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    Wisconsin Lawyer
    Vol. 77, No. 9, September 2004

    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 Michael G. Trewin

    By order dated July 27, 2004, the Wisconsin Supreme Court suspended the law license of Michael G. Trewin, 44, New London, for five months effective Aug. 31, 2004. The conduct involved a series of financial transactions in which Trewin had loaned money to clients, purchased clients' property, and acquired various security interests in clients' assets. The court found that Trewin engaged in the following misconduct:

    • by depositing a check belonging to a client into his business account rather than his client trust account, Trewin violated SCR 20:1.15(a);
    • by entering into lender-debtor relationships with clients without advising them in writing about the possible adverse effects on his continued legal representation, Trewin violated SCR 20:1.7(b);
    • by entering into lender-debtor or business relationships with at least seven clients without securing written, informed consent waivers from the clients, Trewin violated SCR 20:1.8(a). The court rejected Trewin's argument that by signing the loan documents the clients had given their written consent to the transaction and found that a separate written conflict waiver was required to comply with the requirements of SCR 20:1.8(a)(3);
    • by virtue of errors made on his loan accountings to clients that resulted in over-charges for interest and some billings for disbursements that either were never made or were made at dates well after interest started to accrue, Trewin's business transactions with clients were unfair and unreasonable, in further violation of SCR 20:1.8(a);
    • by failing to include information regarding a client's ownership interest in a company on the client's bankruptcy schedules, and by assigning various loan interests to Trewin's brother-in-law, Trewin engaged in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation contrary to SCR 20:8.4(c); and
    • by failing to timely file his own income tax returns, Trewin violated a supreme court decision regulating the conduct of lawyers in State v. Roggensack, 19 Wis. 2d 38, 45, 119 N.W.2d 412 (1963).

    The court noted that Trewin had entered into loan transactions with clients who were experiencing serious financial problems and were in a vulnerable position. The fact that some of the clients thought Trewin was doing them a favor by loaning them money, the court stated, did not exonerate him from any misconduct findings. The court agreed with the referee that a five-month suspension was an appropriate sanction for Trewin's misconduct and assessed him the costs of the prosecution ($25,879.82). Justice Prosser concurred in the discipline imposed but would have adjusted the assessment of costs. Disciplinary Proceedings against Trewin, 2004 WI 116.

    License Revocation of Jeffrey D. Knickmeier

    By order dated July 21, 2004, the Wisconsin Supreme Court revoked the law license of Jeffrey D. Knickmeier, 49, McFarland/Madison, on finding that Knickmeier had engaged in 21 separate counts of misconduct. The court imposed the revocation order retroactive to June 14, 2001, the date that Knickmeier's law license was temporarily suspended under SCR 22.21.

    In a 49-page opinion, the court found that Knickmeier violated:

    • SCR 20:1.8(a) and 20:8.4(c) by borrowing $12,000 from a client to purchase an airplane without obtaining the required written consent, without disclosing his checkered financial history to the client, and without making payments pursuant to the terms of the loan;
    • SCR 20:8.4(c) and 20:1.15(b), (d), and (e) by depleting and failing to account for $45,785 of client funds deposited to Knickmeier's client trust account, which funds were used, among other things, for Knickmeier's personal and office expenses, for alleged "principal advances" on a prior loan, and for the purchase of a motorcycle and athletic tickets;
    • SCR 20:1.15(a) and (b) and SCR 20:8.4(c) by failing to deposit refunds of a client's bail and evidence money into his attorney trust account and instead putting those client funds to personal use;
    • SCR 20:1.7(b), 20:1.3, 20:1.15(a), and 20:1.15(b) regarding Knickmeier's handling of a client's rental property wherein Knickmeier rented the client's home to a second client to whom Knickmeier also was indebted, failed to deposit rental payments to his trust account, used part of a rental payment to reduce his indebtedness to the second client, and failed to pay property taxes, telling the county treasurer that the client was experiencing "liquidity problems" when the client's cash shortage was in fact caused by Knickmeier's own failure to repay his indebtedness to the client;
    • SCR 20:1.4(a) by failing to provide a client with a requested accounting and timely billing statements;
    • SCR 22.30(2) for failing to timely respond to the Office of Lawyer Regulation's requests for information; and
    • SCR 20:1.15(a) and (e) for using his client trust account for personal purposes and failing to keep required trust account records.

    The referee described Knickmeier as being unrepentant as demonstrated by his claim that he was the "victim" and had "suffered enough." Knickmeier appealed the referee's report and argued that Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR) staff had failed to report exculpatory information, that Knickmeier's constitutional rights had been violated by the temporary suspension, that the referee improperly failed to dismiss counts, that the referee was constrained from finding dishonest and fraudulent conduct on the basis of omissions rather than commissions, and that the recommended sanction of revocation was excessive. The court rejected Knickmeier's arguments in all respects, clarifying, in the process, that the rule prohibiting an attorney from "engaging in conduct including dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation" is to be read in the disjunctive, such that neither intent nor fraud must be proved, and that deceitful omissions of relevant information constitute dishonest conduct within the scope of the rule.

    The court imposed a retroactive revocation and ordered Knickmeier to pay the costs of the proceeding ($27,085.04). Justice Prosser concurred and Justice Bradley dissented, but neither filed a separate opinion. Disciplinary Proceedings against Knickmeier, 2004 WI 115.

    Disciplinary Proceeding against Anthony Irby Moree

    On Aug. 2, 2004, the Wisconsin Supreme Court suspended the Wisconsin law license of Anthony Irby Moree, Mundelein, Ill., for three months and ordered him to comply with probation conditions imposed in Illinois, as discipline reciprocal to that imposed upon Moree by the Illinois Supreme Court in January 2004. In Illinois, Moree's license was suspended for 18 months, with all but the first three months of that suspension stayed by a two-year period of probation, subject to conditions.

    Moree's suspension resulted from his misconduct consisting of conversion; entering into an agreement with a client or former client limiting or purporting to limit the right of the client or former client to file or pursue any complaint before the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission; failure to deposit funds of a third person in a separate and identifiable trust account; failure to promptly pay or deliver to a client or third person funds that the client or third person was entitled to receive; conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation; conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice; and conduct that tends to defeat the administration of justice or to bring the courts or the legal profession into disrepute, all in violation of various Illinois Supreme Court Rules.

    The Illinois suspension order included elements not generally present in Wisconsin disciplinary proceedings. In approving the stipulation of Irby and the OLR, the Wisconsin Supreme Court concluded that the parties' proposal effectuates "identical discipline" under the terms of SCR 22.22(3) because it replicated the practical effect of the Illinois suspension order. Justice Bradley dissented. OLR v. Moree, 2004 WI 118.