Wisconsin Lawyer: Lawyer Discipline:

State Bar of Wisconsin

Sign In
    Wisconsin LawyerWisconsin Lawyer

News & Pubs Search


    Lawyer Discipline

    Share This:

    Wisconsin Lawyer
    Vol. 78, No. 4, April 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. Ward

    On Feb. 8, 2005, the Wisconsin Supreme Court publicly reprimanded John A. Ward, Kenosha. The court also ordered that Ward pay the costs of the disciplinary proceeding and pay his former client restitution of $5,220 plus interest at the statutory rate since the date his representation was terminated. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Ward, 2005 WI 9.

    A Kenosha woman hired Ward in April 2001 to represent her in opposing a motion filed in Milwaukee by her ex-husband to establish visitation with their daughter. In addition to defending the woman's position regarding the visitation motion, Ward agreed to seek termination of the ex-husband's parental rights. The woman paid Ward $10,000. The fee agreement described the fee as a "Non-Refundable Minimum Fee," which covered the first 50 hours of Ward's work. Additional hours were to be billed at $200 per hour.

    The client wanted the venue of the visitation matter changed from Milwaukee to Kenosha and made her wishes known to Ward. At the initial hearing in the visitation matter in May 2001, Ward made an oral motion to change the venue to Kenosha and was advised to raise the issue in writing. Thereafter, Ward filed a petition in Kenosha seeking to terminate the ex-husband's parental rights. In July 2001, the Kenosha court held the TPR in abeyance pending resolution of the Milwaukee visitation case. A Milwaukee court commissioner held a second hearing in the visitation case in August 2001. From May 2001 to August 2001, Ward did not seek the change of venue in writing, as his client desired. In the disciplinary proceeding, Ward disputed that he agreed to seek a change of venue and maintained that he made a tactical decision to keep the visitation case before the Milwaukee court. The referee found that Ward's explanation of his strategy was incredible. The court adopted this finding and the referee's legal conclusion that Ward violated SCR 20:1.3 by failing to seek the change of venue for three months, contrary to the client's direction and expectation.

    Within days of the August visitation hearing in Milwaukee, which resulted in the issuance of a visitation order, the client terminated Ward's representation and hired new counsel. The client requested return of the unused portion of the fee paid to Ward. Ward refused, citing the language of the fee agreement characterizing the fee as nonrefundable. Ward provided the client an itemization of hours spent on the case showing a total of 36.4 hours, 26.3 hours of which were for research. The referee found the research to be "of questionable necessity, not on point, and of no value" and the claimed nonrefundable aspect of the fee to be unreasonable. The referee concluded that Ward charged an unreasonable fee in violation of SCR 20:1.5(a) and failed to refund unearned fees in violation of SCR 20:1.16(d). The court agreed and adopted those conclusions.

    Disciplinary Proceeding against Allen E. Schatz

    On Feb. 10, 2005, the Wisconsin Supreme Court granted Allen E. Schatz's petition for consensual license revocation. The court ordered the effective date of the revocation retroactive to Aug. 13, 2003, the date of Schatz's suspension based on the court's finding that his continued practice of law constituted a threat to the interest of the public and the administration of justice. Schatz's revocation petition acknowledged that he could not successfully defend against 32 counts of misconduct relating to 11 client matters, as alleged in an Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR) complaint, and that he could not successfully defend against four additional pending OLR grievance investigations.

    In addition to revoking Schatz's Wisconsin law license, the court ordered that Schatz pay restitution to eight clients and pay the costs of the disciplinary proceeding. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Schatz, 2005 WI 10.

    Disciplinary Proceeding against Clay E. Teasdale

    On Feb. 16, 2005, the Wisconsin Supreme Court publicly reprimanded Clay F. Teasdale, Marinette, for professional misconduct. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Teasdale, 2005 WI 12.

    Teasdale filed a complaint on behalf of a personal injury client in June 1997. A year later, Teasdale was served with a deposition notice concerning his client. Defense counsel also attempted to contact Teasdale by phone but received a message that Teasdale's telephone was "temporarily disconnected." Defense counsel heard nothing further from Teasdale. Teasdale never informed his client of the scheduled deposition, and neither Teasdale nor his client appeared at the deposition.

    Opposing counsel subsequently filed a motion for costs based on Teasdale's failure to produce his client for deposition. Teasdale failed to notify his client of the motion, but Teasdale appeared at the hearing. The court ordered Teasdale's client to pay $423.35 in costs in connection with the matter. Teasdale failed to inform his client of the court's order.

    The underlying personal injury matter was settled in December 1998, but Teasdale rejected a draft stipulation and order for dismissal and instead proposed a release that dismissed the action "without further costs." Opposing counsel rejected the proposal because Teasdale's client had not yet paid the costs previously ordered by the court. Opposing counsel forwarded the judgment for costs to the court. Teasdale filed an objection to the judgment for costs, asserting that the matter had been dismissed without costs, which was inaccurate because opposing counsel had not signed the draft release proposed by Teasdale. The court advised Teasdale that the previous order clearly stated that Teasdale's client was to pay the $423.35 in costs.

    Teasdale's client first learned about the judgment against him when he applied for a bank loan and the judgment appeared on his credit report. In order to clear his credit, the client paid the judgment in full. There is no evidence that Teasdale ever reimbursed his client for the costs.

    The supreme court concluded that by failing to respond to the deposition notice, Teasdale failed to make a reasonably diligent effort to comply with a legally proper discovery request, in violation of SCR 20:3.4(d); and that by failing to notify his client of the deposition, Teasdale also failed to keep his client informed as to the status of his legal matter, in violation of SCR 20:1.4(a).

    The court further ordered Teasdale to make restitution to his former client in the amount of $423.35, plus post-judgment interest, and pay to the OLR the $737.67 costs of the disciplinary proceeding.

    Hearing to Reinstate Ronald W. Hendree

    A public hearing on the petition of Ronald W. Hendree, Milwaukee, to reinstate his Wisconsin law license will be held before referee Kathleen Callan Brady at the State Office Building, 819 N. 6th Street, Room 40, Milwaukee, on May 17, 2005, beginning at 9 a.m. 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 Hendree's law license for one year, effective Aug. 4, 1997. Hendree's misconduct consisted of several occasions of knowingly disobeying professional obligations under the rules of a tribunal in which he was appearing, failing to return advance payment of fees he did not earn, misrepresenting to clients actions he had taken on their behalf, misrepresenting facts to the Board of Attorneys Professional Responsibility (BAPR) in its investigation into his conduct, failing to act promptly and diligently in representing clients, failing to comply with record-keeping requirements in respect to his client trust account, and commingling his personal property with that of his clients in that trust account. A more detailed account of Hendree's misconduct is recited in Disciplinary Proceedings Against Hendree, 211 Wis. 2d 440, 565 N.W.2d 119 (1997).

    Hendree previously received a BAPR-imposed public reprimand (97-BPR-1) for failing to put a contingency fee arrangement in writing, failing to diligently pursue the legal matter of a union and its individual members, failing to keep his clients reasonably informed of the status of their matters and promptly comply with their reasonable requests for information, failing to take reasonable steps to protect the union's interests by timely returning its files and papers, failing to return the union's $3,750 advance fee for costs of litigation he never pursued, and failing to provide competent representation to the union by not doing the preparation reasonably necessary to handle the union's matter.

    As to reinstatement, Hendree is required to demonstrate 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 on 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 the moral character to practice law in Wisconsin; and he has fully complied with the suspension order and applicable court rules.

    Further information may be obtained from OLR Investigator Lorry Eldien or Assistant Litigation Counsel Julie M. Falk, 110 E. Main St., Suite 315, Madison, WI 53703, (877) 315-6941 (toll free).

    Wisconsin Lawyer