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.
Disciplinary Proceedings Against Wendy Alison Nora
In a March 30, 2018 decision, the Wisconsin Supreme Court suspended the law license of Wendy Alison Nora, Minneapolis, for one year, effective April 30, 2018. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Nora, 2018 WI 23. Nora moved for reconsideration. On June 12, 2018, the court denied her motion but ordered that five words in its March 30 decision be deleted. Nora lives in Minnesota and was licensed to practice law in both Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Nora’s Madison condominium was the subject of a foreclosure action in the Dane County circuit court. Nora filed three subsequent civil actions against the circuit court judge and opposing counsel involved in the foreclosure action. By sending a facsimile transmission to the circuit court judge alleging that the foreclosure action should be stayed based on Nora’s execution of a modified version of a proposed foreclosure repayment agreement, in which she made a change to a material term to which the lender had not agreed, Nora made a false statement of material fact to a tribunal, in violation of SCR 20:3.3(a)(1).
In bringing a federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) lawsuit against the circuit court judge who heard the foreclosure case, seeking damages against the judge and to obstruct the foreclosure action, with no good-faith basis for doing so, Nora knowingly advanced a claim that was unwarranted under existing law (or a good-faith argument for an extension, modification, or reversal of the law) and did so when she knew that the action would serve merely to harass or maliciously injure another, in violation of SCR 20:3.1(a). Likewise, by bringing Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) actions in both the U.S. District Court and the U.S. Bankruptcy Court against her former opposing counsel from the foreclosure matter, seeking an award of damages and to overturn the foreclosure judgment collaterally, Nora violated SCR 20:3.1(a).
The court ordered that the issues of restitution and the assessment of the costs of the disciplinary proceeding be held in abeyance, until the automatic stay arising from Nora’s bankruptcy proceeding is lifted.
Nora previously received a 30-day suspension as discipline reciprocal to that imposed by the Supreme Court of Minnesota.
Public Reprimand of Eugene Loftin
The Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR) and Eugene Loftin, Racine, entered into an agreement for imposition of a public reprimand, pursuant to SCR 22.09(1). A supreme court-appointed referee thereafter approved the agreement, and issued the public reprimand in accordance with SCR 22.09(3) on June 11, 2018.
Loftin engaged in misconduct in two matters.
In the first matter, Loftin was appointed defense counsel for a client in a Racine County criminal case. Loftin failed to respond to the client’s multiple requests for status updates regarding her case, in violation of SCR 20:1.4(a)(4). Loftin also failed to cooperate with the OLR’s investigation of the client’s grievance, in violation of SCR 22.03(2) and (6), which are enforceable via SCR 20:8.4(h).
In the second matter, Loftin represented a client in a 2016 civil case in Kenosha County circuit court. Loftin’s client sued a Florida party for approximately $1 million over a failed business deal and alleged fraud. Loftin failed to submit a brief in response to a motion to dismiss by the briefing deadline. Loftin then failed to appear, as did his client, at the hearing on the motion. As a result, the court dismissed the client’s case and also granted the defendant’s motion for costs.
Loftin’s failure to file a brief by the deadline and his failure to appear at the motion hearing violated SCR 20:1.3. Loftin also violated SCR 20:1.4(a)(3) and (4) by failing to respond to certain of his client’s case status inquiries and by failing to inform the client of the case dismissal.
Loftin failed to provide the client a written communication defining the terms and scope of the representation, and the purpose and effect of the $2,000 advanced fee paid by the client, in violation of SCR 20:1.5(b)(1) and (2). Loftin failed to place the client’s $2,000 advanced fee in a trust account until earned, in violation of former SCR 20:1.15(b)(4) (in effect before July 1, 2016). Loftin also violated SCR 20:1.16(d) by failing to refund any unearned fees to the client, though at least a portion of the advanced fee paid by the client was rendered unearned due to Loftin’s failure to prosecute the client’s case.
Lastly, Loftin failed to respond to the OLR’s investigative inquiries into the client’s grievance, in violation of SCR 22.03(2) and (6), which are enforceable via SCR 20:8.4(h)
Loftin had no prior discipline.
Disciplinary Proceedings Against Suzanne E. Kitto
On June 19, 2018, the supreme court suspended the law license of Suzanne E. Kitto, Beloit, for 60 days, effective July 31, 2018, and ordered her to pay the full $1,310.32 cost of the disciplinary proceeding. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Kitto, 2018 WI 71.
Starting in July 2013, Kitto represented two clients with regard to collection work on a land contract. The other party to the land contract made the land contract payments to the two clients through Kitto’s office. The two clients agreed that Kitto would collect 10 percent of the land contract payments for her fees and would apply the remainder of the payments to real estate taxes, the mortgage on the property, and property insurance. Kitto failed to hold in trust the land contract payments that she received on the two clients’ behalf. She also converted approximately $10,000 of these payments for her personal use.
Kitto made other trust account violations. She deposited personal funds into her client trust account, ostensibly for later use in paying her own personal debts. Kitto also disbursed funds from her trust account when there were insufficient funds in the account to cover the disbursement.
Kitto violated former SCR 20:1.15(d)(1) and current SCR 20:1.15(e)(1), SCR 20:1.15(b)(1), SCR 20:8.4(c), former SCR 20:1.15(b)(3), and SCR 20:1.15(f)(4)(a). Kitto made full restitution to the two clients.
Kitto had no prior discipline.
Disciplinary Proceedings Against Michael R. Bauer
In a May 16, 2018 decision, the supreme court suspended the law license of Michael R. Bauer, Madison, for one year, effective June 27, 2018. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Bauer, 2018 WI 49. The court further ordered Bauer to pay the $15,727.40 cost of the proceeding.
Between December 2013 and October 2014, Bauer misused funds he was holding in trust on behalf of seven clients and mismanaged his trust account. Bauer often transferred client funds from one account to another without the client’s permission, failed to keep appropriate records of the transfers, transferred trust account funds to other client accounts to avoid shortfalls being detected, transferred funds from his trust account to his office account and to the account of his subsidiary business, and borrowed money to bring the accounts up to their correct balances. None of the clients consented to the use of their money to the benefit of other clients and Bauer’s personal accounts. Ultimately, all the clients received all the money they were owed.
The court found that Bauer had committed 22 counts of misconduct, 17 of which were trust account violations of SCR 20:1.15(b)(1), former SCR 20:1.15(b)(3) (effective through June 30, 2016), former SCR 20:1.15(e)(4)c. (effective through June 30, 2016), and former SCR 20:1.15(f)(1)a. (effective through June 30, 2016). The remaining five counts were for engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation in violation of SCR 20:8.4(c), including the conversion of $376,818.63.
Bauer had no prior discipline.
Disciplinary Proceedings Against Philip M. Kleinsmith
On May 16, 2018, the supreme court revoked the law license of Philip M. Kleinsmith , Colorado Springs, Colo., as discipline reciprocal to an Oct. 30, 2017 Supreme Court of Colorado order disbarring Kleinsmith in Colorado. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Kleinsmith, 2018 WI 50.
The Colorado disbarment resulted from Kleinsmith’s work in foreclosure proceedings. Kleinsmith hired a title company for work regarding several foreclosure matters where his firm represented a bank. Kleinsmith billed the bank for the title company’s work, but after the bank paid him he converted those funds instead of paying the title company. Kleinsmith did not notify the OLR of the Colorado disbarment within 20 days of its effective date.
In 2013, Kleinsmith consented to a Wisconsin public reprimand, as discipline reciprocal to an Arizona reprimand.
Public Reprimand of Bruno M. Rizzo
The OLR and Bruno M. Rizzo, Kenosha, entered into an agreement for imposition of a public reprimand pursuant to SCR 22.09(1). A supreme court-appointed referee thereafter approved the agreement, and issued the public reprimand on June 27, 2018, in accordance with SCR 22.09(3).
Rizzo had been friends with a man since the 1980s. In the fall of 2000, Rizzo drafted a revocable trust for the man.
At the man’s instruction, Rizzo modified the trust in August 2003. The modified trust named Rizzo and a member of Rizzo’s family as beneficiaries of the trust, leaving them each a car upon the man’s death.
Between 2004 and early 2013, the trust was amended five more times. Each time, the man made changes to the plan of distribution of certain of his property. No changes were made to the plan of distribution as it related to the cars left to Rizzo and Rizzo’s family member.
The man died in the summer of 2013. The value of the assets held in his trust was almost $2 million.
As to the car distributed to Rizzo’s family member, the appraised value of the car was $7,200. After approximately $8,000 in repairs, of which the trust paid approximately $3,000, the car was sold for $20,000.
As to the car distributed to Rizzo, the appraised value was $1,500. At the time of his death, the man owned another car worth $1,500, which was to be sold and the proceeds added to the residue of the trust. Because the value of the two cars was similar, Rizzo exchanged one car for the other. After $1,800 in repairs to the car he received, paid for by the trust, the car was sold for $4,500.
Even after significant repairs, the trust was unable to sell the car originally bequeathed to Rizzo. Feeling it inappropriate that the trust essentially take a loss on that car while he received the benefit of the sale of the other car, Rizzo deposited the funds from the sale of the car he had sold in the trust’s account.
In early 2015, two beneficiaries of the trust filed a motion to have Rizzo removed as trustee. Later that year, pursuant to a stipulation, Rizzo was removed as trustee.
By preparing a trust that bequeathed two cars to Rizzo and a family member, Rizzo violated SCR 20:1.8(c).
Rizzo was privately reprimanded in 1992 and 2009. He was publicly reprimanded in 2013.
Disciplinary Proceedings Against James Eric Goldmann
On July 13, 2018, the supreme court revoked the law license of James Eric Goldmann, formerly of Milwaukee, based on 38 acts of professional misconduct. The court further ordered Goldmann to pay restitution to one of his clients. Because Goldmann entered into a comprehensive stipulation under SCR 22.12, no disciplinary costs were imposed. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Goldmann, 2018 WI 89.
The court also lifted a June 15, 2017, temporary suspension it imposed due to Goldmann’s willful failure to cooperate with the OLR’s investigation. Goldmann’s administrative suspensions relating to his failure to pay bar dues and assessments and his failure to comply with trust account certification requirements remain in effect until rectified.
Goldmann was admitted to practice law in Wisconsin in 2013. Goldmann’s work in 10 client matters gave rise to all but one of the misconduct claims in the case. Beginning in 2015 and continuing into 2017, Goldmann effectively abandoned the 10 clients identified in the OLR’s complaint. Goldmann undertook to represent these clients in a variety of matters, but he failed to take necessary actions on their behalf. Among other things, Goldmann failed to attend court hearings, file crucial documents, comply with court orders, forward his clients’ case files to the clients or successor counsel, refund unearned advanced fees, be forthright about his actions, and respond to his clients’ requests for information or otherwise keep them updated on their cases.
The remaining misconduct claim in the case concerned certain false and misleading information that Goldmann gave his employing law firm about his level of professional experience and success. The firm included this information on its website, with Goldmann’s knowledge and understanding.
The court held, “Attorney Goldmann has engaged in a widespread pattern of serious professional misconduct that has harmed his clients and tarnished the profession. A sanction of revocation is clearly supported by our precedent.”
Goldmann’s misconduct included violations of SCR 20:1.3; SCR 20:1.4(a)(3) and (4); SCR 20:1.5(b)(1) and (2) and (c); SCR 20:1.16(d); SCR 20:3.3(a)(1); SCR 20:3.4(c) and (d); SCR 20:7.1(a),(b), and (c); SCR 20:8.4(c) and (h); and SCR 22.03(2) and (6).
Goldmann currently lives in Canada.