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    Wisconsin Lawyer
    February 01, 2005

    Lawyer Discipline

    Wisconsin Lawyer
    Vol. 78, No. 2, February 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.

    Disciplinary Proceeding against John A. Birdsall

    On Nov. 23, 2004, the Wisconsin Supreme Court publicly reprimanded John A. Birdsall, Milwaukee, for professional misconduct consisting of committing a criminal act that reflects adversely on Birdsall's honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer, in violation of SCR 20:8.4(b); and counseling a client to engage, or assisting a client, in conduct that Birdsall knew was criminal or fraudulent, in violation of SCR 20:1.2(d). Disciplinary Proceedings Against Birdsall, 2004 WI 143.

    Birdsall defended a client on various felonies relating to domestic abuse, including an incident in which the victim reported to police that Birdsall's client repeatedly choked her, hit her head against the steering wheel of a car, and pointed a gun at her head and pulled the trigger but the gun did not fire. Despite being aware that his client was under a circuit court order to have no contact with the victim, Birdsall scheduled a meeting with the victim which Birdsall knew could not be concluded prior to his own client's planned arrival. Birdsall then allowed the victim's interview to continue after his own client arrived, stating to his client, "I think it is clearly more useful for you to be here." During the meeting, which Birdsall surreptitiously videotaped and recorded through a third person, Birdsall encouraged the victim to change or recant her statements to the police, even after the victim informed him that the district attorney advised her that she could not change her story because that would be perjury.

    Birdsall was charged with two counts of being a party to the crime of violating court orders, contrary to Wis. Stat. section 940.48(1). The charges were amended later to allege that Birdsall violated the court orders, contrary to Wis. Stat. section 940.48(2) (contempt of court). Meanwhile, Birdsall's client was charged and convicted of felony bail jumping for violating the no-contact provisions of his bail. He was sentenced to five years in prison.

    Birdsall contested the Office of Lawyer Regulation's (OLR) disciplinary complaint, and the matter was tried before a referee for four days. The referee concluded that Birdsall, as a party to a crime, aided and abetted his client in the act of bail jumping, thereby committing a criminal act that reflects adversely on Birdsall's honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer in other respects, in violation of SCR 20:8.4(b); and that Birdsall assisted his client in conduct Birdsall knew was criminal, in violation of SCR 20:1.2(d). Birdsall appealed, but later withdrew his appeal. The supreme court adopted the referee's misconduct conclusions.

    With regard to discipline, the court, although ultimately accepting the referee's (and OLR's) recommendation to publicly reprimand Birdsall, stated that it was "greatly troubled" by Birdsall's misconduct, that it "condemn[s] it in the strongest terms possible," that "engaging in similar behavior in the future on the theory that he is simply `zealously' representing his client will result in more stringent sanctions," and that "this kind of misconduct cannot and will not be condoned."

    In addition to publicly reprimanding Birdsall, the court ordered him to pay the $19,540.82 cost of the disciplinary proceeding.

    Disciplinary Proceeding against John A. Krueger

    The Wisconsin Supreme Court suspended the Wisconsin law license of John A. Krueger, Minnesota, for 30 days effective Nov. 17, 2004, as discipline reciprocal to a 30-day suspension imposed on Krueger by the Minnesota Supreme Court, effective July 26, 2004.

    The Minnesota suspension resulted from Krueger's failure to supervise a nonlawyer employee, thus enabling the employee to negotiate and settle personal injury claims on behalf of a deceased client and secure forged client signatures on settlement checks and a release; notarize a client release that contained a forged client signature; endorse settlement checks that contained a forged client signature and withdraw attorney fees from settlement proceeds; and fail to timely file state and federal income tax returns in 1996 and 1997. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Krueger, 2004 WI 141.

    Public Reprimand of Chris J. Trebatoski

    The OLR and Chris J. Trebatoski, age 45, Milwaukee, entered into an agreement for imposition of a public reprimand, pursuant to SCR 22.09(1). A referee appointed by the Wisconsin Supreme Court thereafter approved the agreement and issued the public reprimand on Dec. 6, 2004.

    Trebatoski reported to the police that on returning from a casino, he encountered a burglar in his home. While investigating the burglary, the police learned that several unsuccessful attempts had been made at the casino to obtain cash using Trebatoski's credit/ATM cards. Trebatoski told the police that he had not made the attempts himself, and the police therefore investigated the possible cloning of Trebatoski's cards. After obtaining a surveillance camera tape from the casino, however, the police learned that it was Trebatoski who made each attempted cash withdrawal. Trebatoski nevertheless signed six affidavits averring that he had not made the credit card/ATM transactions. He subsequently pleaded no contest to one misdemeanor count of obstructing a police officer.

    By engaging in criminal conduct that reflects adversely on his honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer in other respects, Trebatoski violated SCR 20:8.4(b). By signing six affidavits that averred that he had not made credit card/ATM transactions that he had in fact attempted to make, Trebatoski engaged in conduct involving misrepresentation, contrary to SCR 20:8.4(c).

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