Disciplinary Proceedings Against Everett E. Wood
On Oct. 21, 2014, pursuant to a stipulation between the respondent and the Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR), the Wisconsin Supreme Court suspended the law license of Everett E. Wood, Richfield, for 90 days. In addition, the court ordered that Wood pay the cost of the disciplinary proceeding, $2,191.38. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Wood, 2014 WI 116.
When the disciplinary proceeding was commenced, Wood’s law license was subject to a six-month suspension for multiple counts of misconduct occurring in seven matters. Wood’s misconduct for which that suspension was imposed included lack of diligence, failure to communicate with clients, failure to hold funds in trust, and failure to cooperate with the OLR. Wood has not sought reinstatement from that suspension.
Wood’s misconduct in the present matter, which arose out of his representation of one client in a construction-contract dispute, involved failure to communicate with the client, failure to hold funds in trust, and failure to cooperate with the OLR’s investigation, in addition to other misconduct.
On behalf of the client, Wood filed a lawsuit that was settled after mediation. Upon receipt of the settlement funds in February 2012, Wood did not notify the client in writing and did not provide an accounting before disbursing funds to himself in a cash transaction. Wood did not provide the client with the client’s portion of the settlement funds until March 2012, after the client filed a grievance with the OLR. In the ensuing investigation, Wood failed to provide timely and complete responses to the OLR.
Wood failed to have a written fee agreement in a contingent fee matter, contrary to SCR 20:1.5(c); failed to keep the client informed as to case status and to respond to client inquiries, in violation of SCR 20:1.4(a)(3) and (4); failed to properly hold settlement funds in trust, contrary to SCR 20:1.15(b)(1); failed to place a cost advance in trust, in violation of SCR 20:1.15(b)(4); withdrew trust account funds via cash transaction, in violation of SCR 20:1.15(e)(4)a; failed to maintain proper trust account records, in violation of SCR 20:1.15(e)(6); and failed to cooperate with the OLR’s investigation, in violation of SCR 22.03(2), 22.03(6) and 20:8.4(h).
Wood’s only prior discipline was the six-month suspension, which was imposed in 2013.
Disciplinary Proceedings Against Arik J. Guenther
In a Nov. 7, 2014 decision, the supreme court suspended the law license of Arik J. Guenther, Jackson, for one year, and further ordered Guenther to pay the full cost of the disciplinary proceeding, $2,070.35. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Guenther, 2014 WI 120. Guenther formerly practiced law in Campbellsport.
Guenther engaged in 18 counts of professional misconduct, involving violations of SCR 20:3.3(a)(1), SCR 20:3.4(c), SCR 20:8.4(b) and (c), SCR 21.15(5) as enforced via SCR 20:8.4(f), SCR 22.03(2) as enforced via SCR 20:8.4(h), and SCR 40.15 as enforced via SCR 20:8.4(g).
Guenther received three, separate consent private reprimands, in 1989, 2001, and 2002. He received a consent public reprimand in 2007. In previous disciplinary actions, the supreme court suspended Guenther’s law license for eight months, effective Aug. 30, 2005; for nine months, effective March 24, 2009; for 90 days, effective Feb. 10, 2012; and for 60 days, effective Nov. 21, 2012. At the time of the court’s Nov. 7, 2014, decision, Guenther had not been reinstated from his prior disciplinary suspensions, and his law license had been continuously suspended for disciplinary reasons since August 2005.
Disciplinary Proceedings Against Pablo Carranza
In a Nov. 13, 2014 decision, the supreme court granted the petition of Pablo Carranza, Beloit, for revocation of his law license by consent. Carranza filed the petition pursuant to SCR 22.19. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Carranza, 2014 WI 121. Carranza was the subject of 11 OLR grievance investigations in which the preliminary review committee (PRC) had found cause to proceed on 38 counts of misconduct. Carranza was also the subject of two additional OLR grievances that had not yet been presented to the PRC.
In addition to ordering the revocation of Carranza’s law license, the court ordered Carranza to make restitution payments to one of his former clients and to the Wisconsin Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection with respect to a former client who had filed a successful claim with the fund. Restitution amounts could not be determined for certain of Carranza’s former clients because Carranza failed to provide final accountings. As a condition of reinstatement, Carranza must furnish complete accountings and prove that he has settled all claims related to funds potentially owed to former clients.
Carranza had no prior discipline, although at the time of the court’s revocation order, Carranza’s law license was suspended for failure to pay mandatory State Bar of Wisconsin dues, to comply with continuing legal education requirements, and to cooperate with OLR investigations.
Public Reprimand of Carl H. Creedy
On Oct. 14, 2014, the supreme court publicly reprimanded Carl H. Creedy, who recently practiced law in Orfordville and now practices in Janesville. The court also ordered that Creedy pay one-half of the $17,801.64 cost of the disciplinary proceeding. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Creedy, 2014 WI 114.
Creedy formed a business relationship with M., a client. M., who is not an attorney, created a company intended to represent claimants in Social Security disability matters. Social Security laws and procedures permit nonlawyers to represent claimants, but only attorneys can have their fees paid directly by the Social Security Administration out of an award. M. approached Creedy to see if they could work together representing disability claimants to ensure receipt of any fees.
Creedy violated SCR 20:1.7(a) by acting to resolve a fee issue in which a conflict of interest existed between Creedy, M., and a Social Security claimant when Creedy had a concurrent conflict of interest caused by Creedy’s representation of one client (the Social Security claimant) who was directly adverse to the other client (M.), without obtaining informed consent, confirmed in writing, signed by either of the clients.
Creedy violated SCR 20:1.8(a) by failing to disclose to M., in writing, the terms on which the business relationship was based; failing to advise M. in writing of the desirability of seeking the advice of independent legal counsel; and failing to obtain written, informed consent from M. to the essential terms of the transaction and Creedy’s role in the transaction.
Creedy violated SCR 20:1.8(b) by providing, to M.’s disadvantage and without M.’s consent, information obtained in the course of his representation of M., to the Green County District Attorney’s Office and the Monroe Police Department.
Creedy had no prior discipline.
Public Reprimand of Mark S. Tishberg
On Oct. 28, 2014, the supreme court publicly reprimanded Mark S. Tishberg, Milwaukee, and ordered Tishberg to pay the cost of the disciplinary proceeding, $2,555.89. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Tishberg, 2014 WI 118.
Tishberg represented spouses in a personal injury matter. In January 2001, the husband was injured while a passenger on a commercial airline flight. He hired Tishberg to file a lawsuit regarding the injury. There was no written fee agreement.
In January 2004, Tishberg filed a complaint in circuit court against the airline and its underwriters, seeking damages on behalf of the spouses. However, Tishberg failed to effect timely service on the defendants, and the circuit court dismissed the action with prejudice in October 2004.
Tishberg did not advise the clients that their lawsuit had been dismissed. Between October 2004 and March 2010, Tishberg represented to the husband that he was negotiating a settlement of the lawsuit. In late 2009 and early 2010, Tishberg repeatedly represented to the husband that the case could settle for $12,000. Tishberg planned to use anticipated fees from another client matter to fund a $12,000 payment to the husband and to thereby prevent the clients from finding out that their lawsuit had been dismissed.
Having not received any funds from Tishberg, the husband filed a grievance against Tishberg, and only then did Tishberg advise the clients that their lawsuit had been dismissed.
By failing to enter into a written fee agreement with the clients, Tishberg violated SCR 20:1.5(c). By failing to take the steps necessary to timely serve the personal injury lawsuit, Tishberg violated SCR 20:1.3.
By failing to advise the clients that he had failed to timely serve the personal injury lawsuit, and by failing to advise them that the defendants had moved for, and the circuit court had granted, a dismissal of their lawsuit with prejudice, Tishberg violated former SCR 20:1.2(a) and SCR 20:1.4(b).
By failing between 2004 and September 2010 to promptly respond to the husband’s reasonable requests for information and to provide accurate information to him about the status of his case, Tishberg violated SCR 20:1.4(a)(3) and (4). By engaging in a course of conduct to conceal the dismissal of the lawsuit and to deceive the husband into believing that Tishberg might obtain or had obtained a settlement of the lawsuit, Tishberg violated SCR 20:8.4(c).
Tishberg had no prior discipline.