Disciplinary Proceedings Against Michael F. Bishop
On Oct. 18, 2016, pursuant to a stipulation, the Wisconsin Supreme Court suspended the law license of Michael F. Bishop, Milwaukee, for 60 days, effective Nov. 28, 2016. As a condition of reinstatement, the court ordered Bishop to provide the Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR) with evidence that he has established a business account. No costs were imposed. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Bishop, 2016 WI 85.
The suspension was based on seven counts of misconduct relating to Bishop’s trust account. All but the first count involved violations of trust account rules that were in effect through June 30, 2016.
The counts included the following: 1) failing to cooperate with the OLR’s investigation of an overdraft on Bishop’s trust account, in violation of SCR 22.03(2) and SCR 22.03(6), as enforced via SCR 20:8.4(h); 2) failing to maintain a business account, in violation of SCR 20:1.15(e)(8); 3) depositing at least $3,000 in earned fees to his trust account, in violation of SCR 20:1.15(b)(3); 4) making at least 199 cash withdrawals from his trust account, totaling $50,097.82, between May 2013 and July 2015, in violation of SCR 20:1.15(e)(4)a.; 5) failing to maintain a transaction register and client ledgers and failing to comply with record-keeping requirements, in violation of SCR 20:1.15(f)(1)a., b. and g.; 6) making 11 cash withdrawals from his trust account, totaling $2,025 during August 2015, in violation of SCR 20:1.15(e)(4)a.; and 7) failing to produce a transaction register and client ledgers for his trust account, in violation of SCR 20:1.15(e)(7).
Bishop had a prior public reprimand, imposed in 2014, for trust account violations.
Disciplinary Proceedings Against John Hotvedt
On Nov. 18, 2016, pursuant to a stipulation, the supreme court suspended the law license of John Hotvedt, Kenosha, for 18 months, effective Dec. 30, 2016. The court also ordered Hotvedt to pay the cost of the disciplinary proceeding, totaling $6,309.67. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Hotvedt, 2016 WI 93.
Hotvedt was a shareholder in a Burlington law firm. In January 2014, Hotvedt announced his departure from the firm. The firm agreed to dissolve. During the winding-up process, billing discrepancies were discovered. A review of firm accounts showed that for years Hotvedt had deposited client fees directly into his personal bank account rather than depositing the fees into the firm’s account. In many instances, Hotvedt wrote off client billings but nonetheless directed clients to pay him directly.
Hotvedt also established a separate consulting business while he was preparing to leave the firm. Through this consulting business, Hotvedt converted additional attorney fees belonging to the firm. The total amount of identifiable client funds converted by Hotvedt from his former law firm was more than $173,000.
During the investigation, the OLR asked Hotvedt to disclose all banks where he may have deposited client funds belonging to the firm. After making his initial disclosure, Hotvedt denied that he had deposited client funds in any other banks. However, the OLR’s investigation revealed an additional bank where Hotvedt had deposited funds belonging to the firm.
By converting client funds belonging to the firm in an amount in excess of $173,000, by writing off client fees owed to the firm, and by establishing a consulting business to convert client fees, Hotvedt, in each instance, 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.”
In addition, by making misrepresentations to the law firm, by converting client funds owed to the firm, by writing off client billings, and by establishing a consulting business for the purpose of converting client fees owed to the firm, Hotvedt breached the fiduciary duty he owed to the firm, in violation of SCR 20:8.4(f), which provides, “It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to: … (f) violate a … supreme court decision … regulating the conduct of lawyers …” as it relates to Disciplinary Proceedings Against Shea, 190 Wis. 2d 560, 527 N.W.2d 314 (1995).
By failing to disclose the full extent of client funds he converted from his former firm, including fees earned through a consulting company and fees deposited into a bank not previously identified in response to OLR inquiries, Hotvedt failed to cooperate fully with the OLR’s investigation, and therefore violated SCR 22.03(2) and SCR 22.03(6), enforced via SCR 20:8.4(h).
Hotvedt had no prior discipline.
Public Reprimand of William H. Green
The OLR and William Green, Milwaukee, 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 on Nov. 7, 2016, in accordance with SCR 22.09(3).
The reprimand was based on three matters. In the first, for many years Green represented a woman on several matters, including bankruptcies, a divorce, and tax debts. While representing the client in her bankruptcy matters, Green failed to provide diligent and competent representation, by failing to file complete and accurate documents and by failing to promptly pursue the matters. Green accepted advanced funds in payment of his fees but did not explain the purpose of the advanced fees, in violation of SCR 20:1.5(b)(1) and (2); and did not hold the advanced fees in trust, as required by former SCR 20:1.15(b)(4).
In the second matter, Green issued a check from his law firm business account in payment of the filing fees for four bankruptcies. There were insufficient funds in the account to cover the check. Green violated former SCR 20:1.15(b)(4) by failing to hold in trust the funds clients advanced to pay the filing fees.
In the third matter, while representing a single-member limited liability company in a chapter 13 bankruptcy, Green failed to redact the Social Security number of the principal, so the petition had to be restricted from public view. Green then failed to follow the clerk’s instructions on correcting the filing, resulting in the issuance of an order to show cause by the court to explain his conduct and justify his fee.
Green did not respond to the order to show cause and the court ordered him to appear. Green appeared and the court sanctioned him. Green failed to provide competent representation, contrary to SCR 20:1.1, by failing to file a petition that met privacy requirements and by failing to file an accurate disclosure of attorney compensation. Green also violated SCR 20:3.4(c) by failing to comply with the clerk’s directive on correcting the petition and by failing to respond to an order to show cause.
Green received a private reprimand in 2014.
Reinstatement of Richard A. Kranitz
On Nov. 8, 2016, the supreme court reinstated the law license of Richard A. Kranitz, subject to conditions, and ordered Kranitz to pay the $3,142.97 cost of the reinstatement proceeding. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Kranitz, 2016 WI 90. Kranitz, who was admitted to practice law in Wisconsin in 1969, had been suspended by the court for two years, effective July 1, 2014. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Kranitz, 2014 WI 47, 354 Wis. 2d 710, 848 N.W.2d 292.
On April 16, 2013, Kranitz pleaded guilty to the felony offense of conspiracy to commit securities fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1348, 18 U.S.C. § 1349, and 18 U.S.C. § 2. Kranitz was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison followed by one year of supervised release. United States v. Kranitz, No. 11-10415-NMG (D. Mass.). By engaging in the conduct leading to his conviction, Kranitz violated SCR 20:8.4(b). Kranitz had no prior discipline.
In the reinstatement proceeding, the court found that Kranitz showed by clear, satisfactory, and convincing evidence that he met all standards for reinstatement, as set forth under SCR 22.31(1) and SCR 22.29(4). The court granted Kranitz’s petition for reinstatement, with the condition that Kranitz is subject to the terms of two consent orders, which bar him from appearing or practicing before the Securities and Exchange Commission pursuant to rule 102(e)(2) of the Commission’s Rules of Practice, acting as an officer or director of any public corporation registered under the Exchange Act, and participating in any capacity in any offerings of penny stocks. Further, Kranitz must promptly advise the OLR of any change to the terms of the consent orders.
Reinstatement of Jevon J. Jaconi
On Nov. 18, 2016, the supreme court granted the petition of Jevon Jaconi to reinstate his law license from a one-year disciplinary suspension imposed in 2003. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Jaconi, 2016 WI 94.
The OLR did not oppose Jaconi’s petition, which was his second. The court denied Jaconi’s prior petition, filed in 2013. The referee assigned to review Jaconi’s current petition determined that Jaconi had now met all requirements for reinstatement, including full payment of restitution, and recommended reinstatement.
The court agreed and reinstated Jaconi from his disciplinary and CLE suspensions, but noted that he must pay all State Bar dues, assessments, and fees before he can resume practicing law. Jaconi was also ordered to pay the $2,830.82 cost of the reinstatement proceeding.
Disciplinary Proceedings Against Stephen B. Manion
On Oct. 21, 2016, the supreme court suspended the Wisconsin law license of Stephen B. Manion, Arizona, for six months as discipline reciprocal to a March 14, 2016, order of the Arizona Supreme Court suspending Manion’s license to practice law in Arizona for six months and one day. In addition, Manion failed to notify the OLR of his Arizona discipline within 20 days after the discipline. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Manion, 2016 WI 88.
Manion communicated with an inmate client in a criminal matter almost exclusively through another inmate who was serving a sentence for criminal fraud. The client suffered financial harm at the hands of the inmate who Manion used as the intermediary. Manion also transferred funds, at the direction of multiple inmates, in a manner that allowed the inmates to circumvent prison policy, thereby violating several Arizona trust account rules, including ER 1.4, ER 1.15(a), ER 8.4(d), and Rule 43(b)(1)(A) and (C) and (b)(5).
In addition, Manion assisted an inmate client in collecting a share of an inheritance. Manion distributed the money at the client’s direction in a manner that allowed the client to circumvent prison policy. The client also suffered financial harm due to the fraudulent actions of the same inmate Manion used as the intermediary. By these actions, Manion violated ER 1.4, ER 1.6, ER 1.7, and ER 8.4(d). See In re Manion, PDJ- 2015-9109 (March 14, 2016).
Manion had no prior Wisconsin discipline.
Disciplinary Proceedings Against Ismael Gonzalez
On Oct. 20, 2016, the supreme court suspended the Wisconsin law license of Ismael Gonzalez, New York, for one year as discipline reciprocal to an Aug. 11, 2015, order of the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Judicial Department suspending Gonzalez’s license to practice law in New York for one year. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Gonzalez, 2016 WI 87. In addition, Gonzalez failed to notify the OLR of his New York discipline within 20 days after the discipline.
The one-year suspension of Gonzalez’s New York law license arose out of 12 counts of misconduct involving five clients, violation of escrow rules, and failure to file income tax returns. Gonzalez’s misconduct included belligerent verbal abuse toward a client’s wife; threatening the client’s wife that he would have the client arrested and deported; communicating information to the immigration authorities that he wanted the client arrested and deported; falsely telling the immigration authorities that the client would not appear for his deferred inspection appointment; and intentionally damaging the client during the course of the professional relationship.
He also entered into several written retainer agreements that contained a nonrefundable clause, delayed filing a bankruptcy petition for 21 months, and failed to file federal and state personal income tax returns for the years 2002-2007.
The New York court found that Gonzalez violated the Code of Professional Responsibility by “conduct adversely reflecting on his fitness as a lawyer, in violation of Code of Professional Responsibility DR 1-102(a)(7) (22 NYCRR 1200.3[a])”; “engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit and misrepresentation in violation of DR 1- 102(a)(4) (22 NYCRR 1200.3[a])”; “intentionally prejudicing or damaging his client, during the course of the professional relationship, in violation of DR 7-101(a)(3) (22 NYCRR 1200.32[a])”; and entering into a written retainer agreement with clients that contained a nonrefundable fee clause, in violation of Rule 1.5(d)(4) of the Rules of Professional Conduct (22 NYCRR 1200.0).
The New York court also found that Gonzalez neglected a legal matter entrusted to him, in violation of Rule 1.3(b); caused a cash withdrawal in the amount of $1,400 from his master escrow account, not to a named payee, violating Rule 1.15(e); and engaged in conduct adversely reflecting on his fitness as a lawyer by failing to file federal and state personal income tax returns for the years 2002-2007, in violation of DR 1-102(a)(7).
Gonzalez had no prior Wisconsin discipline.
Disciplinary Proceedings Against Harvey N. Jones
On Oct. 18, 2016, the supreme court revoked the Wisconsin law license of Harvey N. Jones, Minnesota. The OLR and Jones had entered into an agreement for revocation of Jones’ Wisconsin law license as discipline reciprocal to a July 31, 2013, disbarment imposed on Jones’ Minnesota law license by the Minnesota Supreme Court. In addition, Jones failed to notify the OLR of his Minnesota discipline within 20 days after the discipline. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Jones, 2016 WI 86.
The 2013 Minnesota disbarment arose out of Jones’ misconduct in violation of Minnesota Rules of Professional Conduct 1.15(a), (c)(3) and (c)(4) and 8.4(c), Rule 25, RLPR, Minnesota Rule of Professional Conduct 8.1(b), and Minnesota Rule of Professional Conduct 1.15 and Appendix 1 and Rule 9(a)(1), RLPR.
Jones’ Minnesota disbarment involved misappropriation of client and nonclient funds, failure to respond to the Minnesota investigation and to file a timely answer to the misconduct charges, and failure to maintain ledgers, monthly balances, and trust account reconciliations.
Jones’ Wisconsin disciplinary history consists of an administrative suspension on Oct. 31, 2011, for failure to pay State Bar of Wisconsin dues, failure to comply with the OLR’s trust account certification, and failure to comply with continuing legal education requirements.
Jones had no prior Wisconsin discipline.