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    Lawyer Discipline

    The Office of Lawyer Regulation, an agency of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, provides these summaries.


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    The Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR), an agency of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, provides these summaries. The OLR assists the court in supervising the practice of law and protecting the public from misconduct by lawyers. The OLR has offices at 110 E. Main St., Suite 315, Madison, WI 53703; toll-free (877) 315-6941. Find the full text of these summaries at www.wicourts.gov/olr.

    Public Discipline

    Denial of Reinstatement Petition of Richard W. Voss

    In 2014, Richard W. Voss’s law license was suspended for 18 months. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Voss, 2014 WI 75, 356 Wis. 2d 382, 850 N.W.2d 190. In 2015, his law license was suspended for 60 days, to run consecutive to the discipline imposed in 2014. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Voss, 2015 WI 104, 365 Wis. 2d 442, 871 N.W.2d 859. In March 2016, Voss filed a petition for reinstatement of his law license.

    After a hearing, a referee determined that Voss had not met his burden of proof – that he fully complied with all terms of the suspension order – and that Voss did not show he could be safely recommended to resume practice. Voss appealed. On March 1, 2018, the Wisconsin Supreme Court denied Voss’s petition for reinstatement and ordered Voss to pay the $4,034.75 cost of the reinstatement proceeding. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Voss, 2018 WI 18.

    Private Discipline

    Second-offense Operating While Intoxicated

    Violation of SCR 20:8.4(b)

    While driving his car, a lawyer struck a parked vehicle in a parking lot and left the scene. Police were quickly able to use license plate information to locate the lawyer at his home, where he failed field-sobriety tests and showed other signs of intoxication. The lawyer was arrested. An evidentiary test of the lawyer’s blood approximately one hour after his arrest showed a breath-alcohol concentration of 0.08 g/210L.

    The lawyer entered a guilty plea and was convicted of misdemeanor second-offense operating while intoxicated (OWI). The lawyer’s sentence included a fine, jail time, and license revocation. The lawyer timely reported his criminal conviction to the Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR) and to the clerk of the supreme court, in accordance with SCR 21.15(5).

    By engaging in conduct leading to a criminal conviction of second-offense OWI, the lawyer violated SCR 20:8.4(b).

    The lawyer had no prior discipline.             

    Failure to Communicate and Explain Matters to Client; Failure to Protect Client Interests Upon Termination of Representation

    Violations of SCR 20:1.4(a)(2) and (b) and SCR 20:1.16(d)

    Following a November 2013 slip and fall incident, a woman hired a lawyer to represent her in a personal-injury matter. The lawyer determined in mid-2016 that he could not find a path to recover a sum the client sought. The lawyer did not communicate this determination to the client.

    The lawyer last met with the client in November 2016. During the meeting, the lawyer instructed the client to obtain a letter from her physician. The lawyer did not communicate with the client after the November 2016 meeting. By the time the client produced the letter from her physician, her claim had likely been barred by the applicable three-year statute of limitation. The lawyer did not bring up this circumstance during the November 2016 meeting.

    Having concluded that the client’s claim would not lead to a recovery in the amount she desired, failing to convey that conclusion to the client within a reasonable time before her claim was rendered time-barred by the applicable three-year statute of limitation, and failing to explain her options in light of his conclusion, the lawyer violated SCR 20:1.4(a)(2) and (b).

    By closing his law practice in December 2016 and thereby effectively terminating his representation of the client, failing to notify the client of the closure, and otherwise failing to take steps to protect her interests upon the termination of representation, the lawyer violated SCR 20:1.16(d).

    The lawyer had no prior discipline.

    Failure to Competently Close Estate; Taking Loan From Client

    Violations of SCR 20:1.1 and SCR 20:1.8(a)

    A lawyer representing the personal representatives of an estate failed to ascertain the rightful owner of $20,489.68 remaining in the estate’s checking account before closing the estate. The lawyer filed with the court a final accounting that failed to account for the remaining amount. The lawyer filed with the court the final accounting and allowed the estate to be closed without accounting for, or advising the court of, two outstanding debts of which the lawyer was aware. These actions caused the personal representatives to hire successor counsel to petition the court to reopen the probate matter to resolve these outstanding issues. By engaging in such conduct, the lawyer violated SCR 20:1.1.

    In addition, the lawyer sought and obtained from the estate a $3,000 personal loan (later repaid) without reducing to writing the terms of the loan, without advising the clients to seek independent legal counsel on the transaction, and without obtaining the clients’ informed written consent. By engaging in the described loan transaction, the lawyer violated SCR 20:1.8(a).

    The lawyer had no prior discipline.

    Criminal Act Reflecting Adversely on Fitness to Practice

    Violation of SCR 20:8.4(b)

    Police officers observed a vehicle parked with its engine running and a person, a lawyer, sitting in the driver’s seat and slumped over the center console. Police woke the lawyer, who then exited the vehicle. The lawyer exhibited signs of intoxication before and while performing field-sobriety tests and was placed under arrest for OWI. The lawyer eventually provided a breath sample, which resulted in a reading of 0.166. The lawyer was convicted of third-offense OWI.

    The lawyer’s sentence included 45 days in the Milwaukee County House of Correction, driver’s license revocation for two years, and ignition-interlock-device installation for two years. The lawyer was also ordered to undergo an alcohol assessment and pay a fine and costs.

    The lawyer had no prior discipline.

    Lack of Diligence

    Violation of SCR 20:1.3

    A lawyer represented a client in a criminal matter. Following a jury trial in September 2015, the client was sentenced to three years in state prison followed by 15 years’ extended supervision. On Sept. 14, 2015, the client signed an intent to pursue postconviction relief form, but the lawyer failed to file it. The client, however, was under the impression that the notice of intent to pursue postconviction relief had been filed.

    After learning that the notice had not been filed, the client filed a grievance with the OLR in February 2017. Thereafter, on April 3, 2017, the lawyer filed a notice of intent to pursue postconviction relief as well as a motion for an extension of time to file such notice. On April 18, 2017, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals ordered that the time for filing a notice of intent to pursue postconviction relief was extended to April 3, 2017, and, therefore, the notice was accepted as timely.

    By failing to file a notice of intent to pursue postconviction relief on behalf of the client between September 2015 and April 3, 2017, the lawyer violated SCR 20:1.3.

    The lawyer had no prior discipline.

    Criminal Act Reflecting Adversely on Fitness to Practice; Failure to Report Criminal Conviction

    Violations of SCR 20:8.4(b) and SCR 21.15(5)

    Police officers and firefighters were dispatched to an intersection in a residential neighborhood because a vehicle was stopped in the middle of a roadway. Firefighters found the driver, a lawyer, asleep behind the wheel of the running vehicle. Police officers made contact with the lawyer and detected an odor of intoxicants coming from the lawyer. After failing field-sobriety tests, the lawyer was arrested. The lawyer submitted to an evidentiary chemical breath test, the result of which was 0.31. The lawyer was charged with second-offense OWI and second-offense operating with a prohibited alcohol concentration (PAC).

    Pursuant to a guilty plea, the lawyer was convicted of OWI (second). The operating with a PAC (second) charge was dismissed on the prosecutor’s motion. The lawyer was sentenced to three months in jail with Huber privileges, driver’s license revocation for 18 months, and ignition-interlock-device installation for 18 months. The lawyer was also ordered to undergo an alcohol assessment and pay a fine and costs.

    By engaging in conduct leading to a misdemeanor conviction of OWI (second), the lawyer violated SCR 20:8.4(b).

    By failing to notify in writing the OLR and the supreme court clerk within five days after the criminal conviction, the lawyer violated SCR 21.15(5), enforced via SCR 20:8.4(f).

    The lawyer had no prior discipline.

    Criminal Acts Reflecting Adversely on Fitness to Practice

    Violations of SCR 20:8.4(b)

    Police officers were dispatched to an address in reference to a possible violation of a restraining order. The dispatcher advised that the caller said that a person, later identified as the lawyer, rang the caller’s doorbell and was sitting in front of his residence in a vehicle. Police officers contacted both the caller and the lawyer, who refused to answer questions. The lawyer was charged with misdemeanor violating a harassment restraining order.

    The court accepted the lawyer’s guilty plea to misdemeanor violating a harassment restraining order and withheld adjudication. Upon the lawyer’s successful completion of the deferred prosecution/first offender program, the case was dismissed.

    By engaging in conduct leading to his arrest for, and eventual guilty plea to, the criminal act of misdemeanor violating a harassment restraining order, the lawyer violated SCR 20:8.4(b).

    Three months after completion of the deferred prosecution terms, the lawyer was again charged with misdemeanor violating a harassment restraining order.

    Police officers were dispatched to a building in reference to a possible violation of a restraining order. The complainant (the same victim as in the first incident) told the officers the lawyer, who was subject to an active restraining order, entered the building in which he maintains an office. Police officers contacted the lawyer, who admitted he was in the area of that building on the date in question.

    Pursuant to a guilty plea, the lawyer was convicted of misdemeanor violating a harassment restraining order. His sentence included 15 days in jail with Huber privileges.

    By engaging in conduct leading to a conviction of misdemeanor violating a harassment restraining order, the lawyer again violated SCR 20:8.4(b).

    The lawyer had no prior discipline.

    Lack of Diligence; Failure to Communicate

    Violations of SCR 20:1.3 and SCR 20:1.4(b)

    A lawyer represented a client in an immigration matter. At the initial master calendar hearing, the immigration judge set the deadline for the client’s application for cancellation of removal and instructed the client to complete biometrics requirements within 30 days.

    The lawyer told the client that the lawyer would schedule the client’s fingerprinting but then failed to do so. The lawyer also failed to submit the client’s application for cancellation of removal by the deadline. The lawyer asked the immigration judge to accept the client’s application at the client’s final hearing, but the judge declined and ordered the client removed. The lawyer did not prepare the client for the immigration judge’s questioning at the final hearing regarding details of a past incident relevant to the client’s background check.

    By failing to take steps toward the client’s timely satisfaction of the biometrics requirement, failing to submit the client’s application for cancellation of removal by the due date, and failing to prepare the client for questioning at the client’s final hearing, the lawyer violated SCR 20:1.3.

    After issuance of the removal order, the lawyer also failed to explain to the client the option of an appeal or motion to reopen and thus violated SCR 20:1.4(b). The lawyer did, however, provide the client with a list of lawyers with whom the client could discuss a potential appeal.

    The client appealed with successor counsel.

    The lawyer had no prior discipline.

    Criminal Act Reflecting Adversely on Fitness to Practice

    Violation of SCR 20:8.4(b)

    A dispatcher advised police officers of a possibly intoxicated driver. An officer located the vehicle, observed the vehicle travel out of its lane multiple times, and initiated a traffic stop.

    The officer made contact with the driver, a lawyer, and observed that the lawyer had slurred speech and glassy eyes and that a strong odor of alcohol was emanating from the vehicle, as well as from the lawyer. The lawyer failed field-sobriety tests, provided a PBT sample, and was arrested. The lawyer submitted to an evidentiary chemical breath test, which resulted in a reading of 0.09 g/210L. The lawyer was charged with misdemeanor counts of second-offense OWI and second-offense operating with a PAC.

    Pursuant to a guilty plea, the lawyer was convicted of OWI (second). The operating with a PAC (second) charge was dismissed on the prosecutor’s motion. The lawyer’s sentence included five days in jail with Huber privileges, driver’s license revocation for 12 months, and ignition-interlock-device installation for 12 months. The lawyer was also ordered to provide a DNA sample, undergo an alcohol assessment, and pay a fine and costs.

    By engaging in conduct leading to a misdemeanor conviction of OWI (second), the lawyer violated SCR 20:8.4(b). The lawyer had no prior discipline.

    Failure to Provide Accounting or Written Notices Required by Advanced-fee Alternative; Failure to Provide Refund of Unearned Fees

    Violations of former SCR 20:1.15(b)(4m) and SCR 20:16(d)

    A lawyer committed 11 counts of professional misconduct across six client matters. In each matter, the lawyer failed to provide one or more notices required under former SCR 20:1.15(b)(4m), now stated in SCR 20:1.5(g). In five, the lawyer failed, after depositing advanced fees paid by the client into the business account and upon termination of the representation, to provide written notices required under former SCR 20:1.15(b)(4m)b. In each of those matters, the lawyer failed to provide notices relating to binding fee arbitration required by former SCR 20:1.15(b)(4m)b.2 and 3. In two matters, the lawyer additionally failed to provide a final accounting, required by former SCR 20:1.15(b)(4m)b.1.

    In two matters, the lawyer failed, at the outset of the representation, to provide to the client notices required by former SCR 20:1.15(b)(4m) that would allow the lawyer to deposit an advanced fee into the business account. In the first matter, the lawyer deposited a client’s advanced fee into the law business account with no evidence of having provided any required notices. In the second matter, the lawyer failed to notify the client of the lawyer’s obligation to provide an accounting upon terminating representation, as required by former SCR 20:1.15(b)(4m)a.4.

    In four matters, the lawyer failed to take reasonable steps to refund unearned advanced fees to clients upon terminating representation, contrary to SCR 20:1.16(d). Although the lawyer eventually made refunds, the elapsed period from termination of representation to refund ranged from a period of months to, in one instance, two-and-a-half years.

    The lawyer had one prior public reprimand.

    Criminal Act Reflecting Adversely on Fitness to Practice

    Violation of SCR 20:8.4(b)

    Police officers responded to a residential neighborhood where a two-car accident had occurred. Upon arrival, police made contact with the striking vehicle’s driver, a lawyer. (The other vehicle was unoccupied and had been legally parked before being struck.) The lawyer exhibited signs of intoxication, declined to perform field-sobriety tests, and was arrested. The lawyer submitted to a blood draw, with a result of 0.175 g/100mL. The lawyer was charged with misdemeanor counts of second-offense OWI and second-offense operating with a PAC.

    Pursuant to a guilty plea, the lawyer was convicted of OWI (second). The operating with a PAC (second) charge was dismissed on the prosecutor’s motion. The lawyer’s sentence included 70 days in jail with Huber privileges for work, school, and treatment (imposed and stayed and 12 months’ probation ordered); driver’s license revocation for 16 months; and ignition-interlock-device installation for 16 months. Conditions of probation included 10 days’ straight time in jail.

    By engaging in conduct leading to a misdemeanor conviction of OWI (second), the lawyer violated SCR 20:8.4(b).

    The lawyer had no prior discipline.

    Failure to Safeguard Estate Assets; Diligent Representation; Noncooperation

    Violations of former SCR 20:1.15(j)(1); SCR 20:1.3; and SCR 22.03(6), enforced via SCR 20:8.4(h)

    A lawyer and the lawyer’s three siblings were beneficiaries of a cousin’s estate. The lawyer was appointed personal representative. Before the lawyer had acted to value, sell, or distribute the decedent’s property, the lawyer did the following: 1) caused furniture belonging to the estate to be placed in the living areas of the lawyer’s home and in the lawyer’s office; 2) allowed the decedent’s jewelry to be placed in the lawyer’s bedroom, including on the spouse’s dresser, and failed to prevent the spouse from wearing the decedent’s jewelry; and 3) drove and allowed the spouse to drive the decedent’s vehicle for their personal use.

    By making personal use of estate assets before the assets could be valued and disposed of or distributed, and by failing to prevent a third party from exerting possession and control over estate assets, the lawyer violated former SCR 20:1.15(j)(1) (effective before July 1, 2016).

    The lawyer failed to include on the initial inventory the decedent’s vehicle, jewelry, and estate assets in use in the lawyer’s home or office or given to the lawyer’s family. After one of the beneficiaries raised concerns about the inventory, the lawyer filed an amended inventory but again failed to include the furniture in use in the home and office. By failing to thoroughly prepare two inventories filed with the court so as to include all known assets of value subject to administration, the lawyer violated SCR 20:1.3.

    The lawyer violated SCR 22.03(6), which is enforced via SCR 20:8.4(h), by misrepresenting to the OLR that the lawyer had “stored” estate assets in the home.

    The lawyer had no prior discipline.