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 Bradford A. Borman
On April 15, 2016, the Wisconsin Supreme Court issued an order publicly reprimanding Bradford A. Borman, Albuquerque, N.M., as discipline reciprocal to an Oct. 8, 2015, order of the Maine Board of Overseers of the Bar publicly reprimanding Borman. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Borman, 2016 WI 25.
The Maine reprimand resulted from Borman’s failure to file an affidavit demonstrating that he notified relevant parties of an administrative suspension of his Maine law license and his later failure to respond to Maine disciplinary authorities.
Public Reprimand of Daniel F. Snyder
The Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR) and Daniel F. Snyder, Park Falls, entered into an agreement for imposition of a public reprimand, pursuant to SCR 22.09(1). A supreme court-appointed referee thereafter approved the agreement and issued the public reprimand in accordance with SCR 22.09(3) on April 27, 2016.
Snyder represented the respondent in a divorce granted in July 2003. Snyder’s client was to receive one-half the value of the adverse party’s separate pensions at two corporate employers, by qualified domestic relations order (QDRO). Snyder was responsible for taking steps to give effect to the QDROs.
From December 2004 through February 2007, the client wrote to Snyder at least 10 times for status updates and to implore Snyder to act if he had not already done so.
In April 2007, Snyder sent the circuit court a proposed QDRO that identified a company that was the successor to the adverse party’s most recent employer. The company had no connection to either of the two corporations whose pension plans were covered in the divorce, and in May 2007 the identified company rejected the QDRO and further informed Snyder that the adverse party had earlier exercised a lump-sum payment option and thus no benefits would be owing in any event. Snyder at that time took no steps to send proposed QDROs to the two proper corporate entities.
In July 2014, the adverse party informed Snyder’s client that in February 2014 he began receiving monthly pension benefits from one of the corporate entities and from an entity that had taken over the pension liability of the second employer.
In April 2015, Snyder contacted a commercial QDRO preparer for drafting assistance. In December 2015, Snyder provided the QDRO preparer with its required fee and with necessary information and content instruction.
By sending a proposed QDRO to an entity with no connection to the pension division terms, Snyder violated SCR 20:1.1, which requires competent representation.
By failing to act with respect to the two pensions at issue until 2015, when he sought the assistance of a third-party QDRO preparer, Snyder violated SCR 20:1.3, which requires an attorney to act with reasonable diligence.
By failing to respond to the client’s repeated and specific inquiries concerning the pension QDROs, and by otherwise failing to keep the client informed regarding the status of the QDROs, Snyder violated SCR
20:1.4(a)(3) and (4).
Snyder received a public reprimand in 1999 and a private reprimand in 2001.
Public Reprimand of Kirk D. Reese
The OLR and Kirk D. Reese, Rhinelander, 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 in accordance with SCR 22.09(3) on April 29, 2016.
Reese represented a client in the separation of a corporation from its subsidiary. Reese negotiated the separation on behalf of the client, who was the corporation’s director and president. The client signed an agreement to separate the corporation from the subsidiary on March 14, 2011. Under the agreement, the client would acquire full ownership of the subsidiary and his equal partner would acquire full ownership of the corporation. The agreementbecame binding on the client and the partner when the partner signed it on Aug. 9, 2011.
On May 5, 2011, the client sought Reese’s assistance in collecting a debt secured by mortgage in favor of the corporation. Reese negotiated the mortgage satisfaction on behalf of the corporation between May and July 2011, while the client remained president and retained authority to act on behalf of the corporation.
On July 15, 2011, the client authorized Reese to settle for the $24,794.80 offered by the title company in exchange for release of the mortgage. The client instructed Reese to deposit the settlement funds into his trust account and to make a check payable to the subsidiary for the balance of the funds after Reese deducted his fees.
On July 28, 2011, Reese deposited the check from the title company into his firm’s trust account. After retaining $2,036 for attorney fees, Reese issued a check from his trust account to the client individually in the amount of $22,758.80. Reese earned $1,017.50 through the representation of the client in the client’s individual capacity between April 2011 and August 2011. Reese earned $1,018.50 while representing the interests of the corporation between May 5, 2011 and July 26, 2011. The partner was not informed of the mortgage satisfaction or the manner in which the proceeds were handled.
In violation of SCR 20:1.7(a)(2), Reese engaged in a concurrent conflict of interest by simultaneously representing both the corporation in the satisfaction of the mortgage and the client individually in the client’s attempt to separate himself and the subsidiary from the corporation.
Having received the funds in satisfaction of a mortgage owned by the corporation, by disbursing none of the funds to the corporation and instead disbursing a portion to himself for fees earned through the representation of the client in an individual capacity, and disbursing the remainder to the client individually, Reese violated SCR 20:1.15(d)(1) and 20:8.4(c).
As a condition of the public reprimand, Reese refunded $1,018.50 to the corporation.
Reese had no prior discipline.
Disciplinary Proceedings Against James G. Moldenhauer
On May 24, 2016, the supreme court suspended the law license of James G. Moldenhauer, Eau Claire, for 60 days, effective June 27, 2016. Because Moldenhauer entered into a stipulation under SCR 22.12, the court did not impose costs. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Moldenhauer, 2016 WI 43.
Moldenhauer’s misconduct related to the representation of clients in a Wisconsin Department of Revenue (DOR) tax matter.
In July 2011, Moldenhauer filed a petition with the Wisconsin Tax Appeals Commission (the commission) appealing a DOR decision that disposed of two cases involving the clients. On Oct. 12, 2011, the commission sent a notice to Moldenhauer informing him that a telephone status conference would be held on Dec. 13, 2011.
Moldenhauer failed to appear for the Dec. 13, 2011, telephone status conference, despite the fact that the commission called Moldenhauer’s office four times at or about the scheduled conference time.
On Dec. 14, 2011, the commission sent a status conference memorandum and order to Moldenhauer. This document confirmed that Moldenhauer did not appear at the Dec. 13, 2011, telephone status conference; scheduled a telephone status conference for Dec. 21, 2011; and stated, “The cases will be dismissed if Petitioners’ attorney is not present for the status conference.”
Moldenhauer failed to appear for the Dec. 21, 2011, telephone status conference, despite the fact that the commission called Moldenhauer’s office four times at or about the scheduled conference time.
In a Dec. 22, 2011, order of dismissal, the commission dismissed the petition for review in the cases. A notice of appeal information was attached to the order of dismissal.
Moldenhauer did not inform the clients of the Dec. 22, 2011, order of dismissal; respond to the clients’ telephone calls requesting information regarding the status of the cases; or file a petition for a rehearing before the commission or a petition for judicial review.
In August 2012, the clients filed a malpractice and breach-of-contract action against Moldenhauer for his mishandling of their tax matters. The case eventually settled for $50,000.
By failing to appear for telephone status conferences on Dec. 13 and 21, 2011, resulting in dismissal of the clients’ cases, and thereafter by failing to file a petition for rehearing or a petition for judicial review, and by otherwise failing to act in furtherance of the clients’ interests, Moldenhauer violated SCR 20:1.3.
By failing to keep the clients reasonably informed regarding the status of the cases, inform the clients of the Dec. 22, 2011, order of dismissal, and respond to the clients’ telephone calls requesting information, Moldenhauer violated SCR 20:1.4(a)(3) and (4).
Moldenhauer’s disciplinary history includes a private reprimand in 1996, a public reprimand in 2006, a public reprimand in 2008, and a public reprimand in 2012.
Disciplinary Proceeding Against James E. Gatzke
On May 17, 2016, the supreme court suspended the law license of James E. Gatzke, New Berlin, for three years, commencing June 20, 2016, and ordered him to make restitution totaling $551,128.32 to two clients and to pay the $56,879.77 cost of the disciplinary proceeding. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Gatzke, 2016 WI 37. In the event of license reinstatement, Gatzke will be required to submit to three years of trust account monitoring.
The suspension was based on 45 counts of misconduct. Gatzke represented a client whose husband died in June 2005. The client hired Gatzke shortly after her husband’s death. In September 2005, more than $2.5 million was wired to Gatzke’s trust account for the client. Gatzke invested the funds without obtaining the client’s written consent, contrary to SCR 20:1.8(a).
The client’s minor daughter was the beneficiary of a life insurance policy; however, a former business partner of the decedent disputed this. Gatzke represented the client and daughter regarding this matter but did not discuss their differing interests with them and failed to obtain their written consents, in violation of SCR 20:1.7(b). In April 2007, as their attorney, Gatzke signed a stipulation resolving the case. He did not seek court approval of the minor’s settlement as required by Wis. Stat. section 807.10(1), and thus violated SCR 20:8.4(f). After depositing the $325,446.25 settlement check to his trust account, Gatzke disbursed $50,000 to his firm for legal fees and the balance to a pre-existing account identifying Gatzke as his client’s conservator. Gatzke failed to provide written notice of his receipt of the funds to either the client or her daughter, contrary to SCR 20:1.15(d)(1).
In addition to the above, Gatzke engaged in the following misconduct: five counts involving business transactions with a client, in violation of SCR 20:1.8(a), some of which involved dishonesty and thus also violated SCR 20:8.4(c); three counts of commingling funds in his trust account, in violation of SCR 20:1.15(b)(3); one count of either failing to hold unearned fees in trust and converting them, contrary to SCR 20:1.15(b)(4) and SCR 20:8.4(c) or, if the fees were earned, misrepresenting the purpose of the disbursement to conceal income, in violation of only SCR 20:8.4(c); one count relating to telephone transfers from his trust account, in violation of SCR 20:1.15(e)(4)b., and a related violation of SCR 20:1.15(f)(1)a.4 and b.; three counts relating to negative client-ledger balances and the related conversions, involving violations of SCR 20:1.15(f)(1)b., SCR 20:8.4(c) and/or SCR 20:1.15(b)(1); two counts relating to the withdrawal of legal fees before notifying the client, contrary to SCR 20:1.15(g)(1); three counts of failing to hold fiduciary property in trust, in violation of SCR 20:1.15(j)(1); 24 counts that included engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, contrary to SCR 20:8.4(c); two counts of failing to promptly deliver funds to which clients were entitled, in violation of SCR 20:1.15(d); and three counts relating to misrepresentations to the OLR that violated SCR 22.03(6), enforced via SCR 20:8.4(h).
Gatzke had no prior discipline.