Vol. 85, No. 9, September 2012
Reinstatement of John A. Chavez
On July 10, 2012, the Wisconsin Supreme Court reinstated the law license of John A. Chavez, 51, Cambridge, effective July 24, 2012, subject to monitoring conditions placed on his license. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Chavez, 2012 WI 83.
Chavez's license had been indefinitely suspended on Dec. 14, 2005. In re Medical Incapacity Proceedings Against Chavez, 2005 WI 167.
Chavez's reinstatement is conditioned on his compliance with alcohol treatment recommendations and submitting to random alcohol and drug assessment screens until further order of the court, accumulating additional CLE credits, and practicing under the supervision of a mentor for two years.
Public reprimand of Sean W. O'Neill
The Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR) and Sean W. O'Neill, Onalaska, 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 July 13, 2012, in accordance with SCR 22.09(3).
On June 16, 2009, a man hired O'Neill to represent him on a felony charge of possession of THC in one case and misdemeanor charges of battery, disorderly conduct, and resisting or obstructing an officer in another case. While O'Neill was representing the client in these two cases, the client was charged in two new cases. O'Neill was appointed by the Wisconsin State Public Defender (SPD) to represent the client in the two new cases. The final disposition of the four cases was that one case was dismissed and the client received probation in each of the other three cases.
In early June 2010, the client contacted O'Neill to represent him in a new case and three revocation cases. O'Neill stated that the client said he would pay O'Neill a bonus of $1,500 to $2,000, in addition to the SPD compensation, if he would take the appointments in these cases. O'Neill accepted the SPD's appointment in the new case and the three revocation cases. O'Neill then received three payments from the client, delivered by third parties.
O'Neill admitted that in one of the cases in which he privately represented the client, he collected a contingent fee for obtaining the dismissal of a charge of possession with intent to deliver cocaine.
The discipline imposed by the SPD required, as a condition of O'Neill's continued participation in the private bar program, that he repay the client $960 and serve a 60-day suspension from the appointment lists.
In connection with being hired on June 16, 2009, to represent the client in two separate cases, for which O'Neill required an advance fee payment of $3,000 and proceeded pursuant to a fee agreement that was not signed by or provided to the client, O'Neill violated SCR 20:1.5(b)(1) and (b)(2).
In addition to compensation received from the SPD, by also receiving $960 compensation from the client for legal representation in one case filed in June 2010 and three revocation cases, in knowing violation of Wisconsin Administrative Code section PD 4.04, O'Neill violated SCR 20:1.5(a) and SCR 20:8.4(c).
By receiving compensation that was contingent on obtaining the dismissal of the possession-with-intent-to-deliver-cocaine charge, O'Neill violated SCR 20:1.5(d)(2).
O'Neill had no prior discipline.
Reinstatement of John C. Widule
On June 22, 2012, the supreme court reinstated, with conditions, the law license of John C. Widule. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Widule, 2012 WI 63.
The court had suspended Widule's license for six months, effective June 27, 2003. Widule advanced, without a nonfrivolous basis, a factual position in litigation on behalf of a client; engaged in a conflict of interest when he represented two secured creditors attempting to obtain relief from the same debtor; and failed to provide competent representation. In addition to the suspension, Widule was ordered to pay the cost of the disciplinary proceedings. In a related civil action, a sanction judgment of $82,185.58 was entered against Widule.
Widule first sought reinstatement in 2003. The referee in that matter recommended against reinstatement, finding, among other things, that Widule had not accepted that his actions leading to his suspension had been improper. The court agreed and denied Widule's petition. Widule was ordered to pay the cost of the proceeding.
Widule filed a second petition for reinstatement in 2011. In that petition, Widule acknowledged that he had not paid the sanction judgment against him or the previous cost judgments but asserted he lacked the means to do so. The OLR recommended against Widule's reinstatement. The OLR noted that Widule had paid only a few hundred dollars toward the judgments, and asserted that Widule had failed to comply with the court's prior orders and that he did not have a proper attitude toward the standards imposed on attorneys.
After a hearing, the referee recommended Widule's petition be granted, finding that Widule had provided a satisfactory explanation for his failure to pay the sanction and cost judgments. The court agreed and granted Widule's petition, conditioned on his compliance with a detailed payment schedule. Payments made by Widule are to be applied first to the sanction judgment and then to the cost judgments, including the costs of the second reinstatement proceeding.
Disciplinary Proceedings against Reed Martin
On July 10, 2012, the supreme court imposed a public reprimand on Reed Martin, Wauwatosa. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Martin, 2012 WI 84.
Martin represented a minor in a delinquency action. The court adjudicated the client as delinquent. The client filed a motion for relief, claiming ineffective assistance of counsel. The court scheduled a hearing. Martin was not subpoenaed and did not appear. The court rescheduled the hearing to Feb. 21, 2008. The process server reported that when she served Martin for the rescheduled hearing, he said he was refusing the subpoena and would not appear.
The evening before the hearing, Martin faxed the judge, listing dates he would be available. Martin did not mention his refusal of the subpoena or give a reason for refusing to appear.
Martin was seen at the courthouse on the morning of Feb. 21 but did not appear at the hearing. The judge rescheduled the hearing to March 24, 2008, and directed that Martin be subpoenaed to explain his absences and to testify.
On March 24, 2008, Martin came to the courthouse but did not enter the courtroom. After learning that the motion for relief had been resolved by an agreement to reduce the charges, Martin left the courthouse without appearing to explain his prior absences.
The judge filed a grievance with the OLR. Martin initially told the OLR that he had not appeared at the Feb. 21, 2008 hearing because he had been on a family vacation that had been scheduled months earlier. When the OLR asked for more information, Martin asserted that he and his family had left at 5 p.m. on Feb. 20, 2008, and had driven to Holcombe, arriving there about 10 p.m. He also alleged that whoever claimed to have seen him in the Milwaukee County Courthouse on Feb. 21, 2008, had been mistaken.
The OLR asked Martin to produce documentation to verify his travel. Martin produced a credit card statement, which showed a transaction in Holcombe on Feb. 21, 2008, but five preceding transactions had been redacted. Upon further request from the OLR, Martin produced an unredacted credit card statement, which disclosed a gasoline purchase in Wauwatosa on Feb. 21, 2008, indicating that Martin had indeed been in the Milwaukee area during the morning hours of that date.
Martin violated SCR 20:3.4(c) by failing to honor the subpoena for the Feb. 21, 2008 hearing. Martin violated SCR 22.03(6) and SCR 20:8.4(h) by misrepresenting to the OLR that he left with his family for a vacation on Feb. 20, 2008, by deliberately redacting relevant information on the credit card statement provided to the OLR, and by deliberately failing to provide relevant documents to the OLR.
In 2003, Martin received a private reprimand for committing a criminal act that reflected adversely on his honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer, in violation of SCR 20:8.4(b).
Disciplinary Proceedings against Joseph Weigel
On June 29, 2012, the supreme court publicly reprimanded Joseph Weigel, Milwaukee. OLR v. Weigel, 2012 WI 71. Weigel was admitted to practice in 1960. He received a private reprimand in 1979.
The proceedings arose from the contentious dissolution of a law firm, which was organized in 1975 by Alvin Eisenberg. In 1990, Weigel acquired shares in the firm, and in 1999, he became its president. On March 11, 1999, Weigel entered into an employment agreement with Eisenberg. The agreement included a clause precluding Eisenberg from practicing law in the area for six months after he ceased to be employed.
In early 2005, Eisenberg ceased to be employed. He demanded that Weigel no longer use his name as part of the firm name or advertising, but the firm continued to use Eisenberg's name. In early March 2005, the firm contracted with another attorney named Eisenberg for the use of his name. The contract did not make the attorney an employee or shareholder and stated he would be paid $1,500 per month as long as he maintained a law license, whether or not he did anything for the firm.
The firm issued advertising that contained the following text:
"We have moved our offices to 3732 West Wisconsin Avenue, Suite 300[,] Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53208[.] Everything else remains the same! The same friendly, dedicated staff to help you – including the same attorneys; medical doctor, engineer, paralegals; specialists; investigators and support staff!"
On March 14, 2005, Weigel filed a grievance against Alvin Eisenberg, asserting that Eisenberg was contacting clients of the firm in violation of the supreme court rules and the restrictive covenant in the employment agreement.
By executing an agreement with a "noncompete" clause, Weigel violated SCR 20:5.6(a), which states that "[a] lawyer shall not participate in offering or making: (a) a partnership or employment agreement that restricts the rights of a lawyer to practice after termination of the relationship...."
By continuing to use Eisenberg's name in the firm name, Weigel violated SCR 20:7.1(a)(1), which states, "[a] lawyer shall not make a false or misleading communication about the lawyer or the lawyer's services. A communication is false or misleading if it: (1) contains a material misrepresentation of fact or law, or omits a fact necessary to make the statement considered as a whole not materially misleading"; SCR 20:7.5(a), which states, "[a] lawyer shall not use a firm name, letterhead or other professional designation that violates Rule 7.1"; and SCR 20:8.4(c), which states that it is professional misconduct for a lawyer to "engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation."
The supreme court dismissed a third count relating to a system of paying bonuses to nonlawyer employees.
Disciplinary Proceedings against Gerald D. Stange
On June 27, 2012, the supreme court revoked the law license of Gerald D. Stange, Wausau. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Stange, 2012 WI 66. Stange was admitted to practice law in Wisconsin in 1977.
Stange and the OLR entered into a stipulation, adopted by the court, in which Stange pleaded no contest to 54 counts of misconduct relating to more than 20 client matters, as follows: 12 counts of failing to act with diligence and promptness, in violation of SCR 20:1.3; one count of failing to keep complete and accurate trust account records, in violation of SCR 20:1.15(f)(1)a. and g.; 10 counts of failing to properly disburse funds, in violation of former SCR 20:1.15(b) (as in effect before July 1, 2004) and SCR 20:1.15(d)(1) (effective July 1, 2004); one count of improperly retaining funds in his trust account, in violation of SCR 20:1.15(b)(3); one count of failing to provide a full written accounting, in violation of SCR 20:1.15(d)(2); two counts of knowingly making false statements to a tribunal, in violation of SCR 20:3.3(a)(1) (as in effect in 2006); one count of knowingly making false statements to a tribunal, in violation of SCR 20:3.3(a)(1) (effective July 1, 2007); one count of knowingly disobeying a court order and failing to take steps reasonably practical to protect a client's interests, in violation of SCR 20:3.4(c) and SCR 20:1.16(d); 16 counts of engaging in dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation, in violation of SCR 20:8.4(c); and nine counts of misconduct relating to failure to cooperate with the OLR's investigation, in violation of SCR 22.03(2) and (6), SCR 20:1.15(e)(7), and SCR 20:8.4(h).
In its order revoking Stange's license, the court further ordered that Stange pay the cost of the proceedings and pay restitution totaling $200,544.38 plus interest. This restitution was to be made within 60 days, either directly to the harmed clients or as reimbursement to the Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection, as appropriate.
Stange received a private reprimand in 1997.
Hearing to Reinstate Stephen M. Compton
On Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2012 at 10 a.m., a public hearing will be held before referee James Winiarski in the Milwaukee Bar Association Building's Cardozo Room, 424 E. Wells St., Milwaukee, on the petition of Stephen M. Compton, Lake Geneva, to reinstate his Wisconsin law license. Any interested person may appear at the hearing and be heard in support of, or in opposition to, the petition for reinstatement.
In Disciplinary Proceedings Against Compton, 2010 WI 112, the supreme court suspended Compton's law license for two years, effective March 16, 2010, the date the court had summarily suspended Compton's law license based on felony convictions for possession of narcotic drugs and bail jumping. The two-year suspension was imposed because Compton's criminal acts reflected adversely on his honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer in other respects.
To be reinstated, Compton has the burden to prove that he has the moral character to practice law in Wisconsin, his resumption of the practice of law will not be detrimental to the administration of justice or subversive of the public interest, all representations in his reinstatement petition are substantiated, and he has complied fully with the terms of the revocation order and with supreme court rules.
Relevant information can be provided to or obtained from OLR Litigation Counsel Bill Weigel, 110 E. Main St., Suite 315, Madison, WI 53703; (608) 267-2024.
Hearing to Reinstate John J. Balistrieri
On Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012 at 9 a.m., a public hearing will be held before referee Richard C. Ninneman in the Milwaukee Bar Association Center, 424 E. Wells St., Milwaukee, on the petition of John J. Balistrieri, Milwaukee, to reinstate his Wisconsin law license. Any interested person may appear at the hearing and be heard in support of, or in opposition to, the petition for reinstatement.
Balistrieri's Wisconsin law license was summarily suspended on June 6, 1984 and revoked on Jan. 21, 1987. The revocation was based on Balistrieri's conduct resulting in his criminal conviction of one count of conspiracy to extort and attempted extortion. Balistrieri's conduct reflected adversely on his honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer in other respects.
To be reinstated, Balistrieri has the burden to prove that he has the moral character to practice law in Wisconsin, his resumption of the practice of law will not be detrimental to the administration of justice or subversive of the public interest, all representations in his reinstatement petition are substantiated, and he has complied fully with the terms of the revocation order and with supreme court rules.
Relevant information can be provided to or obtained from the OLR's retained counsel in this reinstatement case, attorney Denis Vogel, Wheeler, Van Sickle & Anderson, 25 W. Main St., Suite 801, Madison, WI 53703; (608) 255-7277.