Public Reprimand of Janet L. Heins
On Oct. 19, 2017, the Wisconsin Supreme Court publicly reprimanded Janet L. Heins, Mequon. The court further ordered Heins to submit a fee dispute with a client to binding fee arbitration and to pay the cost of the disciplinary proceeding, which totaled $2,378.02. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Heins, 2017 WI 93.
Heins stipulated to the misconduct charged by the Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR) and that a public reprimand was the appropriate level of discipline for six counts of misconduct related to three client matters. Heins further stipulated that she be required to submit a fee dispute to the State Bar fee arbitration program and comply with any arbitration award.
In the first matter, Heins failed to provide at the termination of her representation of a client the notices required by former SCR 20:1.15(b)(4m)b. Heins also failed to submit a fee dispute with that client to binding fee arbitration, in violation of former SCR 20:1.15(b)(4m)c.
In the second matter, Heins failed to hold a client’s funds in trust, in violation of SCR 20:1.15(b)(1), and failed to timely deliver to the client settlement funds belonging to the client, in violation of former SCR 20:1.15(d). During the investigation of the matter, Heins failed to timely respond to requests for information and failed to timely provide requested trust account records, in violation of SCR 22.03(2) and (6), enforceable by SCR 20:8.4(h).
In the third matter, Heins failed to hold a client’s funds in trust, in violation of SCR 20:1.15(b)(1).
Heins had no prior discipline.
Disciplinary Proceedings Against Robert Baratki
The supreme court suspended the law license of Robert Baratki, Racine, for six months, effective Nov. 14, 2017. The court also ordered Baratki to pay the cost of the disciplinary proceeding and to pay restitution of $487.50 to a former client. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Baratki, 2017 WI 89.
Baratki engaged in six counts of professional misconduct involving two clients. In addition, Baratki practiced law while his law license was suspended.
In the first matter, Baratki represented a client in a divorce proceeding. During the representation, Baratki sent flirtatious and sometimes sexual text messages to the client. In one meeting, Baratki lifted the client’s shirt and kissed the client’s abdominal area. After the client filed a grievance, Baratki failed to cooperate with the OLR’s investigation.
Baratki violated SCR 20:1.7(a)(2) (conflict of interest), SCR 20:8.4(i) (harassment), SCR 40.15 and SCR 20:8.4(g) (attorney’s oath), SCR 22.03(2), SCR 22.03(6), and SCR 20:8.4(h) (failure to cooperate).
In a second matter, Baratki represented a client in divorce proceedings. Almost two years later, Baratki withdrew from the representation without the court’s permission. Baratki failed to refund a portion of fees owed to the client or provide an accounting to the client.
Baratki violated SCR 20:1.3 (diligence) and SCR 20:1.16(d) (failure to protect client’s interests upon termination of representation).
In November 2015, the State Bar of Wisconsin suspended Baratki’s law license because he had neither paid his State Bar dues nor complied with trust account certification requirements. Over the next several weeks, Baratki appeared in court or filed documents in 15 matters. Baratki also met with clients while his law license was suspended. The OLR opened an inquiry, and Baratki failed to timely cooperate with the OLR’s investigation.
Baratki violated former SCR
20:1.15(i)(1) (trust account certificate), SCR 22.26(2) and SCR 20:8.4(f) (unauthorized practice of law), SCR 22.03(2), and SCR 20:8.4(h) (failure to cooperate).
Baratki received two private reprimands, in 2006 and 2014, both involving similar misconduct.