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    Wisconsin Lawyer
    April 19, 2019

    Lawyer Discipline

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

    The Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR), an agency of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, provides these summaries for educational purposes. The OLR assists the court in supervising the practice of law and protecting the public from misconduct by lawyers. Find the full text of these summaries at

    Public Reprimand of William Norine

    The Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR) and William Norine, Burnett County, entered into an agreement for imposition of a public reprimand, pursuant to SCR 22.09(1). A Wisconsin Supreme Court-appointed referee thereafter approved the agreement, and issued the public reprimand on Feb. 15, 2019, in accordance with SCR 22.09(3).

    Norine, while serving as the Burnett County district attorney (DA), communicated via Facebook to some women who had pending criminal cases in Burnett County. In these communications, Norine sought lunch, dinner, or drink dates; used personal endearments; and made improper inducements.  

    In one matter, Norine offered to buy dinner and “compare notes” with a woman who had a pending criminal case as well as a pending child in need of protection or services (CHIPS) case. The woman claimed she was desperate to get her children back and was in a vulnerable position.

    In another matter, Norine became Facebook friends with a woman who had a pending criminal case. Norine told the woman that she was a “wonderful beautiful person” who inspired him. He offered to pay her phone bill if she “had time to meet.” Norine repeatedly asked her out on dates. At one point, the woman, who was represented by counsel, missed a court date and Norine communicated with her through Facebook, including offering to pick her up after a bench warrant was issued and buy her lunch after the matter was resolved.

    In another matter, Norine had lunch with a woman whom his office was prosecuting, although when he met with the woman she purportedly had no pending charges. In Facebook messages, he called the woman “Babe” and at one point paid for three gigabytes of data on her cell phone. When she informed Norine that she was worried about a new pending charge and an anticipated sentence of probation, Norine advised her not to worry because “we usually take a noncriminal ordinance plea on those, no probation.” Norine also told her in a message that she was “lovely.” In other messages, the woman spoke of potential criminal matters and asked Norine for advice.

    In some of the cases, Norine was not personally prosecuting the women because the matters were assigned to a Burnett County assistant DA. Nonetheless, as the DA, Norine was responsible for all criminal prosecutions under his supervision in the county.

    By seeking dinner, lunch, or drink dates with women facing criminal charges in Burnett County, coupled with the use of personal endearments such as “Babe” or calling the women “lovely” or “beautiful” or otherwise offering or paying personal expenses and communicating legal advice, while in his capacity as Burnett County DA, Norine, in each instance, violated SCR 20:1.7(a)(2), SCR 20:1.16(a), and SCR 20:8.4(i).

    Norine had no prior discipline.

    Disciplinary Proceedings Against Patrick S. Sweeney

    On Feb. 19, 2019, the supreme court revoked the law license of Patrick S. Sweeney, Madison, and ordered him to pay the full $10,338.75 cost of the disciplinary proceeding, as well as comply with a $481,970 restitution order imposed on him in a related federal criminal prosecution. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Sweeney, 2019 WI 13.

    Sweeney was admitted to practice law in Wisconsin in 1992. Sweeney’s law license had been administratively suspended for failing to pay State Bar of Wisconsin dues and failing to certify his compliance with trust account record-keeping requirements.

    On July 10, 2015, the OLR filed a disciplinary complaint alleging that Sweeney committed five counts of professional misconduct and seeking revocation of his law license.

    On Jan. 6, 2017, after Sweeney was indicted on related criminal charges, the referee determined there was cause to defer the matter pending resolution of the related federal criminal prosecution. U.S. v. Sweeney, No. 16-CR-103 (W.D. Wis. 2017). The federal indictment alleged that from March 2007 to March 2011, Sweeney devised a scheme to defraud three limited liability companies (the Fairview entities) in which he held a member's ownership interest. The indictment also alleged that on Feb. 14, 2013, Sweeney made a false declaration in a bankruptcy matter when he submitted a sworn list of creditors that falsely listed the embezzled funds as “loans to debtor” in an effort to obtain a discharge in bankruptcy of his obligation to repay the funds he had embezzled.

    Sweeney ultimately entered a guilty plea to count two, the bankruptcy charge. On Nov. 17, 2017, the federal court sentenced Sweeney to five years’ probation, with the first year on home confinement, and ordered him to pay restitution of $481,970.

    On Jan. 31, 2018, Sweeney and the OLR executed a stipulation in which Sweeney withdrew his answer and pleaded no contest to each of the five allegations of misconduct alleged in the OLR’s disciplinary complaint.

    By misappropriating funds of the Fairview entities for his own personal use, Sweeney violated SCR 20:8.4(c). By representing to other members of the Fairview entities, while he was its managing member, that the Fairview entities had provided loans to his friend when in fact, the loan funds were disbursed to him for his own personal use without the knowledge or authorization of the other members, Sweeney again violated SCR 20:8.4(c).

    The court stated, “We determine that the seriousness of Attorney Sweeney’s misconduct demonstrates that his law license must be revoked to protect the public, courts, and legal system from the repetition of the misconduct; to impress upon Attorney Sweeney the seriousness of his misconduct; and to deter other attorneys from engaging in similar misconduct.”

    Sweeney’s misconduct also included violations of SCR 20:1.7(a)(2), SCR 20:3.4(c), and SCR 10.03(6) and former SCR 20:1.15(i)(4), enforced via SCR 20:8.4(f).

    Sweeney had no prior discipline.

    Public Reprimand of James G. Moldenhauer

    The OLR and James G. Moldenhauer, Eau Claire, 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 Feb. 23, 2019, in accordance with SCR 22.09(3).

    On or about Nov. 6, 2009, a client hired Moldenhauer to represent her in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. On Nov. 20, 2009, Moldenhauer filed the client’s voluntary petition for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

    In a March 30, 2010, discharge of debtor order, the bankruptcy judge granted a discharge to the client. When the Chapter 7 bankruptcy was filed, the client had judgments against her in three cases. The three judgments against the client were discharged in the Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

    After the March 30, 2010, discharge of debtor order, the client paid Moldenhauer a total fee of $115 (in addition to the fee paid for the bankruptcy) to file a satisfaction of judgment in each of the three cases.

    In a January 2018 telephone conversation, nearly eight years after the Chapter 7 discharge, the client notified Moldenhauer that satisfactions of judgment had not been filed in the three cases. Moldenhauer apologized to the client and told her he would file the satisfactions of judgment and send her copies.

    Over the next several months, Moldenhauer did not respond to the client’s telephone calls requesting information and did not keep her informed regarding any progress he had made toward filing satisfactions of judgment in the three cases.

    Ultimately, in July 2018, Moldenhauer filed the satisfactions of judgment in the three cases and sent a letter to the client informing her of the filings and providing her with copies of the documents.

    By failing to file the satisfactions of judgment in a timely manner in the three cases, Moldenhauer violated SCR 20:1.3.

    By failing, after the client notified him in January 2018 that the satisfactions of judgment had not been filed in 2010, to keep the client reasonably informed regarding any progress he had made toward filing the satisfactions of judgment and by failing to respond to the client’s telephone calls requesting information, Moldenhauer violated SCR 20:1.4(a)(3) and (4).

    Moldenhauer received a private reprimand in 1996, a public reprimand in 2006, a public reprimand in 2008, a public reprimand in 2012, and a 60-day suspension in 2016.

    Disciplinary Proceedings Against Melinda Alfredson

    On Feb. 26, 2019, the supreme court suspended the law license of Melinda Alfredson, Oshkosh, for 90 days, effective April 9, 2019, and ordered her to pay the full $2,649.59 cost of the disciplinary proceeding. Disciplinary Proceedings Against Alfredson, 2019 WI 17.

    Alfredson was admitted to practice law in Wisconsin in 2009. The misconduct leading to her 90-day suspension occurred in two matters.

    In the first matter, a client hired Alfredson around September 2015 to represent him after he had fallen behind on certain post-divorce obligations, including a divorce judgment requirement that he place a boat owned by the parties on the market for sale, with proceeds to be shared by the parties. On Oct. 20, 2015, the client informed Alfredson that he sold the boat for $7,500. Alfredson agreed to deposit the sale proceeds in her trust account.

    Alfredson, however, deposited the funds in a non-trust account, in violation of SCR 20:1.15(b)(1). Alfredson failed to promptly deliver a portion of the sale proceeds to the lawyer for the client’s ex-wife, in violation of former SCR 20:1.15(d)(1) (effective before July 1, 2016) and SCR 20:1.15(e)(1) (effective July 1, 2016). Alfredson converted some of the funds to her own use, in violation of SCR 20:8.4(c). Alfredson violated SCR 22.03(2), enforced via SCR 20:8.4(h), by failing to timely respond to OLR inquiries during its investigation.

    In the second matter, a separate client hired Alfredson for divorce representation in October 2015. In a May 9, 2016, letter to Alfredson, counsel for the adverse party identified certain personal property items that Alfredson’s client had allegedly prevented the adverse party from retrieving from the marital residence.

    Alfredson failed to address the personal property issue with her client, leading to a contempt motion being filed against him. Alfredson’s lack of diligence in that regard violated SCR 20:1.3. The client hired successor counsel in June 2016. Alfredson did not provide the case file to successor counsel until September 2016, more than three months after the first request that she do so, in violation of SCR 20:1.16(d).

    The court concluded that “a 90-day suspension of Attorney Alfredson’s law license is sufficient to impress upon her the seriousness of her professional duties and to deter her and others from engaging in similar misconduct.”

    Alfredson received a 60-day suspension in 2017.

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