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.
Petition for Reinstatement of Godfrey Y. Muwonge
A public hearing will be held on Wednesday, March 16, 2016, at 10 a.m., before referee Dennis J. Flynn at the Milwaukee County Courthouse, 901 N. 9th St., Room 509, Milwaukee, on the petition of Godfrey Y. Muwonge, 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.
On Dec. 23, 2008, the Wisconsin Supreme Court indefinitely suspended Muwonge’s Wisconsin law license under SCR 22.16(4) for reason of a medical incapacity. In June 2015, Muwonge filed a reinstatement petition, which is the subject of the public hearing.
To be reinstated, Muwonge has the burden of substantiating by clear, satisfactory, and convincing evidence that the medical incapacity has been removed and that he is fit to resume the practice of law, with or without conditions.
Relevant information may be provided to or obtained from Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR) investigator Lorry Eldien or OLR assistant litigation counsel Julie M. Spoke, 110 E. Main St., Suite 315, Madison, WI 53703. The OLR’s toll-free telephone number is (877) 315-6941. Attorney Spoke’s direct phone is (608) 261-8295.
Disciplinary Proceedings Against Pamela J. Smoler
On Oct. 30, 2015, the supreme court suspended the law license of Pamela J. Smoler, formerly known as Pamela J. Schmelzer, Madison, for nine months and ordered Smoler to pay the $2,869.61 cost of the proceeding, and to pay $45,059.35 restitution to one client. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Smoler, 2015 WI 97.
Smoler was admitted to practice law in Wisconsin in 1988 and currently resides in Florida. Smoler engaged in seven counts of misconduct involving two client matters.
In the first matter, Smoler entered into a loan transaction with two clients without providing them a reasonable opportunity to seek the advice of counsel in the transaction and without the clients’ written consent to the loan, in violation of former SCR 20:1.8(a), effective before July 1, 2007. Smoler failed to fully cooperate in the OLR’s investigation of the clients’ grievance matter, in violation of SCR 22.03(6).
In the second matter, Smoler failed to provide copies of relevant documentation to a client or the client’s representative and failed to respond to various requests for information received from the client or the client’s representative concerning the status of the client’s case, in violation of SCR 20:1.4(a), effective before July 1, 2007, and current SCR 20:1.4(a)(3) and (4). Smoler also failed to respond to the client’s or the client’s representative’s requests for information concerning fees and expenses and failed to provide periodic written statements or accountings concerning fees and expenses to the client or the client’s representative, in violation of SCR 20:1.5(b)(3) and former SCR 20:1.15(d)(1), in effect before July 1, 2007.
In addition, Smoler failed, on termination of representation, to surrender papers and property to which the client was entitled and failed to refund any advance payment of fee or expense that had not been earned or incurred, in violation of SCR 20:1.16(d); failed to deposit a portion of a $50,000 cost advance into a client trust account, in violation of former SCR 20:1.15(b)(4), effective before July 1, 2007; and failed to respond to the OLR’s requests for a written response to the investigation, in violation of SCR 22.03(2). The court’s restitution order relates to the second client matter.
Smoler had no prior discipline.
Disciplinary Proceedings Against Zachary T. Krogman
The supreme court suspended the law license of Zachary T. Krogman, Stevens Point, for four months, effective Jan. 22, 2016. The suspension was based on 22 counts of professional misconduct arising in five client matters, Krogman’s handling of client funds, and the suspension of Krogman’s Wisconsin law license. The court also ordered certain conditions on any reinstatement of Krogman’s license. The disciplinary proceeding was resolved by stipulation, pursuant to SCR 22.12, and therefore the court did not impose any costs. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Krogman, 2015 WI 113.
On June 2, 2014, Krogman’s Wisconsin law license was suspended for failure to comply with CLE reporting requirements for the 2012-13 reporting period. Krogman violated SCR 22.26(1)(a) and (b) by failing to provide written notice to all clients with pending matters that his law license had been suspended and that they should seek legal advice elsewhere.
Krogman violated SCR 20:1.16(d) by failing to advise clients with hearings scheduled for after June 2, 2014, that he could not appear with them or on their behalf, and that they should be prepared to represent themselves or seek alternative legal representation. He violated SCR 22.26(1)(c) by failing to promptly provide written notice to all opposing counsel and courts in which he was representing clients in pending matters that his license to practice law had been suspended, and he violated SCR 22.26(2) by practicing law in Wisconsin while his law license was suspended.
Krogman violated SCR 20:8.4(c) by converting to his personal use $2,137.50 of client funds held in trust and violated SCR 20:1.15(b)(1) by failing to hold client funds in trust, separate from his own property.
Krogman began accepting credit card payments for legal fees in November 2012 but never established a separate trust account for receiving legal fees and costs by credit card, debit card, or other electronic deposit. By depositing $6,463.52 in his trust account via credit card deposits, Krogman violated SCR 20:1.15(e)(4)e. Krogman also failed to maintain all the trust account records required by the Rules of Professional Conduct, in violation of SCR 20:1.15(f)(1), and disbursed advanced fees from trust without first providing clients with timely written notice of his intent to do so, in violation of SCR 20:1.15(g)(1).
With regard to client matters, Krogman failed to advance several of his clients’ interests in divorce and adoption matters, in violation of SCR 20:1.3; failed to adequately communicate with a client regarding the status of his case, in violation of SCR 20:1.4(a)(3); and failed to timely respond to several clients’ attempts to obtain information regarding their cases, in violation of SCR 20:1.4(a)(4).
Krogman also failed to timely provide all information and records requested by the OLR during the investigations, in violation of SCR 22.03(2) and (6), enforced via SCR 20:8.4(h).
Krogman had no prior discipline.
Disciplinary Proceedings Against Jeffrey John Aleman
On Dec. 23, 2015, the supreme court suspended the law license of Jeffrey John Aleman, Chicago, for two years. The disciplinary proceeding was brought under SCR 22.22 and resolved by stipulation. The court did not impose costs. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Aleman, 2015 WI 112. The discipline was reciprocal to the two-year suspension imposed by the Illinois Supreme Court, effective June 4, 2015.
Aleman’s misconduct in Illinois related to his co-founding of a national debt settlement firm, Legal Helpers Debt Resolution, and his work with that entity.
The Illinois Supreme Court found that Aleman violated the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (IRPC) as follows: Aleman failed to consult with clients about the means by which case objectives were to be accomplished, in violation of rule 1.2(a) of the 1990 IRPC and rule 1.4(a)(2) of the 2010 IRPC; failed to explain matters to the extent reasonably necessary for clients to make informed decisions, in violation of IRPC 1.4(b); violated IRPC 5.3(a) by failing to supervise and make reasonable efforts to ensure that the conduct of nonlawyers employed by or associated with the debt settlement firm were compatible with his professional obligations; and assisted in the unauthorized practice of law, in violation of IRPC 5.5(a).
Although his Wisconsin law license had been administratively suspended since June 2, 2015, Aleman had no prior professional discipline in Wisconsin.