Disciplinary Proceedings Against William Lamb
On June 9, 2015, the Wisconsin Supreme Court revoked the law license of William Lamb, Menomonie. The court further ordered Lamb to pay $17,500 in restitution to the Wisconsin Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection and restitution of $2,730, $850, and $500 to three former clients and to pay the full $8,875.90 cost of the disciplinary proceeding. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Lamb, 2015 WI 52.
Lamb pleaded no contest and stipulated to 75 separate acts of professional misconduct involving 10 clients.
In general, Lamb engaged in a pattern of conduct in which he would accept client fees, take limited meaningful action on the client’s behalf, and fail to respond to client inquiries. Furthermore, Lamb often failed to comply with trust account rules or cooperate with Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR) investigations. In one client matter, Lamb forged his client’s signature on a settlement check, converted the proceeds to his own use, and hid the conduct from the client for nearly four years.
Lamb’s misconduct in multiple matters involved violations of SCR 20:1.3; SCR 20:1.4(a)(2), (3), and (4) and (b); SCR 20:1.5(a) and (b)(1), (2), and (3); SCR 20:1.15(b)(1) and (4) and (d)(1) and (2); SCR 20:1.16(d); SCR 20:4.1(a)(1); SCR 20:8.4(b) and (c); and SCR 22.03(2) and (6), as enforced via SCR 20:8.4(h).
Lamb was privately reprimanded in 1997, and again in 2003. The supreme court suspended Lamb for 60 days in 2011.
Disciplinary Proceedings Against Robert P. D’Arruda
On June 25, 2015, the supreme court suspended the law license of Robert P. D’Arruda, Milwaukee, for three years. The court further ordered D’Arruda to pay restitution to multiple parties, and the $2,379.96 cost of the disciplinary proceeding. Disciplinary Proceedings Against D’Arruda, 2015 WI 62.
D’Arruda declined to answer the disciplinary complaint and was declared to be in default. His misconduct occurred in 12 separate matters and consisted of many instances of failing to communicate with clients, charging unreasonable fees, mishandling advanced payments of fees, failing to provide itemized statements or otherwise account for his fees, failing to refund unearned fees, engaging in dishonest conduct, and failing to cooperate with the OLR.
An aggravating factor was D’Arruda’s taking of fees from several clients when D’Arruda knew that his license was about to be temporarily suspended for failing to cooperate in multiple OLR grievance investigations. Although D’Arruda’s prior discipline, consisting of a private reprimand issued in 2011 and a public reprimand issued in 2013, was not extensive, the court determined that a significant sanction was warranted given the serious nature of D’Arruda’s misconduct.
Disciplinary Proceedings Against David J. Winkel
In a July 7, 2015 opinion, the supreme court suspended the law license of David J. Winkel, Neenah, for four months, effective Aug. 6, 2015, and ordered Winkel to pay the full $42,634.13 cost of the disciplinary proceeding. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Winkel, 2015 WI 68.
Winkel committed five counts of misconduct, which arose out of Winkel’s representation of a client in an Eighth Amendment civil rights lawsuit. Winkel formally appeared on the client’s behalf but did little else of value. Winkel never identified certain unnamed defendants and failed to timely disclose the client’s expert witnesses.
The defendants moved for summary judgment. Winkel had not conducted depositions of defendants, served discovery demands, served requests for production of documents, or served interrogatories. Four days after the summary judgment response brief was due, Winkel filed a document entitled “Objection to Motion for Summary Judgment” that failed to respond in a material way to the defendants’ summary judgment motion. In the summary judgment order, the magistrate judge stated, “Plaintiff’s case has been doomed by his failure, through his attorney, to meet several deadlines or to respond properly to defendants’ motion for summary judgment.…”
The client remained unaware for many weeks that the defendants had moved for summary judgment or that their motion had been granted.
By failing to properly oppose the defendants’ motion for summary judgment, and by failing to display the knowledge and skills necessary to competently represent the client in the Eighth Amendment civil rights case, Winkel violated SCR 20:1.1.
By failing to oppose the defendants’ motion for summary judgment by the court-ordered deadline, file an expert disclosure by the court-ordered deadline, amend the plaintiff’s complaint to reflect the name of a “Jane Doe” defendant, and conduct any meaningful discovery in the client’s case, Winkel violated SCR 20:1.3.
By failing to inform the client of the defendants’ motion for summary judgment, inform the client that the court granted the motion, provide the client with copies of the motion and the order granting the motion, and keep the client apprised of the status of the case, Winkel violated SCR 20:1.4(a)(3).
By concealing from the client that defendants made a motion for summary judgment and that the court granted the motion, Winkel violated SCR 20:8.4(c).
Having concealed from the client that the defendants made a motion for summary judgment and that the court granted the motion, leading to the dismissal of the action, and by thereafter representing to the OLR that he had informed the client of the aforesaid events, Winkel violated SCR 22.03(6), enforced under SCR 20:8.4(h).
Winkel received a public reprimand in 1998 and another public reprimand in 2005.
Disciplinary Proceedings Against Paul Strouse
The supreme court suspended the license of Paul Strouse, Milwaukee, for 60 days, effective Aug. 14, 2015. The court also ordered Strouse to pay the $67,562.12 cost of the disciplinary proceeding. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Strouse, 2015 WI 83.
Strouse engaged in seven counts of misconduct involving four client matters. In the first matter, Strouse represented a debtor who owned a gas station. During foreclosure proceedings, the debtor delivered fuel-monitoring equipment to Strouse for safekeeping. Strouse failed to provide a signed written receipt of the trust property. When the gas station receiver sought to recover the monitoring equipment, Strouse was unable to deliver the property, claiming it was lost or stolen. By failing to safeguard the fuel-monitoring equipment or provide the receiver with a signed written receipt for the property, Strouse violated SCR 20:1.15(b)(6) and (j)(8)b.
In a second matter, Strouse represented an individual in Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceedings. Strouse quoted a fee that was less than $1,000. Strouse later demanded a fee that was higher than initially proposed. By unilaterally changing the rate of the fee without communicating in writing with the client, Strouse violated SCR 20:1.5(b)(1).
In a third matter, Strouse agreed to handle a Chapter 7 proceeding on behalf of a client for a fee in excess of $1,000 but failed to provide the client a written document stating the scope of the representation and the basis of the fee. In addition, Strouse increased the fee, but did not provide a writing disclosing the increased fee. By failing to provide his client a written communication stating the basis of his fee and any changes to that fee, Strouse violated SCR 20:1.5(b)(1).
In a fourth client matter, Strouse represented a couple in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceeding. According to the clients, they also hired Strouse to represent them in an adversary proceeding involving outstanding student loans. While Strouse denied that he agreed to represent the clients in the adversary proceeding, no written fee agreement existed outlining the scope of representation, and the referee found the clients’ assertions more credible than Strouse’s.
The clients attempted to contact Strouse multiple times regarding the adversary proceeding, but Strouse failed to respond to their requests for information or advise them regarding the issues associated with an adversary proceeding. By failing to consult with the clients regarding the means by which the objectives of the representation were to be pursued, Strouse violated SCR 20:1.2(a) and SCR 20:1.4(a)(2). By failing to explain matters sufficiently to the clients to enable them to make informed decisions regarding the representation, Strouse violated SCR 20:1.4(b). By failing to respond to multiple requests for information from the clients, Strouse violated SCR 20:1.4(a)(4).
Strouse was publicly reprimanded in 2010, 2011, and 2015.
Disciplinary Proceedings Against Michael Strizic
On June 19, 2015, the supreme court suspended the Wisconsin law license of Michael Strizic, Mesa, Ariz., for 60 days, as discipline as a result of a public reprimand imposed against Strizic by the Arizona Supreme Court. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Strizic, 2015 WI 57.
In May 2013, Strizic was disciplined in Arizona, a jurisdiction in which he was not licensed to practice law. Strizic had defaulted and the court found that Strizic had engaged in the unauthorized practice of law, operated under a conflict of interest, and failed to furnish information or respond promptly to an inquiry or request from the State Bar of Arizona. The Arizona Supreme Court stated that if Strizic had been an Arizona licensed attorney, disbarment would have been the appropriate remedy.
The OLR filed a complaint against Strizic under SCR 22.22 to impose reciprocal discipline (revocation) against Strizic. In response, Strizic argued that the Arizona disciplinary proceeding was so lacking in notice as to constitute a deprivation of due process and the Arizona disciplinary proceedings suffered from an infirmity of proof establishing the alleged misconduct. After the Wisconsin Supreme Court referred the matter to a referee, the OLR obtained newly discovered evidence that contradicted some of the Arizona Supreme Court’s findings. Ultimately, the OLR and Strizic entered into a stipulation and no-contest-plea agreement, in which Strizic stipulated to most of the facts and pleaded no contest to the reciprocal discipline action and stipulated to a 60-day suspension of his Wisconsin law license.
Strizic’s Wisconsin law license had already been suspended since 2000 for his failure to pay State Bar dues and his failure to comply with continuing legal education requirements.
Disciplinary Proceedings Against Jenny R. Armstrong
On June 24, 2015, the supreme court suspended the law license of Jenny R. Armstrong, Middleton, for two years, effective July 24, 2015. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Armstrong, 2015 WI 60. The order followed a stipulation between Armstrong and the OLR, filed pursuant to SCR 22.12, and therefore no costs were imposed.
Armstrong committed nine counts of misconduct in multiple matters involving one client (and in limited respects the client’s husband). In violation of former SCR 20:1.8(a), Armstrong sold the client an annuity policy for which Armstrong received a commission, without taking conflict-waiver steps. Armstrong further violated former SCR 20:1.8(a) by contracting with the client to act as the client’s real estate agent in the sale of the client’s duplex, for which Armstrong received a commission, while simultaneously acting as the client’s lawyer with respect to the sale, without taking conflict-waiver steps.
Armstrong failed to act with reasonable diligence, in violation of SCR 20:1.3, in connection with preparing tax returns for the client and the client’s husband, resulting in a tax deficiency. Armstrong then charged an unreasonable fee, in violation of former SCR 20:1.5(a), by charging additional fees of $4,118.95 to reduce the tax-deficiency determination from $2,156 to $1,136.
Armstrong also violated former SCR 20:1.5(a) by charging the client a flat fee of $500 per month over an approximate five-year period, for legal work generally amounting to 15 or fewer minutes per month, and nonlegal clerical tasks.
In further violation of former SCR 20:1.5(a), over an approximate one-year period, Armstrong billed the client between $58,422.32 and $62,815.20, based on Armstrong’s professional rate of $250 per hour and her legal assistants’ rate of $150 per hour, for work that was primarily not professional in nature, such as selecting persons to perform work on the client’s duplex and sorting and boxing the client’s personal property.
Armstrong again violated former SCR 20:1.5(a) by charging the client approximately $3,265 to cancel car insurance and transfer a vehicle title.
Armstrong further violated former SCR 20:1.5(a) by billing the client approximately $562.50 to attempt to have a $315 stale check reissued.
Armstrong also violated former SCR 20:1.5(a) by billing the client approximately $385 to cancel the client’s husband’s AOL account upon the death of the husband.
The court ordered Armstrong to pay the client $60,899.81 in restitution by Aug. 23, 2015.
Armstrong had no prior discipline.
Reinstatement of Daniel W. Linehan
On July 15, 2015, the supreme court reinstated, with conditions, the law license of Daniel W. Linehan. The court further ordered Linehan to pay the $15,714.12 cost of the disciplinary proceeding. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Linehan, 2015 WI 82.
Linehan was licensed to practice law in 1977 and practiced in Madison. Linehan’s license was revoked effective Nov. 1, 1989 pursuant to a voluntary petition for revocation based in part on his belief that he had a medical incapacity, due to his longstanding, chronic problems with several forms of substance abuse. Allegations of misconduct pending at the time included Linehan’s conversion of client funds to his own use, failure to account for and promptly pay settlement proceeds to a client, and failure to maintain trust account records.
After a public reinstatement hearing in January 2015, the referee filed a report recommending that Linehan’s petition be treated as a petition for reinstatement from a medical incapacity, pursuant to SCR 22.36, rather than a disciplinary reinstatement pursuant to SCR 22.29. Under SCR 22.29, Linehan would have had the burden of proving, among other things, that his conduct since his revocation had been exemplary and above reproach.
Linehan admitted that he could not meet that standard because his conduct included the commission of numerous crimes including theft and forgery that he attributed to his substance abuse, which continued through at least 2009. The referee found that since 2009, with the exception of one relapse in 2011, Linehan had made “important progress in his personal and spiritual growth and character change.” The referee determined that as long as Linehan remains clean and sober, his medical incapacity has been removed. The referee indicated that relapse concerns could be addressed by various conditions.
As for Linehan’s fitness to practice law, the referee noted concerns that Linehan has not practiced law for more than 25 years and has not had full-time employment since 1998, but determined that Linehan was fit because he had met CLE requirements and had experience practicing law and that ongoing monitoring would provide some measure of oversight and control over his practice.
The court adopted the referee’s findings and determined that Linehan’s petition for reinstatement should be granted, with conditions designed to address concerns about relapse and his preparedness to practice law. The conditions require that Linehan continue WisLAP monitoring indefinitely and that WisLAP report any noncompliance to the OLR, which then can petition for the summary suspension of Linehan’s license.
Linehan must also complete 15 hours of CLE with at least eight of the hours on the topic of trust account administration, consult with an accountant to develop an effective business and trust account system, and cooperate with OLR monitoring of his business and trust accounting for one year. Finally, Linehan must comply with his agreement to repay the Wisconsin Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection, which had paid a claim from one of Linehan’s clients.
Reinstatement of Matthew C. Siderits
On June 4, 2015, the supreme court reinstated the law license of Matthew C. Siderits, Greenfield, finding that Siderits fully complied with the postsuspension requirements set forth in SCR 22.26 and met all the requirements for reinstatement stated in SCR 22.31. The court also ordered Siderits to pay the $2,585.56 cost of the proceeding. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Siderits, 2015 WI 51. Siderits’ law license had been suspended for one year, effective Feb. 4, 2013, for misconduct involving the manipulation of billing records at his former law firm.
Disciplinary Proceedings Against Joseph J. Kaupie
On July 15, 2015, the supreme court suspended the law license of Joseph J. Kaupie, Wausau, for five months based on a stipulation and a no-contest plea agreement. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Kaupie, 2015 WI 81. The court ordered Kaupie to pay the $2,309.41 cost of the disciplinary proceeding.
In addition, the court lifted a March 15, 2012 temporary suspension of Kaupie’s law license. The court noted that Kaupie’s Oct. 31, 2011 administrative suspension for failure to pay mandatory State Bar dues and failure to file a trust account certification and his June 12, 2012 administrative suspension for failure to comply with continuing legal education requirements would remain in effect until rectified.
Kaupie’s disciplinary suspension was based on 14 counts of misconduct with respect to his handling of four client matters. In all four cases, Kaupie was appointed by the Office of the State Public Defender (SPD) to represent clients in postconviction matters.
In the first matter, Kaupie failed to respond to communications from the client and the SPD; had no contact with the client regarding the client’s appeal and as a result, the client’s appellate deadlines lapsed; and failed to respond to repeated inquiries from the OLR, in violation of SCR 20:1.3, SCR 20:1.4(a)(3) and (4), and SCR 22.03(2) and (6), enforced via SCR 20:8.4(h).
In a second matter, Kaupie did not file a statement on transcript or a brief in the case, disregarded the court of appeals’ delinquency notice regarding his failure to file the client’s brief, failed to send the client’s file to successor counsel, and failed to respond to repeated inquiries from the OLR, in violation of SCR 20:1.3, SCR 20:1.16(d), SCR 20:3.4(c), and SCR 22.03(2) and (6), enforced via SCR 20:8.4(h).
In a third matter, Kaupie failed to file a brief or perform meaningful work to advance a client’s appeal. Kaupie met briefly with the client in prison, but the client was unable to contact Kaupie by telephone or mail and eventually learned that his appeal had been dismissed. Kaupie then failed to respond to repeated inquiries from the OLR. Kaupie’s conduct violated SCR 20:1.3, SCR 20:1.4(a)(3) and (4), and SCR 22.03(2) and (6), enforced via SCR 20:8.4(h).
In the fourth matter, Kaupie failed to respond to multiple directives from the court of appeals relating to a client’s appeal, failed to respond to a court order and communications from the SPD, failed to send the client’s file to successor counsel, and failed to respond to repeated inquiries from the OLR. Kaupie violated SCR 20:1.3, SCR 20:1.16(d), SCR 20:3.4(c), and SCR 22.03(2) and (6), enforced via SCR 20:8.4(h).
Kaupie had no prior discipline.