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    May
    01
    2015

    Lawyer Discipline


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    Public Discipline

    These summaries are provided by the Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR), an agency of the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The OLR assists the court in supervising the practice of law and protecting the public from misconduct by lawyers. The OLR has offices at 110 E. Main St., Suite 315, Madison, WI 53703; toll-free (877) 315-6941. The full text of items summarized is at www.wicourts.gov/olr.

    Disciplinary Proceedings Against Thomas J. McClure

    On March 10, 2015, the Wisconsin Supreme Court suspended the law license of Thomas J. McClure, Delafield, for five months, effective April 9, 2015, and ordered McClure to pay the full $13,677.99 cost of the disciplinary proceeding. Disciplinary Proceedings Against McClure, 2015 WI 25. The court also ordered that, as a condition of reinstatement, McClure must successfully complete 15 hours of continuing legal education ethics courses, with at least eight hours focusing on trust account administration.

    The court found that McClure committed 20 counts of misconduct, which arose out of four Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR) investigations.

    McClure’s misconduct included failing to hold in trust funds owed to numerous medical providers from a client’s settlement, in violation of SCR 20:1.15(b)(1); commingling his own funds with the client’s settlement funds in his trust account, in violation of SCR 20:1.15(b)(3); converting the client’s settlement funds, which were owed to numerous medical providers, for his own personal use or delivering the funds to other clients or third parties, in violation of SCR 20:8.4(c); making at least 670 in-person cash withdrawals from his trust account, in violation of SCR 20:1.15(e)(4)a; and placing all money his office received into his trust account in an effort to protect income from seizure at a time when he was the subject of Wisconsin Department of Revenue tax warrants, in violation of SCR 20:8.4(c).

    McClure’s misconduct also included violations relating to inadequate client communications, an improper fee agreement, and numerous other trust account issues.

    McClure had no prior discipline.

    Disciplinary Proceedings Against Jolie M. Semancik

    On March 18, 2015, the supreme court revoked the law license of Jolie M. Semancik, Greenfield. In addition, the court ordered that Semancik pay restitution totaling $108,000, as well as the $840.56 cost of the disciplinary proceeding. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Semancik, 2015 WI 31.

    In November 2012, Semancik was charged with one count of felony theft-embezzlement over $10,000. State v. Semancik, Milwaukee Cnty. Case No. 2012CF5523. The criminal complaint alleged that Semancik stole more than $80,000 from the title company where she served as vice president and operations manager. In March 2013, Semancik pleaded no contest to that charge. The criminal court ordered her to pay $108,000 in restitution. The supreme court determined that Semancik’s conduct violated SCR 20:8.4(b).

    Other than appearing at a single telephone scheduling conference during which she indicated she did not intend to file an answer, Semancik did not participate in the disciplinary proceeding. As a result, Semancik was declared to be in default.

    In 2005, Semancik’s Wisconsin law license was suspended for six months. Semancik never sought reinstatement from that suspension.

    Disciplinary Proceedings Against Tina M. Dahle

    On March 18, 2015, the supreme court suspended the law license of Tina M. Dahle, Green Bay, for two years and six months and ordered Dahle to pay the full cost of the disciplinary proceeding, $11,911.68. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Dahle, 2015 WI 29. The court also ordered Dahle to pay restitution to a client consistent with any final monetary order or judgment issued in the client’s federal civil action and ordered that, as a condition of reinstatement, Dahle must demonstrate to the court a legal or factual basis to justify any failure to reimburse two clients for unearned client fees or funds that she held in trust for them.

    Dahle was admitted to practice law in Wisconsin in 2002. On April 24, 2012, the court suspended Dahle’s license for her failure to cooperate with the OLR in several investigations.

    The court found that Dahle committed 55 counts of misconduct, which arose out of numerous OLR investigations. The court stated that “[t]he undisputed facts show a clear pattern of neglect by Attorney Dahle of her clients’ needs and objectives and disregard of her obligations as an attorney.” Dahle failed to commence actions before expiration of statutes of limitation, failed to appear in court on several cases, and missed filing deadlines for briefs, discovery, and witness disclosures. Dahle essentially abandoned her law practice and her clients in 2012 when she closed her office without notice. Dahle’s clients were left with cases in a state of neglect with no way to contact her. In addition, Dahle borrowed or took approximately $400,000 from clients without regard to conflict-of-interest restrictions and requirements.

    Dahle violated SCR 20:1.3; SCR 20:1.4(a)(3) and (4); SCR 20:1.5(a) and (b)(1) and (2); SCR 20:1.8(a); SCR 20:1.16(d); SCR 20:3.4(c); SCR 20:8.4(c); SCR 22:03(2) and (6), enforced via SCR 20:8.4(h); and various trust account rules.

    Dahle had no prior discipline.

    Disciplinary Proceedings Against Naomi Dawn Isaacson

    On March 20, 2015, the supreme court suspended the Wisconsin law license of Naomi Dawn Isaacson for one year and ordered Isaacson to pay the $6,634.96 cost of the proceedings. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Isaacson, 2015 WI 33.

    Isaacson was admitted to practice in both Minnesota and Wisconsin. While serving as an officer or managing member of a corporate entity and its subsidiaries, Isaacson intentionally engaged in a pattern of bad-faith litigation. Her misconduct included making false and harassing statements toward judges and other individuals involved in litigation before federal tribunals in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and New York over at least 17 months during 2010 and 2011.

    Isaacson prepared and signed affidavits, declarations, or responses in these matters, which were filed on her behalf. Isaacson’s filings repeatedly contained unfounded, scurrilous statements and religious slurs against the court generally and against specific judges, counsel, appointed officers, and third parties. Isaacson demonstrated a lack of remorse by continuing her offensive conduct even after being sanctioned by the courts.

    Isaacson’s conduct violated SCR 20:8.2(a), SCR 20:8.4(g) and (i), and SCR 40.15 and counterpart provisions of the Minnesota Rules of Professional Conduct. Isaacson also violated MRPC 8.4(a) – the Minnesota equivalent of SCR 20:8.4(a) – when she inserted offensive language into a draft memorandum supporting a motion and directed another attorney to file the altered pleading with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Minnesota.

    Isaacson failed to timely respond to the OLR’s initial investigative inquiry. She belatedly provided a response that did not fully and fairly respond to the OLR’s questions and later submitted to the OLR thousands of pages of documents without discernible relevance to the OLR’s investigative inquiries. Isaacson thereby violated SCR 22.03 (2) and (6), enforced via SCR 20:8.4(h). This led to a temporary suspension of Isaacson’s Wisconsin law license that was still in effect at the time of the court’s disciplinary order.

    Isaacson had no prior discipline in Wisconsin.

    Disciplinary Proceedings Against Christopher S. Carson

    On March 10, 2015, the supreme court suspended the law license of Christopher S. Carson, New Berlin, for 90 days, effective April 9, 2015. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Carson, 2015 WI 26. The order followed a stipulation between Carson and the OLR, filed pursuant to SCR 22.12, and therefore no costs were imposed.

    Carson’s misconduct occurred in four separate client matters. In the first matter, Carson purchased alcohol beverages for a criminal defense client whose bail conditions prohibited the consumption of alcohol, and by doing so, Carson violated SCR 20:1.2(d). Carson had sexual relations with the same client and thereby violated SCR 20:1.8(j). Carson violated SCR 22.03(6) and 22.04(1) by making misrepresentations to an OLR district committee that participated in the investigation of the matter.

    In the second matter, Carson violated SCR 20:1.1 by providing incompetent representation to an incarcerated client who sought prison visitation with his minor child.

    In the third matter, Carson violated SCR 20:1.1 by providing incompetent representation to a client who wished to challenge the revocation of extended supervision in a criminal case.

    In the fourth matter, Carson represented a client who was considering filing for divorce. Carson violated SCR 20:1.15(b)(4) by depositing an advanced fee into his business account, as opposed to his client trust account, without using the alternative advanced-fee-placement measures permitted under SCR 20:1.15(b)(4m). After his representation was terminated, Carson violated SCR 20:1.16(d) when he did not promptly address the client’s inquiry regarding a possible refund of the advanced fee. In a belated effort to comply with alternative advanced-fee-placement requirements, Carson sent the client a “termination of services letter and accounting of fees.” The letter, however, was untimely and provided incorrect information and thus did not comply with SCR 20:1.15(b)(4m)b.

    Carson previously received a private reprimand in 2008 and a public reprimand in 2009. WL

    Private Discipline

    The Wisconsin Supreme Court permits the Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR) to publish, for educational purposes, a summary of facts and professional conduct rule violations in matters in which the OLR imposed private reprimands. The summaries do not disclose information identifying the reprimanded attorneys. The summaries of selected private reprimands are printed to help attorneys avoid similar misconduct problems.

    Advancing Baseless Positions; Failure to Deposit Advanced Costs Into Client Trust Account

    Violations of SCR 20:3.1(a)(1), (2), and (3) and 20:1.15(b)(4)

    A lawyer represented a client in a child custody, placement, and support case. The lawyer filed a motion to remove the guardian ad litem (GAL), which the court denied. Thereafter, the lawyer filed a second motion to remove the GAL. The court found that the lawyer continued to file motions on which the court had already ruled and said that it might consider removing the lawyer from further representation in the case. Additionally, the lawyer advanced a baseless and procedurally flawed placement schedule.

    By knowingly advancing for the client a placement schedule that did not provide 30 days’ notice, did not coincide with non-school days, and conflicted with the adverse party’s previously stated placement dates when the adverse party had first choice of placement, in violation of the court-ordered stipulation, the lawyer violated SCR 20:3.1(a)(2).

    By filing a motion to remove the GAL, after the court had denied the previous motion to remove the GAL, and then acknowledging in a letter to the client that the lawyer assumed the court was not going to remove the GAL before the trial, the lawyer violated SCR 20:3.1(a)(1) and (3).

    In a second matter, the lawyer represented an estate. The lawyer deposited the personal representative’s check for the estate’s appeal costs and fees directly into the lawyer’s business account.

    By depositing the personal representative’s check, which represented an advanced payment of fees and costs in the matter of the appeal, directly into the lawyer’s business account, the lawyer violated SCR 20:1.15(b)(4).

    The lawyer previously received two private reprimands and a 60-day suspension.

    Criminal Act Reflecting Adversely on Fitness to Practice

    Violation of SCR 20:8.4(b)

    In July 2013, a lawyer was arrested and charged with third-offense operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated (OWI). The lawyer ran a stop sign in the early morning in view of two police officers parked in separate vehicles in an adjacent parking lot. After stopping the lawyer’s car, the police officers conducted field sobriety tests, which the lawyer failed. A subsequent blood test showed a blood alcohol level of 0.257 g/100mL.

    Pursuant to a guilty plea, the lawyer was convicted of third-offense OWI and was sentenced to 18 months’ probation, sentence withheld, with conditions, including 30 days in jail with Huber or electronic monitoring program privileges, driver’s license revocation, and use of an ignition-interlock device (IID). In addition, the lawyer was ordered to undergo an alcohol assessment and treatment and pay a fine.

    By engaging in acts leading to a conviction for third-offense OWI, the lawyer violated SCR 20:8.4(b).

    The lawyer had no prior discipline.

    Fees; Failure to Take Steps to Protect Client’s Interests; Failure to Cooperate

    Violations of SCR 20:1.5(b)(1) and (c), 20:1.16(d), and 22.03(6)

    A lawyer represented a client in the appeal of a complaint dismissed by the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, Equal Rights Division (ERD). Upon receipt of a $345 advance from the client, the lawyer provided a hand-written document, including the notation, “500 500 20% contingency,” but did not, either orally or in writing, sufficiently communicate the specific terms of the representation or how the fees would be calculated, in violation of SCR 20:1.5(b)(1). Although this document indicated a contingent-fee component, the lawyer failed to reduce to writing an agreement stating the method by which the fee was to be determined and any expenses for which the client would be liable, in violation of SCR 20:1.5(c).

    Several months later, after the lawyer had received $870 from the client, the lawyer requested additional funds. The client terminated the representation. The lawyer did not notify the ERD or opposing counsel that the lawyer was no longer representing the client, and the lawyer did not return the client’s documents.

    Two weeks after termination of representation, opposing counsel filed a motion to dismiss. The ERD sent a letter to the parties’ lawyers informing them that the complainant was required to respond to the respondent’s motion by a deadline. The lawyer failed to promptly forward a copy of this letter to the client. By failing to take steps to protect the client’s interests upon termination of representation, the lawyer violated SCR 20:1.16(d).

    In violation of SCR 22.03(6), enforced under SCR 20:8.4(h), the lawyer provided a supplemental response to the Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR) only after the Wisconsin Supreme Court issued an order to show cause.

    The lawyer had no prior discipline.

    Disparaging Trial Counsel; Impugning Credibility of Accused

    Violation of SCR 20:3.4(e)

    An assistant district attorney prosecuted a criminal defendant for attempting to break into two local businesses. During closing arguments, the prosecutor made statements to the jury that disparaged defense counsel and the criminal defendant, suggesting both had lied during the case. The prosecutor had been warned previously by the circuit court that defense counsel’s arguments made proper inferences from the evidence adduced at trial.

    By expressing personal opinions that disparaged defense counsel, as well as impugned the credibility or the guilt or innocence of the accused, the assistant district attorney violated SCR 20:3.4(e), which provides, in relevant part, “A lawyer shall not: … (e) in trial … state a personal opinion as to the justness of a cause, the credibility of a witness, the culpability of a civil litigant or the guilt or innocence of an accused.”

    The assistant district attorney had no prior discipline.

    Communications Concerning Lawyer’s Services; Conduct Involving Dishonesty, Fraud, Deceit, or Misrepresentation

    Violations of SCR 20:7.1(a) and 20:8.4(c)

    While a lawyer was attempting to separate his law practice from that of his law partner, the lawyer sent to at least 16 of the firm’s personal injury clients a letter that stated, in relevant part, that his partner “recently told me that he intended to scale back his practice of law and perhaps even quit the practice of law altogether.” The letter also stated, “As a practical matter, all of my clients have agreed to continue with me,” and asked the client to sign and return an enclosed form if the client wished to continue being represented by the lawyer.

    The letter and the consent form created the impression that the partner was leaving the practice of law, that the old firm was going out of business and would cease as an ongoing operation, and that the other clients were already getting on board with the new firm to be run by the lawyer. The letter and accompanying form were misleading because the lawyer had no direct knowledge as to what his partner intended to do once the lawyer had left the firm. The letter and form were also intended to be persuasive and to entice the firm’s clients away from the partner and into the lawyer’s new law practice.

    By sending to firm clients letters and consent forms that were misleading and contained inaccurate statements, the lawyer violated SCR 20:7.1(a) and SCR 20:8.4(c).

    The lawyer has no prior discipline.

    Unreasonable Fee Agreement; Conflict of Interest; Failure Upon Termination of Representation to Surrender Papers; Disobeying an Obligation Under the Rules of a Tribunal

    Violations of SCR 20:1.5(a), 20:1.7(a)(2), 20:1.16(d), and 20:3.4(c)

    A lawyer represented a client in a divorce. During the divorce proceeding, the client filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and named the lawyer’s firm as a creditor. At the time of the bankruptcy filing, the lawyer’s billing statements to the client showed a balance due of $26,113.09.

    The Bankruptcy Noticing Center sent a notice of Chapter 7 bankruptcy case to the lawyer. After receiving the notice and during the automatic stay in the bankruptcy, the lawyer continued to send letters and billing statements to the client to collect the pre-bankruptcy legal fees and expenses.

    Having made a fee agreement that required the client to pay the lawyer a percentage of certain monies that the client could have received unrelated to the representation, including at least five percent of any “large windfall” amount, even though such a payment could conceivably exceed the balance due to the lawyer, the lawyer violated SCR 20:1.5(a).

    By continuing to represent the client after becoming a creditor against the client in the Chapter 7 bankruptcy, and thereafter continuing to act to collect the pre-bankruptcy legal fee debt during the automatic stay in the bankruptcy, the lawyer violated SCR 20:1.7(a)(2).

    By failing to provide the original case files to the client after being requested to do so, the lawyer violated SCR 20:1.16(d).

    After receiving notice of the client’s Chapter 7 bankruptcy, by sending billing statements and letters to the client to collect the debt of the pre-bankruptcy legal fees and expenses in violation of the automatic stay in the bankruptcy, the lawyer violated SCR 20:3.4(c).

    The lawyer had no prior discipline.

    Failure to Hold Funds in Trust; Disbursing Funds from Trust Before They Become Available; Failing to Produce Trust Account Records; Failing to Maintain Chronological Entries in Transaction Register; Failing to Maintain Monthly Reconciliations

    Violation of SCR 20:1.15(b)(1)

    A lawyer with no prior discipline overdrew his credit card trust account on three occasions, when the lawyer disbursed funds from the credit card trust account before funds had been deposited. During the investigation, the OLR requested copies of the lawyer’s trust account records. The lawyer’s transaction ledgers were not kept in chronological order. Monthly reconciliations and canceled checks were not provided.

    By disbursing funds from his credit card trust account before the deposit and availability of the funds, the lawyer violated SCR 20:1.15(b)(1), which states, “A lawyer shall hold in trust, separate from the lawyer’s own property, that property of clients and 3rd parties that is in the lawyer’s possession in connection with a representation”; and SCR 20:1.15(e)(5)a., which states, “A lawyer shall not disburse funds from any trust account unless the deposit from which those funds will be disbursed has cleared, and the funds are available for disbursement.”

    By failing to produce copies of voided checks, the lawyer violated SCR 20:1.15(e)(7), which states, “Upon request of the office of lawyer regulation, or upon direction of the supreme court, the records shall be submitted to the office of lawyer regulation….”

    By failing to maintain a chronological record of all account transactions and to perform monthly reconciliations, the lawyer violated SCR 20:1.15(f)(1)a., which states, “The transaction register shall contain a chronological record of all account transactions;” and SCR 20:1.15(f)(1)g., which states, “For each trust account, the lawyer shall prepare and retain a printed reconciliation report on a regular and periodic basis not less frequently than every 30 days.”

    Criminal Conduct Reflecting Adversely on Attorney’s Fitness; Fourth-degree Sexual Assault

    Violation of SCR 20:8.4(b)

    A lawyer was charged with one count of fourth-degree sexual assault, a misdemeanor. According to the criminal complaint, the lawyer grabbed the breast of a woman employee at a bar. The lawyer then made several sexually charged comments to the woman. When the woman left the parking lot of the bar in her car, the lawyer followed her. The woman called the police department, and she was advised to pull into a gas station and told that officers would meet her there. The woman pulled into the gas station, and the lawyer continued to follow her. Police arrived shortly thereafter and the lawyer was arrested.

    The lawyer pleaded no contest to the single charge contained in the criminal complaint and entered into a six-month deferred prosecution agreement. The lawyer complied with the terms of the deferred prosecution agreement, and the charge against him was dismissed.

    By engaging in conduct leading to being charged with, and pleading no contest to, one misdemeanor count of fourth-degree sexual assault, the lawyer violated SCR 20:8.4(b).

    The lawyer had no prior discipline.

    Failure to Cooperate with OLR Investigation

    Violation of SCR 22.03(6), enforced via 20:8.4(h)

    A lawyer was the subject of an OLR grievance filed by a client whom the lawyer represented in criminal matters. Although the OLR ultimately determined that the client’s allegations lacked merit, that determination was delayed by the lawyer’s willful failure to cooperate with the OLR investigation.

    The lawyer failed to respond to an OLR letter requesting certain information, which was followed by another letter, a telephone message, and a motion the OLR filed pursuant to SCR 22.03(4), seeking an order to show cause from the supreme court. The lawyer filed a partial response, and the OLR withdrew its motion.

    The OLR then renewed its efforts at obtaining a complete response from the lawyer. After the lawyer did not respond, the OLR filed a second motion for an order to show cause, which the supreme court issued. The lawyer still did not respond, to the point that the supreme court temporarily suspended the lawyer’s law license pursuant to SCR 22.03(4) for a willful failure to cooperate with the OLR investigation. Upon the issuance of the suspension order, the lawyer filed a complete response with the OLR, and the lawyer’s law license was reinstated shortly thereafter.

    By willfully failing to cooperate with the OLR grievance investigation, the lawyer violated SCR 22.03(6), which is enforced under the Rules of Professional Conduct via SCR 20:8.4(h).

    The lawyer had no prior discipline.

    Criminal Conduct Reflecting Adversely on Attorney’s Fitness; Practicing Law While License Is Suspended

    Violations of SCR 20:8.4(b), 10.03(6), and 22.26(2)

    A lawyer was involved in an automobile accident. The lawyer’s spouse and minor children were passengers in the car.

    The police officer who responded to the accident administered a field sobriety test and the lawyer failed that test. Blood tests revealed a blood-alcohol level of over 0.20.

    The lawyer was twice previously convicted of OWI, both first-offense violations. The attorney was charged with felony third-offense OWI with a minor child in the vehicle and misdemeanor operating with a prohibited alcohol concentration (PAC) of 0.08 or more (third).

    The lawyer entered a no-contest plea to the count of third-offense OWI with a minor child in the vehicle. The PAC count was dismissed.

    By engaging in conduct leading to a criminal conviction of third-offense OWI with a minor child in the vehicle, the lawyer violated SCR 20:8.4(b).

    For approximately six weeks, the lawyer’s license to practice law was suspended for failing to pay mandatory State Bar dues and supreme court assessments. Despite the suspension, the lawyer appeared in court on behalf of a client at commitment hearings on two occasions during the license suspension.

    By appearing in court on behalf of a client and thereby engaging in the practice of law, while suspended for failure to pay State Bar dues and supreme court assessments, the lawyer violated SCR 10.03(6) and SCR 22.26(2), enforceable via SCR 20:8.4(f).

    The lawyer had no prior discipline.

    Criminal Act Reflecting Adversely on Fitness to Practice

    Violation of SCR 20:8.4(b)

    A lawyer was involved in an altercation at a restaurant, during which the lawyer punched an acquaintance in the face more than once. Though he claimed he acted in self-defense, the lawyer was charged with misdemeanor disorderly conduct and he entered a plea of no-contest, resulting in a finding of guilt and a conviction. The lawyer was sentenced to a short jail sentence and ordered to pay a fine, costs, and restitution to the victim.

    By engaging in conduct leading to a conviction of misdemeanor disorderly conduct, the lawyer violated SCR 20:8.4(b).

    The lawyer had no prior discipline.

    Failure to Hold Client Funds in Trust; Making Deposit via the Internet into a Trust Account; Failure to Keep Required Trust Account Records; Creating Negative Trust Account Balance in a Client Ledger

    Violations of SCR 20:1.15(b)(1), (e)(4)c., and (f)(1)a. – c.

    While disbursing personal injury settlement funds from a trust account, a lawyer took funds in excess of the cost reimbursements the lawyer was entitled to receive, thereby failing to hold client funds in trust as required by SCR 20:1.15(b)(1). Consequently, there were insufficient funds when the lawyer made subsequent disbursements of the client’s funds. That created a negative balance with respect to the client matter, in violation of SCR 20:1.15(f)(1)b., and led directly to an overdraft of the trust account.

    Upon discovering the overdraft, and with the intention of curing it, the lawyer deposited personal funds into the trust account via the Internet, although Internet transactions are expressly prohibited by SCR 20:1.15(e)(4)c.

    Despite training in trust account management in 2013, the lawyer was not keeping a transaction register, maintenance account ledger, or individual client ledgers, in violation of SCR 20:1.15(f)(1).

    The lawyer had no prior discipline.

    Criminal Act Reflecting Adversely on Fitness to Practice; Failure to Timely Report Criminal Conviction in Writing

    Violations of SCR 20:8.4(b) and 21.15(5)

    A lawyer was charged with fourth-offense OWI, fourth-offense operating with a PAC, and resisting or obstructing an officer.

    An officer attempted to perform a traffic stop on a moped, after observing the operator of the moped, later identified as the lawyer, fail to obey a stop sign. The lawyer accelerated in an attempt to elude the officer. The lawyer dropped the moped and ran, but was eventually apprehended by the officer. The lawyer failed field sobriety tests. A preliminary breath test was taken. The officer then arrested the lawyer. An evidentiary chemical test of the lawyer’s blood was taken.

    Pursuant to a no-contest plea, the lawyer was convicted of misdemeanor third-offense OWI. The fourth-offense operating with a PAC charge was dismissed on the prosecutor’s motion. The resisting or obstructing an officer charge was dismissed, but read in at sentencing. The lawyer was sentenced to 75 days’ jail with Huber privileges, driver’s license revocation for 30 months, and IID installation for 30 months. The lawyer also was ordered to undergo an alcohol assessment, attend a victim-impact panel, and pay a fine and costs.

    By engaging in conduct leading to a misdemeanor conviction of third-offense OWI, the lawyer violated SCR 20:8.4(b).

    By failing to notify in writing the OLR and the clerk of the supreme court within five days after his finding of guilt or conviction of a crime, the lawyer violated SCR 21.15(5), enforced via SCR 20:8.4(f).

    The lawyer had no prior discipline.

    Conflict of Interest; Direct Contact with Represented Party

    Violations of SCR 20:1.7(a), 20:3.7, 20:4.2, 20:1.1, and 20:8.4(c)

    A lawyer involved in an intimate relationship with a divorced man undertook representation of the man even though the lawyer was living with the man and providing him and his children substantial financial support. The representation thus presented a substantial risk of conflict with the lawyer’s own interests, in violation of SCR 20:1.7(a).

    During the representation, the lawyer initiated direct contact with the opposing party via email and text messaging. The messages discussed aspects of the postdivorce litigation. The opposing party, who was represented by counsel, requested that the lawyer not contact her directly. The lawyer persisted in contacting the opposing party, arguing that the contacts were not related to the postjudgment divorce proceedings. However, the lawyer urged the opposing party to meet with her without her attorney so the two of them could discuss how to resolve the case and suggested that the involvement of the opposing party’s attorney was interfering with the resolution of the case.

    The lawyer’s direct contacts with the opposing party violated SCR 20:4.2. The court ultimately removed the lawyer from the representation because she was deemed a necessary witness in the matter given her role in providing support to the man. By representing the man when she was a likely witness in the matter, the lawyer violated SCR 20:3.7.

    Finally, the lawyer filed various documents in the case that appeared to have been notarized. However, the lawyer was not a commissioned notary and was operating under the mistaken belief that her status as a lawyer allowed such conduct. This conduct violated SCR 20:1.1 and SCR 20:8.4(c).

    The lawyer had no prior discipline.

    Fraudulent Signing of Document

    Violation of SCR 20:8.4(c)

    A lawyer represented a client as the petitioner in the summary settlement of the estate of the client’s son. One of the lawyer’s tasks was to transfer title of the decedent’s automobile to the client. On the same day the lawyer filed a petition for summary settlement in circuit court, the court issued an order assigning the decedent’s assets, including the automobile, to the lawyer’s client. The lawyer also promptly obtained an affidavit of transfer from his client, to be used if the Department of Motor Vehicles required such an affidavit to effectuate transfer of the vehicle title.

    The lawyer encountered difficulties in achieving transfer of title based on the order and supporting affidavit. The timing of the title transfer then became a matter of some urgency, as the decedent’s vehicle was to be traded in as part of the purchase of another vehicle. Realizing that he would not be able to effectuate title transfer through proper means before the anticipated transaction involving the decedent’s automobile, the lawyer signed the decedent’s name on the title and back-dated the signature on the transfer document to a date three days before the decedent’s date of death. Although done in an effort to quickly document the client’s interest in the vehicle, the lawyer’s forging and back-dating of the decedent’s signature was improper and violated SCR 20:8.4(c), which states, “It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to … engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.”

    The lawyer had a prior private reprimand, imposed in 1997.

    Diligence

    Violation of SCR 20:1.3

    A lawyer represented a client in a divorce. The divorce judgment was silent as to which party was responsible for preparing two separate qualified domestic relations orders (QDROs) resulting from the divorce. The lawyer agreed to prepare the QDRO for the adverse party’s 401(k) plan with the understanding that opposing counsel would prepare the QDRO for the adverse party’s pension plan.

    Almost three years after the divorce was granted, the lawyer sent the executed 401(k) plan QDRO to the employer so that the employer could implement its terms. Subsequently, the lawyer’s understanding was that the 401(k) plan QDRO was in effect, and that opposing counsel had completed the pension plan QDRO. Neither understanding was correct.

    Approximately one year later, opposing counsel sent a copy of the 401(k) QDRO to the employer because the order had never been received by the employer. The employer did not promptly implement the order because of administrative error, which caused additional delay of approximately one year until implementation. During this time, the lawyer was not taking steps in furtherance of QDRO implementation.

    Roughly nine years after the divorce was granted, the adult son of the parties informed the lawyer that the lawyer’s client was receiving none of the pension benefits. The lawyer then hired a company to prepare the pension QDRO. Several months later, the pension fund administrator informed the parties that the pension QDRO was approved. The parties stipulated to an amount to be paid to the lawyer’s client for delayed payment of pension QDRO funds.

    By failing to ensure that both the 401(k) QDRO and the pension fund QDRO were completed and implemented in a timely manner, the lawyer violated SCR 20:1.3.

    The lawyer received a prior private reprimand in 2013.

    Diligence; Communication; Duties Regarding Nonlawyer Assistants; Advanced Fee Payment

    Violations of SCR 20:1.3, 20:1.4(a)(3), 20:5.3(a) and (b), and 20:1.15(b)(4)

    A client paid a lawyer $100 cash for representation on a traffic citation. The payment constituted an advanced fee under SCR 20:1.0(ag). The funds, however, were not deposited into the lawyer’s trust account, and there was no evidence that the lawyer used, or intended to use, the alternative advanced-fee-placement measures stated in SCR 20:1.15(b)(4m) permitting deposit into a business account.

    The lawyer neither met with nor spoke to his client to discuss the representation, and the lawyer was unaware of the advanced fee payment. The lawyer had given authority to his secretary to sign letters on his behalf, but he never saw letters regarding the client’s case, had no record of the letters, and had no knowledge of what his secretary was doing. As a result, the lawyer failed to appear at three different court hearings in the matter. The client called the lawyer’s office numerous times regarding case status and was told by staff members the matter was being handled. The client never heard from the lawyer.

    The lawyer later sent the client a letter of apology and refunded the fee.

    The lawyer violated SCR 20:1.3 by failing to appear for three court hearings, and SCR 20:1.4(a)(3) by failing to respond to the client’s requests for information. By failing to have proper measures in place to ensure that his secretary’s conduct was compatible with his professional obligations, the lawyer violated SCR 20:5.3(a) and (b). The lawyer also violated SCR 20:1.15(b)(4) by depositing the advanced fee payment into his business account, with no evidence of an intention to follow the alternative advanced-fee-placement measures stated in SCR 20:1.15(b)(4m).

    The lawyer had no prior discipline.

    Diligence; Communication

    Violations of SCR 20:1.3, 20:1.4(a)(3) and (4)

    A lawyer was appointed by the circuit court to provide postconviction representation to a defendant ineligible for public defender representation. The client had entered a plea to theft charges and was sentenced to four years in prison.

    The lawyer made a written request to the clerk of circuit court for the court record and transcripts. The lawyer claimed that he made a phone call to the clerk some time later regarding the transcripts, but he had no verification of that call.

    When the client subsequently inquired as to case status, the lawyer responded that he did not have transcripts and could not proceed without reviewing them. The lawyer told the client that he would follow up with the clerk’s office, but he failed to do so, and did not put in writing any second or subsequent requests for transcripts when they were not received.

    Eight months after the lawyer was appointed, the client wrote the judge, stating that the lawyer was not communicating regarding case status. By letter, the judge asked the lawyer to immediately contact the client. Approximately three months later, the client successfully moved for removal of the lawyer and appointment of successor counsel.

    By failing to follow up with the clerk of circuit court to obtain transcripts to pursue postconviction relief in circuit court or an appeal, the lawyer violated SCR 20:1.3.

    By failing to accurately respond to the client’s inquiries or to otherwise keep him informed as to the status of the representation, and in particular the status of the request for the court record and transcripts, the lawyer violated SCR 20:1.4(a)(3) and (4).

    The lawyer had two prior private reprimands and a prior public reprimand, all imposed more than 10 years earlier.




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