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    Wisconsin LawyerWisconsin Lawyer
    Vol. 78, No. 10 October 2005

    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.

    Public Reprimand of Jeffrey D. Berlin

    The Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR) and Jeffrey D. Berlin, 53, Grafton, entered into an agreement for imposition of a public reprimand, pursuant to SCR 22.09(1). A referee appointed by the Wisconsin Supreme Court approved the agreement and issued the public reprimand on Aug. 8, 2005, in accordance with SCR 22.09(3).

    The misconduct leading to the public reprimand occurred in three separate matters. In the first matter, Berlin timely filed a motion on behalf of a client to correct a court commissioner's miscalculation of child support. In March 2003, an agreement was reached before the scheduled hearing on the motion. Berlin, who was responsible for drafting the stipulation in the matter, failed to do so for approximately four months following the parties' agreement as to terms. The client then hired successor counsel to complete the work in the matter.

    Berlin violated SCR 20:1.3 by failing to act with reasonable diligence and promptness in drafting the stipulation. After the parties' agreement as to terms, but before the termination of Berlin's representation, Berlin, in violation of SCR 20:1.4(a), failed to respond to the client's numerous telephone inquiries and failed to keep the client informed as to case status. In violation of SCR 20:1.16(d), Berlin failed to return the unearned portion of the $750 fee he had been paid to see the case through to conclusion.

    In the second matter, Berlin successfully represented a tenant in reopening a default eviction and damages judgment entered against the tenant and in obtaining a damages award against the landlord. Then, in October 2001, the client hired Berlin to pursue a separate fraud claim against the landlord. The client paid Berlin $2,000 as an advance payment of fees, which Berlin deposited into his business account, and not his trust account, contrary to former SCR 20:1.15(a) (which was effective through June 30, 2004).

    Although Berlin made assurances to the client between October 2001 and March 2002 that he would "get a court date" for the fraud claim, Berlin filed no claim of any sort in that period nor did he take any measures to significantly advance the client's interests. Sometime after March 26, 2002, both Berlin and the client developed the belief that the adverse party had filed for bankruptcy. Berlin thereafter did no work at all in the matter, although the client continued to call Berlin until June 2003 seeking status updates, in the belief that Berlin had agreed to engage in further efforts to determine the viability of a fraud claim.

    Berlin violated SCR 20:1.3 by failing to diligently pursue the client's potential claim in the period from October 2001 to March 2002 and by thereafter failing until June 2003 (when Berlin told the client he could not continue the representation) to investigate the continuing viability of pursuing potential claims. Berlin violated SCR 20:1.4(a) by failing to respond to the client's reasonable telephone inquiries or to keep the client reasonably informed as to case status. Upon termination of representation, Berlin violated SCR 20:1.16(d) by failing to timely provide the client with the case file and by failing to timely calculate and refund any portion of the fees the client advanced.

    In the third matter, Berlin represented a man in a divorce. Between May 2001 and June 2003, the client's spouse filed three motions to compel discovery and one motion to enforce an order compelling discovery. In June 2003, the court found Berlin's client in contempt for failing to comply with discovery orders. Berlin violated SCR 20:1.4(a) by failing to inform his client of the spouse's motions, the hearings on the motions, and the court's contempt order. Berlin further violated SCR 20:1.4(a) by being unresponsive to many of the client's numerous inquiries about the status of the case. Berlin violated SCR 20:1.3 by failing to advance the client's interests in any reasonably diligent manner in the approximately two-year-long period of the representation. In violation of SCR 20:1.16(d), which governs an attorney's duties on termination of representation, Berlin did not promptly turn over the case file to successor counsel, notwithstanding numerous telephone requests by the client and successor counsel. Berlin finally turned over the case file after the client sought intervention by Berlin's wife.

    Berlin had no prior discipline.

    Disciplinary Proceedings against James E. Pancratz

    The Wisconsin Supreme Court suspended the Wisconsin law license of James E. Pancratz, of Illinois, for three months, effective retroactively on Oct. 18, 2004, as discipline reciprocal to a three-month suspension imposed on Pancratz by the Illinois Supreme Court, also effective on Oct. 18, 2004. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Pancratz, 2005AP1469-D.

    The three-month Illinois suspension resulted from Pancratz's misconduct consisting of engaging in conduct involving misrepresentation; engaging in a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness, and fitness as a lawyer (by making a campaign contribution in the name of another); assisting another's conduct, when Pancratz knew that the conduct would violate the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct; and engaging in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice.