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    Lawyer Discipline

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    Wisconsin LawyerWisconsin Lawyer
    Vol. 79, No. 8, August 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 proceeding against Joe E. Kremkoski

    On June 2, 2006, the Wisconsin Supreme Court issued Joe E. Kremkoski, Kenosha, a public reprimand based on his misconduct in two client matters. Kremkoski stipulated to the misconduct and to the imposition of a public reprimand. The referee reviewing the matter agreed that a public reprimand was appropriate. The court, after considering the Office of Lawyer Regulation's (OLR) response to its order to show cause why Kremkoski should not be suspended, agreed that a public reprimand was appropriate. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Kremkoski, 2006 WI 59.

    In the first matter, Kremkoski represented a client who was attempting to gain restitution from a former employer for damages the client paid in connection with a car crash that occurred while the client was driving a vehicle owned by the employer. The client learned after the accident that the vehicle was not licensed, registered, or insured. Kremkoski, after seven months and numerous inquiries from the client and his family, eventually filed suit on the client's behalf but failed to serve the defendants within the 90-day period specified by statute. Kremkoski failed to notify the client that the case was dismissed without prejudice. Further, although Kremkoski indicated that he would refile the suit, he never did so. The court determined that Kremkoski violated SCR 20:1.3 and SCR 20:1.4(a).

    In the second matter, Kremkoski represented the defendant in a civil action in which the plaintiff claimed that he suffered personal injuries as a result of an altercation with the defendant. After filing an answer and affirmative defense to the complaint and serving the plaintiff with interrogatories, Kremkoski failed in several respects to adequately prepare his client's defense. Kremkoski failed to conduct any depositions, failed to attend the deposition of the plaintiff's expert, failed to obtain certified medical records related to the plaintiff's preexisting condition, failed to arrange an independent medical evaluation of the plaintiff, failed to subpoena any witnesses for trial, and failed to meet with his client to prepare for trial. Kremkoski's conduct violated SCR 20:1.3, which requires an attorney to act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client. Kremkoski also violated SCR 20:1.4(a) by failing to respond to his client's repeated telephone calls seeking information and by failing to meet with his client as he requested.

    Kremkoski's disciplinary history consisted of a private reprimand in 1997 and a public reprimand in 2004. In imposing the current public reprimand, the court considered the OLR's position that because this misconduct occurred soon after or in the midst of the 2004 disciplinary proceeding against Kremkoski that resulted in a public reprimand, the prior public reprimand was not in this particular case significantly aggravating to justify a progressively severe sanction. In addition, Kremkoski fully cooperated with the OLR during the disciplinary proceeding, and there was no ultimate financial harm to either client, because Kremkoski had fully reimbursed one client against whom the circuit court had levied a monetary sanction.

    Disciplinary proceeding against Jay Andrew Felli

    In a decision filed June 22, 2006, the Wisconsin Supreme Court suspended the law license of Jay Andrew Felli, Brookfield, for three years, effective July 27, 2006. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Felli, 2006 WI 73. The court also ordered Felli to pay the costs of the proceeding. The disciplinary action filed by the OLR stemmed from Felli's representation of three elderly clients in separate estate planning matters. Each client had attended a financial planning seminar presented by Felli and his financial planner associates.

    In the first matter, Felli prepared trusts for the client that named Felli as cotrustee and named as trust beneficiary a piano school belonging to the sister of one of the financial planner associates. After the client's death, and following Felli's liquidation of certain trust assets, the school asked to review Felli's records in the matter. The day after the request was made, Felli informed the piano school that it was being terminated as a trust beneficiary. The school was never provided any accountings or records, and it received no further distributions from the trusts other than a lump sum payment in settlement of a civil action subsequently brought by the school. Felli also failed to provide the OLR with requested records and accountings, and Felli falsely reported to the OLR that others were recipients of checks that bank records showed were paid to Felli.

    Felli violated SCR 20:7.3(f) by preparing trust documents that named himself as cotrustee. Felli violated SCR 20:1.7(b) by representing a client when his professional judgment was influenced by his own pecuniary interests. Felli violated SCR 22.03(6) by failing to cooperate with the OLR's investigation. The court concluded there was insufficient evidence to prove the OLR's allegations that Felli's fee in the matter was unreasonable or that Felli acted dishonestly by paying trust assets to himself.

    In the second matter, Felli again violated SCR 20:7.3(f) by preparing trust documents that named himself as trustee. Felli violated SCR 20:1.1, which requires an attorney to provide competent representation, by failing to investigate the suitability of a charitable remainder trust for the client and by failing to carry out required trustee duties. Felli violated SCR 20:1.4(b) by failing to adequately explain to the client the implications of her estate planning decisions. With respect to this matter, the court concluded that insufficient evidence was present to prove the OLR's allegations of lack of diligence, conflict of interest, and conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation.

    In the third matter, Felli violated SCR 20:7.3(f) by preparing a will that appointed Felli as personal representative of the client's estate; by preparing a living trust that appointed Felli as successor trustee upon the client's death or disability; by preparing a power of attorney that gave Felli immediate authority to handle the client's financial affairs and authority to immediately act as trustee of the client's living trust, and that nominated him to serve as guardian in the event of the client's incapacity; and by preparing a medical power of attorney that appointed Felli as a health care agent.

    Felli violated SCR 20:1.1 by preparing a will for the client that gave her assets to a nonexistent living trust; by failing to have the primary health care agent execute the client's health care power of attorney; by appointing himself, a stranger to the client, as proposed guardian, power of attorney, and alternative health care agent; by using a witness to the health care power of attorney who falsely stated that he did not have a claim on the client's estate; and by preparing a trust that Felli acknowledged he expected the client to change at any time. Felli violated SCR 20:1.7(b) by preparing estate planning documents under which Felli and a financial planner, who was a business associate of Felli's, stood to gain financially from executing the documents. Felli's dealings with the client also violated SCR 20:8.4(c).

    Felli's prior discipline consisted of a 1998 private reprimand and a public reprimand imposed in 2005.

    Hearing to reinstate Charles J. Hausmann

    On Sept. 25, 2006, at 9 a.m., a public hearing will be held before referee Richard M. Esenberg at the Milwaukee Bar Center, Cardoza Room, 424 E. Wells St., Milwaukee, on the petition of Charles J. Hausmann, Milwaukee, 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.

    The Wisconsin Supreme Court suspended Hausmann's license for one year, effective Aug. 30, 2005. Hausmann's misconduct leading to discipline occurred when he engaged in a conflict of interest by representing clients when that representation may have been materially limited by Hausmann's own interests. Without disclosing the arrangement to his clients, Hausmann had an arrangement to refer clients to a chiropractor who, in return, wrote checks totaling 20 percent of Hausmann's clients' chiropractic fees to individuals or organizations as directed by Hausmann.

    Hausmann also committed a criminal act that reflects adversely on a lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer, based on his conviction of federal felony conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2314 and 2. Hausmann's engagement with the chiropractor in a "kickback scheme," which was concealed from the clients, in which at Hausman's direction the chiropractor wrote checks at Hausmann's direction that equalled approximately 20 percent of the medical bills collected by the chiropractic center, deprived his clients of their intangible right to honest services. As a result of his conviction, Hausmann was sentenced to two months imprisonment, 16 months of supervised release, and 40 hours of community service. A more detailed description of Hausmann's misconduct is set forth in Disciplinary Proceedings Against Hausmann, 2005 WI 131, 699 N.W.2d 923.

    To be reinstated, Hausmann must substantiate by clear, satisfactory, and convincing evidence that, among other things, he has not practiced law during the suspension; he has maintained competence and learning in the law by attending identified educational activities; 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, to represent them and otherwise act in matters of trust and confidence, and in general to aid in the administration of justice as a member of the bar and as an officer of the courts; he has fully described all of his business activities during the suspension; and he has made restitution to or settled all claims of persons injured or harmed by his misconduct.

    Hausmann also must demonstrate by clear, satisfactory, and convincing evidence that he has the moral character to practice law in Wisconsin, that his resumption of the practice of law will not be detrimental to the administration of justice or subversive of the public interest, and that he has fully complied with the terms of the suspension order and with the requirements of SCR 22.26.

    Relevant information may be provided to or obtained from OLR investigator Mary A. Ahlstrom or assistant litigation counsel Julie M. Falk, 110 E. Main St., Suite 315, Madison, WI 53703, (877) 315-6941.