Vol. 82, No. 2, February 2009
Public reprimand of Joseph L. Viney
The Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR) and Joseph L. Viney, Baraboo, 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 Dec. 3, 2008, in accordance with SCR 22.09(3). The public reprimand stemmed from a single matter investigated by the OLR.
In 2003, Viney was hired to represent a client in a collections matter. Viney failed to inform the client that the case filed on his behalf was dismissed in 2004, and after determining in 2006 that he would again pursue action on behalf of the client, Viney failed to respond to inquiries from the client. Viney failed to act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing the client, in violation of SCR 20:1.3. He also failed to keep the client reasonably informed about the status of the matter and to promptly comply with reasonable requests for information, in violation of former SCR 20:1.4(a) (effective before July 1, 2007) and current SCR 20:1.4(a)(3) and (4).
Viney failed to cooperate with the OLR’s investigation, contrary to SCR 22.03(2), 22.03(6), and 20:8.4(h). On May 13, 2008, the supreme court temporarily suspended Viney’s law license based on his failure to cooperate in the grievance investigation. Viney’s license was reinstated on May 19, 2008.
Viney has one prior private reprimand, imposed in 1991.
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Public reprimand of Christopher W. Duren
The OLR and Christopher W. Duren, Waunakee, entered into an agreement for imposition of a public reprimand, pursuant to SCR 22.09(1). A supreme court-appointed referee approved the agreement and issued the public reprimand on Dec. 17, 2008, in accordance with SCR 22.09(3).
Duren represented a client who was charged in November 2004 in separate OWI second-offense cases filed in Juneau and Dane counties. The client had a previous OWI first-offense conviction in 2002. The Juneau County case was filed very shortly after the Dane County case; however, the Juneau County case was resolved first.
Duren was present with his client in Juneau County circuit court on March 4, 2005, when the client’s case in that county was resolved pursuant to a plea agreement leading to an OWI second-offense conviction. The judgment of conviction was entered the same day.
On March 9, 2005, five days after the Juneau County case was resolved, Duren was present with his client in Dane County circuit court, where the client entered a no-contest plea to the Dane County OWI second-offense charge. The Dane County circuit court judge presiding at the March 9, 2005, plea and sentencing hearing was unaware that Duren’s client had just been convicted of OWI second-offense in Juneau County, in a case filed after the Dane County case.
During the March 9, 2005, plea and sentencing hearing in Dane County circuit court, the judge asked Duren about the joint sentence recommendation, in light of what she viewed as “a high blood alcohol level for a minimum jail sentence recommendation.” The judge asked Duren, “Do you have anything more to say regarding the rationale behind that or any reason why it’s a minimum jail sentence?”
In response, Duren represented to the court that his client’s last OWI conviction was in 2002. Duren’s representation to the court that his client’s last conviction was in 2002 was false, and he knew it was false, because he had been present with his client just five days earlier, on March 4, 2005, when his client was convicted of OWI second-offense in Juneau County circuit court.
By making a knowing misrepresentation to the court concerning the timing of his client’s last OWI conviction, Duren violated former SCR 20:3.3(a)(1) (effective before July 1, 2007), which states, “A lawyer shall not knowingly make a false statement of fact or law to a tribunal.”
Duren had no prior discipline.
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Disciplinary proceeding against Godfrey Y. Muwonge
During an attorney disciplinary proceeding filed in April 2007 against Godfrey Muwonge, Milwaukee, Muwonge claimed a medical incapacity that made his defense of the disciplinary proceeding impossible. Muwonge submitted this claim to the court while his voluntary petition for revocation was pending before it. The court denied the petition for revocation, temporarily suspended Muwonge’s law license effective April 9, 2008, and remanded the matter to the referee for further proceedings. On Oct. 1, 2008, Muwonge and the OLR entered into a stipulation, pursuant to SCR 22.16(4), in which they agreed that Muwonge’s condition prevented him from performing the duties of an attorney to acceptable professional standards. On Oct. 23, 2008, the referee filed a report and recommendation advising the supreme court of his determination, based on the stipulation, that Muwonge has a medical incapacity that makes his defense of the misconduct charges impossible, the disciplinary proceedings should be abated, and Muwonge’s law license should be suspended pursuant to SCR 22.16(4)(d) and SCR 22.36. On Dec. 23, 2008, the court adopted the referee’s findings and conclusions. Pursuant to SCR 22.16(4)(d), should Muwonge’s law license ever be reinstated, the underlying disciplinary action will continue.
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