Disciplinary Proceedings Against Shawn G. Rice
On Jan. 6, 2017, the Wisconsin Supreme Court suspended the law license of Shawn G. Rice for 60 days, effective Feb. 17, 2017. In addition, the court ordered Rice to pay the $14,064.72 cost of the disciplinary proceeding. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Rice, 2017 WI 1.
Rice’s wife was co-trustee of a trust. For 12 years during their marriage, and continuing until his wife filed for divorce, Rice, by forging his wife’s signature and the signature of the second co-trustee, prepared and executed, without authorization, numerous forms, checks, and other trust documents. Rice violated SCR 20:8.4(c).
In 2007, Rice was publicly reprimanded for three violations of SCR 20:8.4(c) in connection with a real estate transaction.
Disciplinary Proceedings Against Melinda Alfredson
On Feb. 1, 2017, pursuant to a stipulation, the supreme court suspended the law license of Melinda R. Alfredson for 60 days, effective March 15, 2017. The court also ordered Alfredson to pay restitution of $1,809.71 within 60 days after issuance of the order. No costs were imposed. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Alfredson, 2017 WI 6.
The suspension was based on 16 counts of misconduct relating to Alfredson’s trust account and her representation of two clients. The first four counts involved Alfredson’s representation of a client in appealing the denial of his Social Security claims.
Alfredson’s misconduct included failing to pursue the appeal for more than one year, in violation of SCR 20:1.3; failing to provide the client with accurate information on the status of the matter, in violation of SCR 20:1.4(a)(3) and (4); providing false information to the client, in violation of SCR 20:8.4(c); and providing false information to the Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR) during its investigation, in violation of SCR 22.03(6), enforced via SCR 20:8.4(h)
The next eight counts related to Alfredson’s representation of a client regarding a paternity and custody matter. The client paid Alfredson a $1,500 advanced fee, which was deposited into Alfredson’s business account under former SCR 20:1.15(b)(4m).
The misconduct included one count for delay in filing the petition for custody and other papers and failing to serve the action, in violation of SCR 20:1.3; one count for failing to provide the client with written disclosures required when a fee advance is deposited into the business account, in violation of former SCR 20:1.15(b)(4m)b.; and two counts regarding failure to properly withdraw from a representation by failing to timely file a consent for substitution and failing to refund any of the advanced fee, in violation of SCR 20:1.16(d).
The misconduct also included four counts involving dishonesty or misrepresentation, all of which violated SCR 20:8.4(c). Alfredson asserted to the client that she could not refund the fee because it was in trust, when she had deposited it to her business account; asserted to the OLR that she had provided the client with written notice of his ability to contest the fee when she had not done so; charged the client a $75 service fee when she was never billed for service; and provided false information to the client on the status of the case.
The final four counts related to Alfredson’s trust account. All the violations involved the trust account rules that were in effect through June 30, 2016.
The misconduct included depositing at least $1,698.29 in law firm and personal funds into the trust account and paying business and personal expenses from that account, in violation of SCR 20:1.15(b)(3); making $1,733.29 in internet deposits into the trust account, in violation of SCR 20:1.15(e)(4)c.; failing to address negative balances in the trust account caused by overdrafts, totaling $309.71, in violation of SCR 20:8.4(c); and failing to cooperate with the OLR’s investigation, in violation of SCR 22.03(2) and (6), as enforced via 20:8.4(h).
Alfredson had no prior discipline.
Public Reprimand of Emily Davey
The OLR and Emily Davey, Milwaukee, entered into an agreement for the 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 Jan. 26, 2017, in accordance with SCR 22.09(3).
Davey represented a client in a suit filed in circuit court seeking damages for injuries the client suffered while in the custody of Milwaukee County. The client had previously filed a federal claim, based on the same injuries, as a self-represented party. The federal claim was dismissed without prejudice during Davey’s representation of the client. Davey did not represent the client in the federal case.
The client signed a settlement agreement in the state matter and mailed it to Davey. Davey backdated her own signature to conform with the client’s and notarized the document even though she had not been present when the client signed.
Davey then modified the settlement agreement and sent it to Milwaukee County.
The client had a copy of a settlement agreement that did not waive his federal claim. The agreement in Milwaukee County’s possession contained no such “carve out” language and was used to defeat a second federal claim filed by the client.
In trying to sort out the terms of the settlement agreement, the federal court issued multiple orders to Davey that she address the issue and provide a chronology of the settlement negotiations. Davey was not entirely informative in her responses to the federal court.
Davey violated SCR 20:1.2(a) by failing to fully consult with the client regarding the client’s objective to preserve his right to file suit in federal court while settling the state claim and by failing to pursue that objective.
Davey violated SCR 20:1.4(a)(2) by failing to consult with the client as to the means by which he could settle the state claim while preserving his right to sue in federal court.
By backdating her signature and notarizing the agreement signed by the client outside her presence on a previous date and by modifying and sending the modified and falsely notarized agreement to counsel for Milwaukee County, Davey violated SCR 20:8.4(c).
By failing to comply with the federal court’s orders, Davey violated SCR 20:3.4(c).
Davey had no prior discipline.
Public Reprimand of David A. Lemanski
On Feb. 1, 2017, the supreme court publicly reprimanded David A. Lemanski. The court ordered Lemanski to pay the $1,192.03 cost of the disciplinary proceeding and further ordered him to pay $1,471.50 in opposing parties’ fees and costs in an underlying matter as previously ordered by another court. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Lemanski, 2017 WI 5.
Lemanski’s misconduct occurred in two matters. In the first matter, Lemanski represented a man in a legal separation. After being discharged by the client, Lemanski caused the former client to miss a deposition, as well as other discovery deadlines. Lemanski was ordered to pay the costs and fees incurred by the opposing party for the delay but failed to do so, in violation of SCR 20:3.4(c). Lemanski also failed to cooperate with the OLR’s investigation of the matter, leading to the temporary suspension of his license, in violation of SCR 22.03(2) and (6), which are enforced through SCR 20:8.4(h).
In the second matter, Lemanski accepted $2,000 in advanced fees from a client and failed to enter into a written fee agreement with the client, in violation of SCR 20:1.5(b)(1) and (2).
In March 2015, Lemanski’s Wisconsin law license was suspended for 60 days, as discipline reciprocal to that imposed by the Iowa Supreme Court. Lemanski has not sought reinstatement following that suspension, which therefore remains in effect. His license is also suspended for failing to pay mandatory State Bar of Wisconsin dues and failing to file a trust account certification.
Disciplinary Proceedings Against Ty Christopher Willihnganz
On Jan. 31, 2017, the supreme court publicly reprimanded Ty Christopher Willihnganz, Green Bay, and ordered him to pay the $5,028.97 cost of the disciplinary proceeding. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Willihnganz, 2017 WI 4.
Willihnganz was admitted to practice law in Wisconsin on April 11, 1996. The disciplinary proceeding arose from Willihnganz’s professional involvement with a Green Bay businessperson and family friend, R.V.
Willihnganz negotiated an agreement with R.V., whereby R.V. agreed to provide Willihnganz with office space for his legal practice and to pay his State Bar of Wisconsin bar dues and CLE expenses in exchange for Willihnganz providing certain legal services to R.V. and his startup company.
In March 2013, an individual who had invested $600,000 in the company filed a lawsuit in Brown County Circuit Court against R.V. and the company, alleging that his investment was obtained by fraudulent misrepresentation.
On June 4, 2013, Willihnganz’s law license was administratively suspended for his failure to comply with 2011-12 CLE requirements. Willihnganz told R.V. about the suspension and urged him to obtain new counsel but did not promptly provide formal written notification of his suspension to the court or to opposing counsel. Willihnganz sent a letter and answers to interrogatories to opposing counsel on June 5, 2013, one day after his administrative license suspension took effect.
On Sept. 20, 2013, Willihnganz appeared on behalf of R.V. and the company for a telephone scheduling conference. Willihnganz did not inform the court, the clerk, or opposing counsel that his license was administratively suspended.
Willihnganz violated SCR 20:1.16(d) by failing to take steps to protect the interests of R.V. and the company upon termination of his representation of them. Willihnganz violated SCR 22.26(1)(c) by failing to promptly provide written notification to the court and opposing counsel of his June 4, 2013, law license suspension. Willihnganz violated SCR 31.10(1) and 22.26(2) by practicing law after his law license was suspended.
Willihnganz’s disciplinary history included a public reprimand in 2004 and a private reprimand in 2008.