Public Reprimand of Frank Medina
The Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR) and Frank Medina, Madison, entered into an agreement for the imposition of a public reprimand, pursuant to SCR 22.09(1). A Wisconsin Supreme Court-appointed referee approved the agreement and issued the public reprimand on Oct. 16, 2017, pursuant to SCR 22.09(3). The public reprimand is based on eight counts of professional misconduct stemming from two client matters.
In the first matter, Medina agreed to assist a man in seeking dismissal of a 1999 misdemeanor conviction, removal from the Wisconsin Sex Offender Registry, and a pardon of a 1996 felony conviction. Medina deposited all advanced fee payments (totaling $4,000) into his business account. By failing to provide the client at the outset of the representation with all the notices required under former SCR 20:1.15(b)(4m)a., Medina violated former SCR 20:1.15(b)(4m)a. (effective before July 1, 2016).
In late 2015, the client terminated the representation in writing and requested a refund of the entire advanced fee. By failing, at termination of the representation, to provide the client with a final accounting and all notices required under former SCR 20:1.15(b)(4m)b., Medina violated former SCR 20:1.15(b)(4m)b. (effective before July 1, 2016).
Medina failed to perform all the representation objectives listed in the fee agreement, and his time records show he earned less than $4,000. Medina failed to refund any portion of the client’s advanced fee payments, in violation of SCR 20:1.16(d). Medina also failed to provide a timely response to an OLR inquiry, in violation of SCR 22.03(6), enforceable via SCR 20:8.4(h).
In the second matter, Medina met with a woman to discuss several post-divorce issues. Medina collected advanced fee payments (totaling $1,500), which he deposited into his business account without acting in a manner indicating an intention to use the alternative advanced-fee-placement measures formerly stated in SCR 20:1.15(b)(4m). By failing to hold the advanced fee in trust, Medina violated former SCR 20:1.15(b)(4) (effective before July 1, 2016).
Medina failed to contact the client after the first meeting and otherwise failed to advance the client’s interests, in violation of SCR 20:1.3.
Medina stated that he performed administrative tasks associated with the client’s case after the first meeting, and he eventually stopped working on it altogether when the client failed to return to Medina’s office to sign the fee agreement. By failing to refund the client’s unearned advanced fee, Medina again violated SCR 20:1.16(d). Medina also failed to provide a timely written response to the grievance, in violation of SCR 22.03(2) and (6), enforceable via SCR 20:8.4(h).
Medina was privately reprimanded for similar misconduct in 2016.
As a condition of the imposition of this public reprimand, Medina refunded at least $436 to the client in the first matter and $1,500 to the client in the second matter.
Disciplinary Proceedings Against Steven Cohen
The supreme court suspended the law license of Steven Cohen, Madison, for four months, effective Dec. 29, 2017. The court also ordered Cohen to pay the $8,608.20 cost of the disciplinary proceeding. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Cohen, 2017 WI 96.
In November 2014, Cohen was convicted of two misdemeanor counts of obstructing an officer and disorderly conduct (with a finding of guilt on one felony count of delivery of illegal articles to an inmate). These convictions stemmed from the following events.
Cohen visited a client in the Columbia Correctional Institution. During the visit, Cohen gave the client, who was serving a life sentence for a homicide conviction, two toothbrushes and a container of red pepper. According to prison authorities, the toothbrushes could be fashioned into shanks and the pepper could be made into pepper spray. Cohen denied knowing about the items.
By engaging in acts leading to a finding of guilt for delivery of illegal articles to an inmate, and, in addition, for acts leading to convictions for resisting or obstructing an officer and disorderly conduct, Cohen violated SCR 20:8.4(b).
In a separate matter, Cohen represented a client in a criminal case. Cohen accepted an advanced fee of $2,500. However, Cohen did not prepare a written fee agreement identifying the scope of the representation, the basis or rate of the fee, or the purpose and effect of the advanced fee.
The client attempted to communicate with Cohen but was unable to adequately communicate with him and discuss the circumstances of his case. By failing to prepare a written fee agreement and by failing to communicate with the client, Cohen violated SCR 20:1.5(b)(1) and (2) and SCR 20:1.4(a)(4).
Cohen had one private reprimand, in 2007, also involving a disorderly conduct conviction.
Disciplinary Proceedings Against Sergio Magaña
On Nov. 28, 2017, the supreme court revoked the law license of Sergio Magaña, Milwaukee, and ordered him to pay restitution to various clients and the law firm for which he formerly worked. In addition, the court ordered Magaña to pay the full $4,925.31 cost of the disciplinary proceeding. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Magaña, 2017 WI 97.
Magaña was admitted to practice law in Wisconsin in 2012.
The OLR filed an amended complaint alleging 74 counts of misconduct, 72 of which stemmed from Magaña’s practice of immigration law at a firm in the Milwaukee area. In the relevant client matters Magaña often collected flat fees and cost advances from clients and then failed to perform the work he had agreed to perform on the clients’ behalf. Magaña also repeatedly ignored clients’ requests for information regarding their cases, and when he did communicate with clients, he often provided them with false information, including fabricated documents and case numbers, to mislead clients into believing their cases were progressing.
Magaña later left the law firm but did not inform clients of his departure or otherwise take steps to protect clients’ interests. Magaña was also uncooperative with the OLR during the investigation of his conduct. Finally, Magaña pleaded guilty in April 2014 to a charge of misdemeanor operating while intoxicated (second offense) and failed to timely report that conviction to the OLR and the clerk of the supreme court.
Magaña’s misconduct included violations of SCR 20:1.3; 20:1.4(a)(3) and (4); 20:1.15(b)(1); 20:8.4(c); 22:03(2) and (6), enforced via 20:8.4(h); 20:8.4(b); and 21.15(5).
The court described the scope of Magaña’s misconduct as “vast and troubling” and further stated that the facts, undisputed by Magaña, demonstrated a pattern of neglect for clients’ needs and his professional obligations as a lawyer and a lack of truthfulness. The court stated, “no sanction short of revocation would be sufficient to protect the public, deter other lawyers from similar behavior, and impress upon Attorney Magaña the many errors of his ways. In short, Attorney Magaña cannot be entrusted with a law license.”
Magaña had no prior discipline.
Public Reprimand of Joseph E. Schubert
The OLR and Joseph E. Schubert, Milwaukee, agreed to 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 Nov. 1, 2017, in accordance with SCR 22.09(3). Public Reprimand of Schubert, 2017 OLR 7.
In May 2013, the Office of the State Public Defender (SPD) appointed Schubert to provide appellate-level representation to a man following his criminal conviction. Despite receiving four letters from the client requesting information and contact, Schubert’s first contact with the client occurred by telephone in December 2013. During the call, Schubert stated “substantial work” would begin after Schubert received the transcripts of the client’s trial and sentencing. Schubert promised to meet with the client the following week but did not do so.
Schubert received the transcripts no later than March 6, 2014. Between the December 2013 call and March 2014, the client sent five letters providing and requesting information. Schubert did not respond.
Between May 2014 and September 2015, Schubert filed 12 motions to extend the deadline for filing postconviction motions or notice of appeal. In connection with one motion, Schubert asserted he needed to put the postconviction motion in “final form,” when Schubert had not yet drafted any portion of a postconviction filing.
In connection with another motion, Schubert asserted he was requesting an extension to perform investigations, but Schubert never pursued the investigations, despite the client’s repeated requests. In connection with a third motion, Schubert asserted, “Since my last extension request, I roughed out post-conviction motions,” even though Schubert had not worked on postconviction motion content during that time.
Schubert did not typically provide the client with contemporaneous notice or copies of his extension motions or communicate to the client the court’s action on those motions, even after instructed to do so by the SPD. The client repeatedly wrote to the Wisconsin Court of Appeals to request information. The clerk’s office copied Schubert on its responses, which referred to SCR 20:1.4.
Schubert failed to respond to numerous requests from the client for information and failed to timely provide copies of requested trial exhibits.
As of August 2015, Schubert had only partially drafted the client’s postconviction motions. The SPD appointed successor counsel in September 2015.
By failing to pursue the client’s interests in timely filing a postconviction motion or notice of appeal, Schubert violated SCR 20:1.3.
By failing at various times during the representation to communicate with the client about the representation and to initiate case status updates, including by failing to provide copies of deadline-extension motions filed in the court of appeals or to otherwise inform the client of those motions, Schubert violated SCR 20:1.4(a)(3).
By failing to respond to the client’s reasonable requests for information, including by failing between April 2014 and July 2015 to provide requested copies of trial exhibits, Schubert violated SCR 20:1.4(a)(4).
In 2015, Schubert received a private reprimand for violations of SCR 20:1.3 and SCR 20:1.4(a)(3) and (4).
Public Reprimand of Christopher Stephen Petros
The OLR and Christopher Stephen Petros, Hudson, 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 Oct. 27, 2017, in accordance with SCR 22.09(3).
The reprimand concerns Petros’ misconduct in two client matters. In the first matter, a woman hired Petros to draft a contract for rights to eggs and embryos donated to the woman by a family member. Petros failed to provide the woman with the contract he was hired to prepare, either in draft or final form, in violation of SCR 20:1.3.
Upon withdrawing from his trust account the fees the woman paid to him, Petros failed to provide the required notices, in violation of former SCR 20:1.15(g) (effective before July 1, 2016). Finally, Petros failed to timely respond to an investigative letter from the OLR, in violation of SCR 22.03(2), enforced via SCR 20:8.4(h).
In the second matter, a man hired Petros to assist him in securing a name change for his son. Over a 16-month period, Petros failed to meaningfully advance the name change matter, in violation of SCR 20:1.3. Additionally, Petros failed to timely respond to an investigative letter from the OLR, in violation of SCR 22.03(2), enforced via SCR 20:8.4(h).
In 2014, Petros received a 90-day license suspension as discipline reciprocal to that imposed by the Minnesota Supreme Court.