Disciplinary Proceeding Against Vladimir Gorokhovsky
On Dec. 17, 2013, the Wisconsin Supreme Court suspended the law license of Vladimir Gorokhovsky, Milwaukee, for 60 days, effective Jan. 21, 2014. In addition, the court ordered Gorokhovsky to pay the cost of the disciplinary proceeding. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Gorokhovsky, 2013 WI 100.
Gorokhovsky committed misconduct in two matters. The first matter concerned Gorokhovsky’s conviction on two misdemeanor counts of battery and one count of disorderly conduct as acts of domestic violence against his then wife. Gorokhovsky’s commission of these criminal acts 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; …”
The second matter involved misrepresentations that Gorokhovsky made to an Illinois court in which he was appearing pro hac vice. After his conviction on the domestic abuse charges, Gorokhovsky sought to obtain a stay of the Illinois case. Gorokhovsky stated in his motion to the Illinois court that he was partially incapacitated as a result of a dramatic event in his life and needed to take a personal and family medical leave. Gorokhovsky did not explain the dramatic event or detail his health problems.
The court requested a detailed affidavit from Gorokhovsky explaining the reasons underlying his request for a stay. In his affidavit, Gorokhovsky revealed that he was suffering from severe psoriasis that required several months of treatment. He did not reveal his criminal conviction. Gorokhovsky also provided a letter from a doctor of “oriental medicine” advising him to limit his work to noncontested matters and refrain from litigation-related activities. The Illinois court granted the stay.
However, contrary to the representation Gorokhovsky had made to the Illinois court that he would be taking a medical leave of absence, he then made numerous court appearances in Wisconsin on behalf of clients and in his own legal matters. The Illinois court was informed of Gorokhovsky’s continued legal work and revoked Gorokhovsky’s pro hac vice admission.
By making misrepresentations to the Illinois court to obtain a stay, Gorokhovsky violated SCR 20:3.3(a)(1), which states that “A lawyer shall not knowingly make a false statement of fact or law to a tribunal …,” and SCR 20:8.4(c), which provides that it is professional misconduct for a lawyer to “engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.”
Gorokhovsky received a private reprimand in 2009 and a public reprimand in 2012.
Disciplinary Proceeding Against Perry H. Friesler
On Dec. 26, 2013, the supreme court revoked the law license of Perry H. Friesler, Milwaukee, and ordered him to pay restitution. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Friesler, 2013 WI 104. In response to two ongoing Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR) investigations, Friesler filed a petition for consensual revocation, indicating that he could not defend against allegations that he engaged in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation in violation of SCR 20:8.4(c), based on his theft of funds from two estates while serving as personal representative for those estates.
One estate had been reimbursed $72,500 by the Wisconsin Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection (the Fund), and the court ordered Friesler to make restitution to the Fund in that amount. The successor personal representative for the second estate alleged that Friesler misappropriated $105,250 from the estate. The court ordered Friesler to pay restitution of at least $87,390 for his theft from the second estate and also to attempt to reach a stipulation with the OLR as to the $17,860 he claimed he was owed for work performed for the estate. Under the terms of the revocation, if a stipulation cannot be reached, and if Friesler ever petitions for reinstatement, he must furnish a complete accounting and prove that he has settled all claims related to the $17,860.
Disciplinary Proceedings Against Suzanne M. Smith
On Dec. 12, 2013, the supreme court suspended the law license of Suzanne M. Smith, Burlington, for six months, effective Jan. 16, 2014. The court ordered Smith to make restitution to the Office of the State Public Defender (SPD) and pay the full cost of the disciplinary proceeding. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Smith, 2013 WI 98.
Smith’s suspension resulted from 20 counts of misconduct in four different matters. In a divorce, Smith received checks to apply against the parties’ real estate taxes. Smith failed to promptly deposit the checks in her trust account, promptly apply the funds toward the property taxes owed by the parties, respond to an inquiry from opposing counsel regarding the status of the funds, and render a written accounting after distributing the funds to the county treasurer.
In a post-adjudication paternity matter, Smith failed to timely prepare a final order implementing the parties’ stipulation and, despite requests, failed to timely provide the client with a copy of the signed stipulation or Smith’s final bill for legal services. Smith billed for travel and appearance at a hearing she did not attend and did not correct the billing.
The two other cases involved SPD appointments. In both cases, Smith made misrepresentations to the OLR and failed to furnish requested documents and information for the investigations. In one matter, regarding revocation of extended supervision, Smith failed to provide competent representation, by not locating the client in the correctional system, failing to file pleadings in proper form with documentation required by statute, and filing pleadings that were summarily dismissed as deficient.
Smith generally neglected her representation, including failing to file a timely writ of certiorari; failing to provide missing documents needed to complete a filing, despite reminders; and failing to supplement an inadequate motion for sentence modification with a brief and supporting affidavits, although ordered to do so. In addition, she failed to adequately communicate with and explain matters to the client. Smith exhibited a pattern of dishonesty, deceit, or misrepresentation throughout the representation, including making false representations to the client and the SPD that she had filed the writ of certiorari.
After being appointed by the SPD to handle postconviction issues for another client, Smith generally failed to pursue the client’s interests. She allowed appellate deadlines to lapse. She failed to prepare an order denying postconviction relief as ordered by the circuit court. She made repeated false claims to the court that she had prepared and sent motions on behalf of the client, gave the client the false impression that pleadings had been (or would soon be) filed, and failed to keep the client adequately informed.
Smith was found to have violated the following supreme court rules, including multiple counts or occurrences: SCR 20:1.1; SCR 20:1.3; SCR 20:1.4(a)(3) and (4) and (b); SCR 20:1.5(a) and (b)(3); SCR 20:1.15(b)(1) and (d)(1) and (2); SCR 20:3.3(a)(1); SCR 20:3.4(c); SCR 20:8.4(c); and SCR 22.03(2) and (6), both enforced via SCR 20:8.4(h).
Smith received a public reprimand in 2009.
Disciplinary Proceedings Against Bridget E. Boyle
On Dec. 26, 2013, the supreme court suspended the law license of Bridget Boyle, Milwaukee, for six months, effective Jan. 30, 2014. The court also ordered Boyle to pay the cost of the disciplinary proceeding and to pay restitution of $2,500 to a former client’s companion. See Disciplinary Proceedings Against Boyle, 2013 WI 103.
Boyle engaged in nine counts of professional misconduct involving two clients. In the first matter, Boyle agreed to appeal a criminal defendant’s felony conviction in federal court, a task for which she requested a fee of $20,000. Boyle did not prepare a fee agreement, failed to communicate with the client or respond to his requests for information, failed to provide an accounting of fees, and failed to return the client’s file after numerous requests.
Although Boyle filed an appeal with the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, as well as a motion to vacate sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, she failed for more than one year to advise the client that the circuit court had denied the motion to vacate, notwithstanding repeated efforts by the client to learn the outcome of the motion to vacate. The supreme court found that Boyle violated former SCR 20:1.4(a), SCR 20:1.4(a)(3) and (4), SCR 20:1.5(b) and (b)(3), and SCR 20:1.16(d).
In a second matter, Boyle agreed to file an appeal on behalf of a criminal defendant. Boyle accepted $2,500 for the representation but did only minimal work on the case. When the client and his companion terminated Boyle’s representation in the case after only a few weeks, Boyle refused to refund any of the advanced fee. Boyle also deposited the fee into her operating account instead of her trust account. The court determined that Boyle violated SCR 20:1.5(a), SCR 20:1.15(b)(4), and SCR 20:1.16(d).
Boyle had a private reprimand in 2008 and had been suspended from the practice of law for 60 days in 2012. Also in 2012, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals disbarred Boyle from practice in that court.
Public Reprimand of Michael Bishop
Pursuant to SCR 22.09(1), the OLR and Michael Bishop, Milwaukee, entered into an agreement for the imposition of a public reprimand and Bishop’s required attendance at an OLR trust account seminar. A supreme court-appointed referee approved the agreement, and issued the public reprimand on Jan. 17, 2014, in accordance with SCR 22.09(3).
In May 2011, Bishop overdrew his trust account when he disbursed an $18 check to himself. The check did not identify the client or the matter to which it related. At that time, Bishop was not maintaining a transaction register or client ledgers and thus was unable to perform the required monthly reconciliations. During the OLR’s investigation, he produced a reconstructed register, but it failed to identify the source of each deposit and the client relating to each disbursement. He simply identified each withdrawal from the account as “Earned Fees.”
The OLR’s subsequent audit of Bishop’s trust account for the period between January 2011 and November 2011 revealed deposits of $21,912.95 in flat fees and $7,900 in personal funds. Bishop made 60 cash withdrawals from those funds, totaling $29,427. He had neither a business account nor a personal account during that period.
On May 23, 2012, there was a second overdraft on Bishop’s trust account, caused by the return of a client’s $1,500 check. Bishop had withdrawn the full $1,500, which was a flat fee, before return of the client’s check based on nonsufficient funds. After depositing the flat fee to his trust account, Bishop failed to comply with the requirements of SCR 20:1.15(b)(4) or (b)(4m), the alternative methods for handling advanced legal fees. (Flat fees are a type of advanced fee, pursuant to SCR 20:1.0(ag), and are subject to the requirements of subsections (b)(4) or (b)(4m), pursuant to SCR 20:1.0(dm).)
During the investigation of the second overdraft, the OLR asked Bishop to provide various trust account records. Bishop provided a client ledger but submitted monthly bank statements in lieu of a transaction register. The OLR’s audit of the trust account revealed that between May 2012 and August 2012, Bishop deposited $5,470.60 in flat fees and $5,100 in personal funds to the account and made 48 cash withdrawals, totaling $10,540. During that period, Bishop had no business or personal accounts.
Bishop violated the following trust account rules: SCR 20:1.15(b)(3), by depositing at least $13,000 in personal funds into his trust account; SCR 20:1.15(e)(4)a., by making 108 cash withdrawals, totaling $39,967, from his trust account; SCR 20:1.15(e)(8), by failing to maintain a business account; and SCR 20:1.15(f)(1)a., b. and g., by failing to maintain a transaction register and client ledgers and by failing to perform monthly reconciliations.
Bishop has no prior discipline.
Public Reprimand of Laura A. Walker
The OLR and Laura A. Walker, formerly of Kenosha, 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 in accordance with SCR 22.09(3) on Jan. 16, 2014. The misconduct related to a matter in which Walker represented an inmate in his criminal case and ongoing financial matters.
When the scope of Walker’s representation of the client expanded beyond the client’s criminal matter and she charged the client an increased flat fee of $30,000 to handle additional matters, by failing to enter into a new written fee agreement or to modify the existing fee agreement that pertained only to the criminal matter, Walker violated SCR 20:1.5(b).
By failing to provide the client a written notice before withdrawing her attorney fees from the trust account she maintained on his behalf, Walker violated SCR 20:1.15(g)(1).
By withdrawing funds from the trust account she maintained for the client by making cash withdrawals from a bank branch, rather than by issuing checks from the trust account, Walker violated SCR 20:1.15(e)(4)a.
By failing to maintain complete trust account records, Walker violated the record-keeping requirements of SCR 20:1.15(f)(1).
By failing to provide a full written accounting of the funds she held in trust for the client upon the conclusion of her representation, Walker violated SCR 20:1.15(d)(2).
Walker has no prior discipline.
Public Reprimand of Warren Lee Brandt
The OLR and Warren Lee Brandt, currently of St. Croix Falls and formerly of Prescott, entered into an agreement for imposition of a public reprimand relating to Brandt’s misconduct in two matters. A supreme court-appointed referee approved the agreement, and issued the public reprimand on Nov. 20, 2013, in accordance with SCR 22.09(3).
On June 6, 2011, Brandt became ineligible to practice law in Wisconsin for noncompliance with 2009-10 continuing legal education (CLE) requirements. Brandt was reinstated from that suspension on June 28, 2011.
On June 15, 2011, while his law license was suspended, Brandt attempted to file a notice of motion and motion in a child support case. In a June 16, 2011, letter, the presiding judge notified Brandt that he was not licensed to practice law in Wisconsin and therefore was not authorized to act on behalf of a party in the pending action. In his response to the OLR, Brandt indicated that he had engaged another law firm to prepare a motion and notice of motion (left blank), which were given to the court commissioner. The documents in question, however, had not been left blank for others to complete and file but had in fact been signed by Brandt.
By attempting to file a notice of motion and motion bearing his signature and dated June 15, 2011, when his law license was suspended pursuant to SCR 31.10(1) for noncompliance with mandatory CLE requirements, Brandt violated SCR 31.10(1), which is enforced via SCR 20:8.4(f).
By asserting to the OLR that he had engaged another law firm to prepare a blank notice of motion and motion to be submitted to the court, when the notice of motion and motion in question referred to Brandt as the petitioner’s attorney, and was signed and dated by Brandt when he was suspended from practice, Brandt violated SCR 22.03(6), enforced via SCR 20:8.4(h).
In a second matter, while his license was suspended for noncompliance with CLE requirements, Brandt appeared in court on June 27, 2011, on behalf of a client at a plea hearing. The judge informed Brandt that he had received a notice indicating that Brandt’s law license had been suspended, and he was not going to allow Brandt to proceed.
By making a court appearance at a June 27, 2011, hearing when his law license was suspended pursuant to SCR 31.10(1), for noncompliance with mandatory CLE requirements, Brandt again violated SCR 31.10(1), enforced via SCR 20:8.4(f).
Brandt’s prior discipline consists of a 1994 private reprimand, a 2003 public reprimand, a 2004 private reprimand, a 2009 public reprimand, and a four-month suspension imposed in 2012.
Disciplinary Proceeding Against Yuri Bernard Nielsen
On Dec. 20, 2013, the supreme court revoked the Wisconsin law license of Yuri Bernard Nielsen, Phoenix, Ariz. The OLR and Nielsen had entered into an agreement for revocation of Nielsen’s Wisconsin law license as discipline reciprocal to a May 2, 2013, disbarment imposed on Nielsen’s Arizona law license by the Supreme Court of Arizona. In addition, Nielsen failed to notify the Wisconsin OLR about his Arizona discipline within 20 days after the discipline. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Nielsen, 2013 WI 102.
The 2013 Arizona disbarment arose out of Nielsen’s misconduct in violation of Rule 42, ERs 1.3, 1.4, 1.15, 8.1, 8.4(c), along with various sections of Rule 43 and Rule 54 of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Arizona. Nielsen’s Arizona disbarment involved misappropriation of trust funds and failure to provide an accounting of trust accounts and related client records.
Nielsen has no prior Wisconsin disciplinary history.
Disciplinary Proceeding Against John Miller Carroll
The supreme court suspended the law license of John Miller Carroll, Appleton, for five months, effective Feb. 1, 2014. The suspension was based on seven counts of professional misconduct arising from Carroll’s representation of two clients in criminal matters. The court also ordered Carroll to pay the full cost of the disciplinary proceeding. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Carroll, 2013 WI 101.
The first four counts related to Carroll’s representation of a man in two separate criminal cases. Carroll violated SCR 20:1.3 by failing to timely file a notice of intent to pursue postconviction relief in one of the two cases. Carroll violated former SCR 20:1.7(b) and SCR 20:1.7(a)(2) and (b)(1) and (4), by failing to obtain the client’s written waiver of any conflicts of interest that might exist as a result of Carroll’s representation of the client in an appeal of his convictions. Potential conflicts of interest existed, and the client made the decision to allow Carroll to represent him in the appeals in reliance on Carroll’s advice that the client had no ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claims, even though it was Carroll who represented the client at the trial level.
Carroll violated SCR 20:8.4(c) by making misrepresentations to the client and SCR 22.03(6), enforced via SCR 20:8.4(h), by making misrepresentations to the OLR during the course of the investigation.
Counts five through seven related to Carroll’s representation of a man in a criminal matter in federal district court. Carroll violated SCR 20:1.1 by advising the client to personally obtain the signature of a government witness on an affidavit recanting the witness’s prior statements to authorities. Carroll violated SCR 20:1.7(a) by representing the client on a motion to withdraw his plea, when the motion could be based, at least in part, on Carroll’s acts and omissions with regard to the plea, and by failing to obtain the client’s written waiver of those potential conflicts. Carroll violated SCR 20:3.3(a)(1) by making a factual misrepresentation in a brief filed with the court in support of the client’s motion to withdraw his plea.
Carroll received private reprimands in 1992 and 1997 and public reprimands in 1999 and 2003, and his law license was suspended for one year in 2002.