the advanced fee in trust; and SCR 20:1.16(d), by failing to refund the $500 fee that had not been earned. The Wisconsin Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection (the Fund) reimbursed the client, and D’Arruda repaid the Fund.
D’Arruda’s other misconduct consisted of failing to promptly provide one client’s appellate counsel with the client’s file, thereby violating SCR 20:1.16(d); and failing to communicate with another client about his inability to appear for her court dates and failing to respond to her telephone calls, in violation of SCR 20:1.4(a)(3) and (4). D’Arruda also failed to provide this client a final accounting as required by SCR 20:1.15(b)(4m) and a refund of unearned fees as required by SCR 20:1.16(d), leading to the court’s restitution order. In a final matter, D’Arruda’s only misconduct was a failure to cooperate with the OLR’s investigation.
D’Arruda had a prior private reprimand for similar misconduct.
Public Reprimand of Christopher Wiesmueller
The OLR and Christopher Wiesmueller, Waukesha, 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. 1, 2013, in accordance with SCR 22.09(3).
Wiesmueller removed from a client’s laptop computer evidence that he knew was relevant to an ongoing criminal investigation and took measures to prevent the retrieval of the evidence. He thereby violated SCR 20:3.4(a), which states, “A lawyer shall not … unlawfully obstruct another party’s access to evidence or unlawfully alter, destroy or conceal a document or other material having potential evidentiary value … [and] shall not counsel or assist another person to do any such act”; and SCR 20:1.2(d), which provides, “A lawyer shall not counsel a client to engage, or assist a client, in conduct that the lawyer knows is criminal or fraudulent.” Wiesmueller also violated SCR 20:8.4(c) by misrepresenting to the prosecutor his role in the destruction of the evidence.
With respect to his representation of the client, Wiesmueller revealed privileged information, in violation of SCR 20:1.6(a), and took action to resolve the potential criminal charges against his client without discussing the action with the client or obtaining the client’s consent to the proposed course of action, in violation of SCR 20:1.2(a) and SCR 20:1.4(a)(2).
Wiesmueller had a prior private reprimand.
Disciplinary Proceeding Against Randi H. Hubatch
On Nov. 26, 2013, the supreme court approved a stipulation filed by the OLR and Randi H. Hubatch and suspended Hubatch’s Wisconsin law license for three years. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Hubatch, 2013 WI 94.
On Jan. 18, 2013, Hubatch was charged with one count of armed robbery for robbing a credit union of $500 while in possession of a toy gun. He pleaded guilty to the charge. In the stipulation, Hubatch agreed that by engaging in conduct leading to a criminal conviction of felony armed robbery, he violated SCR 20:8.4(b). He also agreed that a three-year suspension of his Wisconsin law license was an appropriate level of discipline for his misconduct.
Hubatch had no prior discipline. His law license had been administratively suspended since 2007 for nonpayment of State Bar dues.
Disciplinary Proceeding Against Ronald J. Moore
On Nov. 29, 2013, the supreme court suspended the law license of Ronald J. Moore, Wausau, for three years, effective Dec. 30, 2013. The suspension was based on six counts of professional misconduct arising from Moore’s representation of a couple in a guardianship proceeding and actions involving another client that ultimately led to Moore’s conviction of two misdemeanors. The court also ordered Moore to pay the full cost of the disciplinary proceeding. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Moore, 2013 WI 96.
The first three counts related to Moore’s representation of spouses in a proceeding in which they sought guardianship of their minor grandchild. Moore violated SCR 20:1.3 by failing to file a new guardianship petition that would have cured a jurisdictional defect with the first petition and by failing to timely obtain documents, discovery responses, and deposition testimony needed for the guardianship hearing. Moore also violated SCR 20:1.4(a) and (b), by failing to communicate adequately with his clients; and SCR 20:1.5(b), by failing to communicate in a clear and consistent manner the basis and rate of his fees, which fees were required to be paid in advance, and how advanced fees would be handled and by stating in the representation agreement that advanced fees would be nonrefundable.
Counts four through six involved Moore’s representation of an 18-year-old client in criminal matters and Moore’s criminal convictions that arose out of that representation. In February 2010, Moore’s client was out on bond, with six pending felony criminal cases. On Feb. 3, 2010, at Moore’s direction, the client transported drug-related items to Moore’s law office, including homemade marijuana pipes. The next day Moore gave the client $400 in cash and told him to purchase an ounce of marijuana. Before the client could conclude the marijuana purchase, the client’s father confronted him about what was happening. The client’s parents then contacted Moore.
Moore initially denied that he had given any cash to the client or that he had directed the client to purchase marijuana, but he later asserted to the client’s parents that he had provided the $400 and instructed the client to purchase an ounce of marijuana as a “good faith buy.” Moore misrepresented to the client’s parents that the assistant district attorney handling the client’s pending cases and other law enforcement officials knew about the proposed buy.
As a result of Moore’s interactions with the client, Moore was convicted of two misdemeanors: THC possession, as a party to a crime-conspiracy; and possession of drug paraphernalia.
By engaging in conduct that resulted in his conviction of the two misdemeanors, Moore violated SCR 20:8.4(b). He violated SCR 20:8.4(c) by making multiple misrepresentations to the client’s parents. Moore acted under a conflict of interest in violation of SCR 20:1.7(a)(2) by attempting to cause the client to purchase marijuana for Moore, when doing so could have been detrimental to the client.
Moore had no prior discipline.
Disciplinary Proceeding Against Mary K. Biester
On Oct. 22, 2013, the supreme court suspended the law license of Mary K. Biester, Beloit, for one year, effective Nov. 25, 2013, and ordered Biester to pay restitution of $900 to a former client within 60 days after the order and to pay the cost of the disciplinary proceeding. The supreme court also ordered that as a condition of reinstatement, Biester must complete 20 hours of continuing legal education ethics courses approved in advance by the OLR. The courses are to address issues related to office management, trust account maintenance, responsibility to clients, and compliance with court orders. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Biester, 2013 WI 85.
Biester’s suspension was based on 30 counts of misconduct arising out of six separate client representations, involving failing to abide by a client’s decision regarding the representation, failing to diligently represent clients, revealing confidential client information, committing numerous trust account violations, knowingly disobeying an obligation of a tribunal, failing to properly supervise a nonlawyer employee, engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation, and failing to cooperate with the OLR.
Biester was found to have violated the following supreme court rules, some multiple times: SCR 20:1.2(a); SCR 20:1.3; SCR 20:1.4(a)(2), (3), and (4) and (b); SCR 20:1.6; SCR 20:1.15(b)(1) and (4), (d)(1) and (2), (e)(4)a. and c., and (f)(1)3; SCR 20:1.16(d); SCR 20:3.4(c); SCR 20:5.3(b); SCR 20:8.4(c); and SCR 22.03(2), enforced via SCR 20:8.4(f).
One misconduct allegation was stayed rather than adjudicated. Should the stay be lifted and there is a misconduct finding on it, any sanction imposed will run consecutive to the one-year suspension.