Disciplinary Proceedings Against Christopher E. Meisel
On April 26, 2017, the Wisconsin Supreme Court suspended the law license of Christopher E. Meisel, Milwaukee, for 18 months, effective June 7, 2017, and ordered him to pay the $10,831.67 cost of the disciplinary proceeding. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Meisel, 2017 WI 40. The suspension was based on 15 counts of misconduct.
Meisel represented an estate that had a wrongful death claim. After settling that claim, Meisel disbursed $50,003.29 belonging to the estate for personal purposes, including his investment in a real estate venture (King Park), thereby failing to hold in trust and converting those funds, in violation of SCR 20:1.15(b)(1) and SCR 20:8.4(c). He later deposited $47,244.20 of personal or law firm funds to the trust account to replace the conversions, in violation of SCR 20:1.15(b)(3).
In October 2007, Meisel was appointed as guardian ad litem for two girls (Y.M. and D.C.) whose parents had died in an automobile accident. He established a separate, fiduciary account for each guardianship. Between March 2009 and November 2012, Meisel failed to hold as much as $21,000 belonging to D.C. in her account and as much as $21,455.25 belonging to Y.M. in her account, in violation of SCR 20:1.15(j)(1) (two counts).
Meisel thereafter converted and reconverted their funds, in violation of SCR 20:8.4(c) (two counts). He deposited $57,800.61 in King Park funds and funds that he converted from an estate to D.C.’s account to conceal his conversions and reconversions from that guardianship, in violation of SCR 20:1.15(j)(1) and SCR 20:8.4(c). Similarly, he deposited $70,056.12 belonging to King Park and the estate to Y.M.’s account to conceal his repeated conversions, in violation of the same rules (two counts).
Meisel also filed annual accounts with the probate court for each of the guardianships that included documentation of account balances that had been deliberately and temporarily inflated to conceal his conversions, in violation of SCR 20:3.3(a)(1).
In connection with another estate, Meisel failed to hold as much as $31,201.48 in the estate’s account and converted those funds to his own purposes, in violation of SCR 20:1.15(j)(1) and SCR 20:8.4(c).
Finally, Meisel failed to maintain complete records for his trust account, in violation of SCR 20:1.15(f)(1)a., b., and g.
Meisel has no prior discipline. Meisel presented evidence of medical and personal issues that purportedly affected his judgment. The court’s opinion states that “absent those medical and personal issues a very lengthy suspension, or perhaps even revocation, would be under consideration.”
Disciplinary Proceedings Against Alan R. Stewart
On April 26, 2017, pursuant to a stipulation, the supreme court suspended the law license of Alan R. Stewart, Appleton, for nine months and ordered him to pay restitution to a client and the Wisconsin Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection (the fund). Disciplinary Proceedings Against Stewart, 2017 WI 41. In addition, the court ordered Stewart to pay the full $645.46 cost of the disciplinary proceeding.
Stewart was admitted to practice law in Wisconsin in 1992. His Wisconsin law license had been temporarily suspended since Feb. 10, 2015, for failing to cooperate with the Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR) in two investigations. On March 19, 2001, Stewart was initially registered as a patent attorney with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Stewart is not currently registered as a patent attorney with the USPTO.
The court found that Stewart committed 11 counts of misconduct, which arose out of two OLR investigations. In January 2014, a couple hired Stewart to draft and file a nonprovisional patent application. Stewart never drafted the nonprovisional patent application, and he failed to perform any meaningful work in the matter.
Stewart failed to respond to several telephone calls and emails from the clients requesting information, and he did not keep them reasonably informed about the status of their matter. Notwithstanding multiple requests received from the clients, Stewart did not refund their $4,400 advanced fee. Stewart also failed to return the clients’ product sample and papers even after they requested that he do so. The clients filed an application for reimbursement in the amount of $4,400 with the fund, and in December 2014, the fund approved payment in that amount.
Another client hired Stewart in May 2014 to draft and file a nonprovisional patent application for her mechanical invention and to represent her in the intellectual property matter. Stewart never drafted the nonprovisional patent application and failed to perform any meaningful work in the matter. Stewart failed to respond to the client’s telephone calls and emails requesting information, and he did not otherwise keep her informed about the status of her matter. Stewart did not refund the client’s $8,000 advanced fee, and he failed to respond to her request for a refund.
The court ordered Stewart to reimburse $4,400 to the fund and to pay $8,000 restitution to the client in the second matter.
Stewart’s misconduct included violations of SCR 20:1.3; SCR 20:1.4(a)(3) and (4); SCR 20:1.5(a); SCR 20:1.16(d); SCR 20:8.4(c); and SCR 22:03(2) and (6), enforced via 20:8.4(h).
Stewart had no prior discipline.
Disciplinary Proceedings Against John R. Dade
On May 23, 2017, pursuant to an SCR 22.12 stipulation between the respondent and the OLR, the supreme court publicly reprimanded John R. Dade, Whitewater. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Dade, 2017 WI 51. Because the matter was resolved without referee involvement, the court did not impose any costs.
In November 2009, a client paid Dade an advanced fee of $3,000 for “case evaluation/possible representation.” In January 2010, the client formally hired Dade to represent him on eight felony drug charges in Walworth County and in a pending probation revocation proceeding.
By failing to communicate to the client in writing the scope of his representation or the basis or rate of his fee or expenses for which the client would be responsible, and by failing to communicate to the client in writing the purpose and effect of the $3,000 advanced fee that the client paid, Dade violated SCR 20:1.5(b)(1) and (2).
By making several disbursements from his trust account for the purpose of collecting attorney fees without first transmitting the requisite notice to the client, Dade violated former SCR 20:1.15(g)(1).
Dade previously received a private reprimand in 1991, a public reprimand in 2007, a 60-day suspension in 2007, a public reprimand in 2012, a 60-day suspension in 2013, and a 90-day suspension in 2014.
Disciplinary Proceeding Against John H. Peiss
On May 11, 2017, the supreme court revoked the Wisconsin law license of John H. Peiss, Illinois, as discipline reciprocal to the Sept. 21, 2015, disbarment order of the Illinois Supreme Court. In addition, Peiss failed to notify the OLR about his Illinois discipline within 20 days after the discipline. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Peiss, 2017 WI 49
The 2015 Illinois disbarment arose out of misconduct that included 1) practicing law in a jurisdiction where doing so violates the regulation of the legal profession in that jurisdiction, by practicing law in Illinois while suspended in violation of Illinois Rule of Professional Conduct 5.5(a); 2) committing a criminal act that reflects adversely on the attorney’s honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer in other respects by committing the criminal offense of theft, in violation of Illinois Rule of Professional Conduct 8.4(c); 3) engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation, in violation of Illinois Rule of Professional Conduct 8.4(d); and 4) engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice, in violation of Illinois Rule of Professional Conduct 8.4(d).
Peiss’s Wisconsin law license was suspended in 2010 for one year as discipline reciprocal to that imposed by the Illinois Supreme Court.
Disciplinary Proceedings Against Adam A. Gillette
On May 11, 2017, the supreme court suspended the Wisconsin law license of Adam A. Gillette, Minnesota, for 60 days, reciprocal to discipline imposed by the Minnesota Supreme Court. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Gillette,2017 WI 48. The Wisconsin order required Gillette to comply with all terms and conditions set forth in the Oct. 10, 2016, Minnesota order.
The Minnesota suspension resulted from Gillette violating Minnesota Rules of Professional Conduct 1.1, 1.3, 1.4, 4.1, and 8.4(c) stemming from two matters. In the first matter, Gillette failed to inform clients that they were unlikely to prevail on any claims, falsely informed the clients that he was continuing to pursue the matter when he did not intend to, and ultimately misrepresented to the clients that the matter had been settled for a substantial sum of money when the statute of limitation had actually expired.
In the second matter, Gillette failed to perform any work on behalf of the client and allowed the statute of limitation to expire.
Gillette had no prior Wisconsin discipline.
Disciplinary Proceedings Against Carl J. Schwedler
On June 1, 2017, the supreme court suspended the Wisconsin law license of Carl J. Schwedler, California, for six months as discipline reciprocal to a USPTO administrative suspension and exclusion from practice. In addition, Schwedler failed to notify the OLR about his USPTO discipline within 20 days after the discipline. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Schwedler, 2017 WI 54.
The USPTO suspension and exclusion from practice resulted from findings that Schwedler violated eight USPTO Rules of Professional Conduct. Essentially, Schwedler undertook to represent a client in a patent application, accepted a $1,500 retainer, and abandoned the client’s matter.
On default, the USPTO found that Schwedler failed to act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client. He failed to keep the client reasonably informed about the status of the matter, including not informing the client that the application was never filed. He failed to promptly comply with reasonable requests for information. Schwedler did not resume communications with the client until after the client’s son began to ask about the status of the application. Further, Schwedler gave the client’s son incorrect information by indicating that “everything is normal here” when in fact the application had been abandoned.
Schwedler’s misconduct also included failing to promptly deliver any funds or property that the client is entitled to receive, in that when the client requested that the prototype for the invention be returned, Schwedler did not do so. After the client informed Schwedler that his responsibility for the prosecution of the application had been transferred to another registered practitioner, Schwedler did not return the $1,500 fee, thereby failing to surrender papers and property to which the client was entitled.
Schwedler’s conduct was also found to involve dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation, when he sent a misleading email stating “I have everything in order for filing the response” when in fact, the application had become abandoned. Finally, Schwedler’s failure to respond to demands for information from the discipline agency’s demands for information constituted noncooperation and was found to be prejudicial to the administration of justice.
Schwedler had no prior discipline in Wisconsin.