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    Wisconsin Lawyer
    May 01, 2006

    Lawyer Discipline

    Wisconsin LawyerWisconsin Lawyer
    Vol. 79, No. 5, May 2006

    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.

    Disciplinary Proceedings against Susan L. Schuster

    The Wisconsin Supreme Court suspended the law license of Susan L. Schuster, 53, Stoughton, for nine months effective April 11, 2006, based on a stipulation between Schuster and the Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR). Disciplinary Proceedings Against Schuster, 2006 WI 21.

    Schuster had previously received a 90-day suspension for misconduct that included several trust account violations. When reinstated, Schuster was required to produce quarterly trust account records for OLR's review for two years. However, those records demonstrated continuing violations regarding Schuster's record-keeping practices and handling of client funds held in trust. The problems included failing to create and produce for the OLR required trust account records, commingling earned fee payments belonging to Schuster with advance fee payments owned by the client until earned, and withdrawing funds that Schuster attributed to clients who did not have sufficient funds in the account, thereby creating ongoing deficits in the account.

    Schuster's conduct violated former SCR 20:1.15(a) (now SCR 20:1.15(b)), former SCR 20:1.15(e) (now SCR 20:1.15(f)), and current SCR 20:1.15(e)(4)a and (f)(1)e. The court also determined that Schuster's creation of deficits in her trust account constituted fraudulent conduct contrary to SCR 20:8.4(c), and her misrepresentations and willful failure to furnish requested documents to the OLR violated SCR 22.03(6).

    Schuster is required to disburse all remaining trust account funds to clients at the time of her suspension, to close her trust account during her suspension, and to submit quarterly trust account records for OLR's review and audit for two years following any reinstatement.

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    Disciplinary Proceedings against Peter James Nickitas

    On March 7, 2006, the Wisconsin Supreme Court suspended the Wisconsin law license of Peter James Nickitas, Minneapolis, for 90 days, effective March 7, 2006, as discipline reciprocal to a 90-day suspension imposed against Nickitas' Minnesota law license by the Minnesota Supreme Court on Aug. 25, 2005. Nickitas also failed to notify the OLR of his Minnesota suspension within 20 days of that suspension, contrary to SCR 22.22(1). Disciplinary Proceedings Against Nickitas, 2006 WI 20.

    The Minnesota suspension arose out of Nickitas' violation of Minnesota Rules of Professional Conduct and involved engaging in a consensual sexual relationship with a client; entering into multiple business transactions, including a $9,900 interest-free loan, with a client without providing to the client written disclosure of the potential conflicts and without providing for fair and reasonable terms for his client; and failing to file a timely appeal of a final judgment in a paternity matter and subsequently filing motions previously decided by the unappealed judgment.

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    Disciplinary Proceedings against Mary Kathleen Arthur

    The OLR filed a motion for summary license suspension against Mary Kathleen Arthur, Lake Geneva. The motion was based on Arthur's convictions for conspiracy to commit bankruptcy fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. On Feb. 8, 2006, the Wisconsin Supreme Court issued an order to show cause why the OLR's motion should not be granted. Arthur did not file a response. On March 17, 2006, the Wisconsin Supreme Court entered an order summarily suspending Arthur's law license. Case No. 2006XX55-D.

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    Disciplinary Proceedings against Joan M. Boyd

    On March 30, 2006, the Wisconsin Supreme Court publicly reprimanded Joan M. Boyd, Shawano, for professional misconduct, ordered that Boyd's law license be subject to conditions, ordered Boyd to pay restitution, and ordered Boyd to pay the $7,006.39 cost of the disciplinary proceeding. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Boyd, 2006 WI 28.

    Boyd was paid $700 to file a bankruptcy petition, but she failed to deposit the client's funds into her client trust account, violating former SCR 20:1.15(a) (effective through June 30, 2004), which required a lawyer to hold in trust property of a client that is in the lawyer's possession in connection with a representation. When asked by successor counsel to refund a portion of the retainer, Boyd commingled her own funds in the client trust account, which also violated former SCR 20:1.15(a).

    The same client hired Boyd to pursue the possibility of filing a federal civil rights action. Boyd never filed the law suit, although she was paid $6,500 in fees. Boyd had told the client that it was her opinion that the client had a valid claim and might obtain a substantial settlement. The referee concluded that a minimum of research should have demonstrated that the client did not have a viable civil rights claim and that Boyd's failure to sufficiently investigate whether there was evidence to substantiate the client's claim violated SCR 20:1.1, which requires a lawyer to provide competent representation to a client. Also, Boyd charged a fee that was unreasonable, in violation of SCR 20:1.5(a). The court ordered Boyd to pay restitution to the client of $5,450 plus interest, within 30 days.

    The court also ordered that Boyd's law license be subject to conditions, including that Boyd attend OLR trust account training; that she provide medical records to the OLR for the next two years; and that she arrange for an accounting firm to manage her law office bookkeeping.

    Boyd previously received a public reprimand in 2000, for forging a client's endorsement on a check and for trust account violations, and conditions were placed on Boyd's law license, including that she use an accounting firm to handle her finances; that she continue treatment for a condition; and that she receive trust account education.

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    Reinstatement of Mark E. Sostarich

    On March 17, 2006, the Wisconsin Supreme Court reinstated the law license of Mark E. Sostarich and ordered him to pay the $2,022.35 cost of the reinstatement proceeding. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Sostarich, 2006 WI 24.

    On June 29, 2005, the Wisconsin Supreme Court had suspended Sostarich's law license for 18 months, based on Sostarich's criminal conduct of conspiracy to commit offenses involving federal program funds, in connection with a public corruption scandal involving former state senator Gary George. That suspension was ordered to commence retroactive to May 18, 2004, the date of Sostarich's summary suspension for the same conduct.

    Sostarich subsequently filed a petition for reinstatement of his law license. After a hearing on the petition, a referee concluded, and the Wisconsin Supreme Court agreed, that Sostarich had met the standards for reinstatement.

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    Public Reprimand of Michael Rajek

    The OLR and Michael Rajek, 57, Eau Claire, 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 March 21, 2006, in accordance with SCR 22.09(3).

    The misconduct consisted of violations of SCR 20:8.4(b) and SCR 20:8.4(c). Rajek intentionally structured various cash transactions during the summer and fall of 2000 so that each transaction involved an amount below $10,000 so as to avoid the issuance of a Currency Transaction Report that would alert the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and other creditors, as proscribed in 31 U.S.C. § 5324.

    Rajek had fallen behind on the payment of income tax in an amount that eventually grew to just over $100,000. He wanted to purchase a car to replace a car he had been leasing. Given his financial situation, it was impossible for him to obtain a car loan, and so he decided to use a cash reserve he had accumulated. Because he did not want the IRS to know that he had accumulated the cash reserve, he drove to several different branches of the same bank and deposited into his personal checking account various amounts of cash in increments under $10,000. Rajek then purchased the car with a portion of this money.

    Later, after accumulating additional income from his practice, Rajek took that additional income and what remained of his cash reserve, and again deposited various amounts of cash in increments under $10,000 at different branches of the same bank. Rajek used this money to refinance his home, which then allowed him to pay off the IRS and other creditors.

    Rajek structured the cash deposits so as to fall under the $10,000 limit to avoid issuance of a Currency Transaction Report. Rajek asserted that his intent in structuring the cash transactions was to allow himself time to purchase the car and to restructure and refinance his financial affairs so that he could pay off creditors, including the IRS. Rajek cooperated with the investigation by the U.S. Attorney's Office and made full disclosure to the OLR.

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    Medical Incapacity Proceeding against Anne Kathleen Reilly

    On March 28, 2006, the Wisconsin Supreme Court entered an order indefinitely suspending the law license of Anne Kathleen Reilly, Shawano, due to medical incapacity. Medical Incapacity Proceedings Against Reilly, 2006 WI 29. The court ordered, as a condition of reinstatement, that Reilly provide the OLR with sufficient medical records and a physician's report to exhibit her medical capacity to practice law. The court also ordered, as an additional condition of reinstatement, that Reilly pay the cost of the medical incapacity proceeding and the fees of counsel who was appointed to represent Reilly.

    Reilly's law license had been suspended since September 2004, pursuant to SCR 22.21(1), because it appeared that her continued practice of law posed a threat to the interest of the public and the administration of justice.

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    Hearing to Reinstate Mark E. Robinson

    On July 13, 2006, at 9 a.m., a public hearing will be held before referee John R. Decker at the 3rd Floor Council Room, Evansville City Hall, 31 S. Madison St., Evansville, Wis., on the petition of Mark E. Robinson, Janesville, 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.

    Robinson's law license was suspended by the Wisconsin Supreme Court for a period of six months, effective Aug. 6, 2005. Robinson's misconduct leading to discipline occurred in the context of multiple real estate transactions, some involving property in which he had an ownership interest. Robinson engaged in multiple conflicts of interest. In more than one instance, Robinson engaged in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation. Robinson's misconduct included instructing his legal assistant to engage in conduct that would have violated the rule prohibiting dishonesty had Robinson engaged in the conduct himself. In one of the matters leading to discipline, Robinson attempted to have direct contact with a represented party. A more detailed description of Robinson's misconduct is set forth in Disciplinary Proceedings Against Robinson, 2005 WI 88.

    Relevant information may be provided to or obtained from OLR investigator Melody Rader-Johnson, 110 E. Main St., Suite 315, Madison, WI 53703, (877) 315-6941, or from OLR retained counsel Richard P. Mozinski, Radosevich, Mozinski, Cashman & Olson, 903 Washington St., Manitowoc, WI 54221, (920) 684-1234.

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