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    Wisconsin Lawyer
    July 01, 2003

    Lawyer Discipline

    Wisconsin Lawyer
    Vol. 76, No. 7, July 2003

    Lawyer Discipline

    The Office of Lawyer Regulation (formerly known as the Board of Attorneys Professional Responsibility), 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 persons practicing law in Wisconsin. The Office of Lawyer Regulation has offices located at Suite 315, 110 E. Main St., Madison, WI 53703, and Suite 300, 342 N. Water St., Milwaukee, WI 53202. Toll-free telephone: (877) 315-6941.

    Disciplinary proceeding against Robert L. Taylor

    The Wisconsin Supreme Court has accepted Robert L. Taylor's petition for voluntary revocation of his law license and revoked his law license effective
    Dec. 14, 1992. In his petition, Taylor, of Milwaukee, acknowledged that he could not successfully defend against allegations of misconduct in four matters that were under investigation by the Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR). These allegations pertained to Taylor's federal criminal conviction for embezzling client funds, and other misconduct committed while representing clients. During these representations, Taylor practiced law while his law license was administratively suspended, charged an illegal or a clearly excessive fee, neglected a legal matter, failed to promptly pay or deliver to the client funds in Taylor's possession that his client was entitled to receive, and failed to return unearned fees.

    Public reprimand of Ann Cahill Kiefer

    The OLR and Ann Cahill Kiefer (formerly Ann Cahill Hammer), 42, Stevens Point, entered into an agreement for imposition of a public reprimand, pursuant to SCR 22.09(1). A referee appointed by the supreme court thereafter approved the agreement, and issued the public reprimand on May 28, 2003, in accordance with SCR 22.09(3).

    On Oct. 7, 2002, Kiefer was convicted in Portage County Circuit Court of felony fifth offense operating while intoxicated and two counts of felony bail jumping for drinking in defiance of bail conditions. Kiefer violated SCR 20:8.4(b), which states that it is professional misconduct for an attorney to "commit a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer in other respects." Kiefer properly self-reported her conviction as required under SCR 21.15(5).

    Kiefer previously was the subject of a disciplinary action that led to a six-month license suspension and imposition of conditions related to alcoholism following any reinstatement from the suspension. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Cahill, 219 Wis. 2d 330, 579 N.W.2d 231 (1998). In that case, Kiefer was found to have engaged in criminal conduct, some of which was causally linked to alcoholism. Kiefer has not petitioned for reinstatement from the license suspension.

    Disciplinary proceeding against James Paul O'Neil

    By order dated May 28, 2003, the Wisconsin Supreme Court publicly reprimanded James Paul O'Neil, 40, Green Bay, for revealing information relating to his representation of a client without the client's consent, contrary to SCR 20:1.6.

    In 1999, O'Neil was retained by a man to file a divorce action. Five days after O'Neil was retained, the client's wife was found dead. When O'Neil was contacted by the police, O'Neil discussed his representation of the client and, at the officer's request, agreed to jot down notes on any future conversations he had with the client. O'Neil did not request the client's consent to provide information to the police.

    In connection with the criminal investigation, the circuit court issued a subpoena that "requested" O'Neil's file on the client. O'Neil did not invoke the attorney-client privilege and turned over the entire case file to the police, including notes, bank account records and other financial information. O'Neil also was involved in a second police interview in which he discussed the client's divorce, and he granted police investigators permission to talk with his secretary regarding her contacts with the client. The client ultimately was charged
    with and convicted of first-degree intentional homicide in the death of his wife.

    In mitigation of O'Neil's misconduct, the referee in the disciplinary action noted that prior to the client's murder trial, the district attorney agreed to not use any information received from O'Neil at trial, nor was O'Neil or any member of his staff called as a witness at trial. The referee noted O'Neil's assertion that he was trying to help the client by divulging information showing that the divorce was amicable, and that he didn't realize he was violating SCR 20:1.6 when he made disclosures to the police.

    The supreme court adopted the referee's report and recommendation, which concluded that although O'Neil's law license previously had been suspended for 12 months, the violation committed in the current case was unrelated to the violations in the prior case and did not appear to exhibit a pattern of misconduct. Further, there was no need to protect the public because O'Neil indicated he now understands the requirements of SCR 20:1.6 and will conduct his practice accordingly.

    Disciplinary proceeding against Jane Edgar

    On May 28, 2003, the Wisconsin Supreme Court suspended the law license of Jane Edgar, 44, Milwaukee, for one year, ordered Edgar to make restitution of unrefunded fees or costs to four former clients in an aggregate amount of $4,625, and placed conditions upon any reinstatement of Edgar's law license. Edgar's license was already under suspension, having been suspended for two years effective March 22, 1999. See Disciplinary Proceedings Against Edgar, 230 Wis. 2d 205, 601 N.W.2d 284 (1999).

    In the current case, Edgar stipulated to the misconduct charged by the OLR, much of which was committed during the course of Edgar's handling of six client matters between 1996 and 1999, and some of which involved the same client matters for which Edgar was earlier suspended. Edgar's misconduct consisted of failing to take reasonably practicable steps to protect her client's interests, in violation of SCR 20:1.16(d) (six counts); failing to keep her client reasonably informed or to comply with the client's reasonable requests for information, in violation of 20:1.4(a) (five counts); failing to act with reasonable diligence in representing a client, in violation of SCR 20:1.3 (four counts); failing to cooperate with grievance investigations, in violation of former SCR 21.03(4) and former SCR 22.07(3) (five counts); failing to render a full accounting in connection with a fee advance, in violation of SCR 20:1.15(b) (one count); practicing law while under CLE administrative suspension for three weeks, in violation of SCR 31.10(1) (one count); and failing to obtain a written conflict waiver, in violation of SCR 20:1.7(a) (one count).

    The court adopted the parties' suggestion that the one-year license suspension be imposed with a retroactive commencement date of March 21, 2001, the date Edgar's previous two-year license suspension ended. The practical effect equates to the court having imposed an aggregate three-year license suspension for Edgar's cumulative misconduct.

    In addition to ordering Edgar to make restitution of unrefunded fees or costs in the amounts proposed by the OLR, the court also, per the parties' stipulation, ordered that any reinstatement of Edgar's law license shall be conditioned upon Edgar demonstrating that she has her depression and any other emotional or psychological problems under control, by her submission to an independent medical examination by a healthcare provider approved by the OLR, at her own expense; that her licensure following reinstatement be conditioned on her remaining in recommended treatment, monitored by the OLR via quarterly reports for two years following reinstatement; and that Edgar's practice of law be monitored by an attorney approved by the OLR for two years following reinstatement, with certain exceptions.

    Disciplinary proceeding against John C. Widule

    On May 8, 2003, the Wisconsin Supreme Court suspended the law license of John C. Widule, 48, Elm Grove, for six months. Subsequent to its disciplinary order, and without objection from the OLR, the court ordered that Widule's suspension would commence June 27, 2003. Widule also was ordered to pay the $11,502.42 costs of the disciplinary proceeding.

    The events giving rise to the misconduct counts against Widule are detailed within the court's 25-page disciplinary order. Essentially, Widule was found by a trial court and on appeal to have commenced and maintained a malicious and frivolous civil action, was ordered by the circuit court in that underlying litigation to pay a significant monetary sanction, and failed to do so.

    In the disciplinary proceeding, the referee found that Widule had knowingly advanced a factual position without a basis for doing so that was not frivolous, contrary to SCR 20:3.1(a)(2); that Widule had a conflict of interest when arguing a position favorable to one client at the expense of another client without securing written consent, contrary to SCR 20:1.7(b); and that Widule failed to provide competent representation by failing to research legal issues such as "accord and satisfaction," "waiver," and "estoppel," before commencing a lawsuit that ultimately was found to be frivolous; and that Widule's lack of competency violated SCR 20:1.1.

    Widule appealed from the referee's report and the referee's recommendation for a three-month license suspension. The supreme court adopted the referee's findings of fact and conclusions of law, but imposed a six-month license suspension.

    Widule had no prior discipline.

    Hearing to reinstate Kevin M. Kelsay

    On Sept. 23, 2003, at 9 a.m., a public hearing will be held before referee Kim M. Peterson at the Office of Lawyer Regulation, 342 N. Water St., Suite 300, Milwaukee, on the petition of Kevin M. Kelsay of Milwaukee to reinstate his law license. Any interested person may appear at the hearing and be heard in support of or in opposition to the petition for reinstatement.

    The Wisconsin Supreme Court suspended Kelsay's law license for three years, effective June 4, 1990, for misconduct consisting of neglecting legal matters entrusted to him by clients; failing to communicate adequately with clients; failing to deposit client funds in a trust account; failing to produce trust account records during an investigation into his conduct; engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation; failing to return clients' files; failing to return unearned fees; and failing promptly to pay funds of a client as directed by the client. A more detailed account of Kelsay's misconduct is recited in Disciplinary Proceedings Against Kelsay, 155 Wis. 2d 480, 455 N.W.2d 871 (1990).

    As to reinstatement, Kelsay is required to establish by clear, satisfactory, and convincing evidence that, among other things, he has not practiced law or engaged in certain law-work activity during his suspension; his conduct since the suspension has been exemplary and above reproach; he has a proper understanding of and attitude toward the standards that are imposed upon members of the bar and will act in conformity with the standards; he can safely be recommended to the legal profession, the courts, and the public as a person fit to be consulted by others and to represent them and otherwise act in matters of trust and confidence; he has fully described all of his business activities during the suspension; and that he has made restitution to or settled all claims of persons injured or harmed by his misconduct or, if not, has explained his failure or inability to do so.

    Moreover, Kelsay has the burden of demonstrating by clear, satisfactory, and convincing evidence that he has the moral character to practice law in Wisconsin, that his resumption of the practice of law will not be detrimental to the administration of justice or subversive of the public interest, and that he has fully complied with the terms of the 1990 suspension order and with the requirements of SCR 22.26.

    Further information may be obtained from OLR investigator Rachel Nadel, 342 N. Water St., Suite 300, Milwaukee, WI 53202, (877) 315-6941 (toll free), or from the OLR's retained counsel, Charles S. Blumenfield, 735 N. Water St., Suite 1200, P.O. Box 611, Milwaukee, WI 53201, (414) 271-5529.

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