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 www.wicourts.gov/olr
Reinstatement of Michael R. Bauer
On Nov. 24, 2020, the Wisconsin Supreme Court reinstated the law license of Michael R. Bauer and ordered him to pay the $4,093.40 cost of the reinstatement proceeding. As a condition of reinstatement, Bauer must provide quarterly trust and business account records to the Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR) for two years after the date of reinstatement. Disciplinary Proc. Against Bauer, 2020 WI 86.
The court had suspended Bauer’s law license for one year, effective June 27, 2018. Bauer committed 22 counts of misconduct, including 17 trust account violations and five violations of SCR 20:8.4(c), and converted $376,818.63.
Disciplinary Proceedings Against Michael F. Torphy
The OLR and Michael F. Torphy, Waukesha, 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. 16, 2020, in accordance with SCR 22.09(3). Public Reprimand of Torphy, 2020 OLR 6.
In August 2017, Torphy succeeded another attorney (“predecessor counsel”) in representing a client and the client’s limited liability company (LLC) as defendants in a civil case in Milwaukee County Circuit Court. Torphy’s misconduct stemmed from 1) his representation of the client and the client’s LLC in the Milwaukee County civil case and 2) his concurrent representation of the client and the client’s LLC in the civil case while also representing predecessor counsel in a disciplinary action brought by the OLR and an open grievance investigation pending with the OLR related to predecessor counsel’s representation of another client.
By failing to promptly inform the client of case developments, including receipt of discovery requests and developments related to discovery deadlines, Torphy violated SCR 20:1.4(a)(3).
By failing to promptly work with the client regarding production of discovery responses, failing to review discovery materials provided by the client before relaying them to opposing counsel, and failing to file a witness list by the deadline established in a court scheduling order, Torphy violated SCR 20:1.3.
By providing plaintiffs’ counsel with untimely and incomplete discovery responses, Torphy violated SCR 20:3.4(d).
By discussing with the client potential claims the client or the client’s LLC might have had against predecessor counsel, when a significant risk was present that his representation would be materially limited by a duty of loyalty owed to predecessor counsel as a result of his concurrent representation of predecessor counsel in the OLR matters, without explaining the ramifications of the dual representation to the client and without obtaining the client’s informed, written consent to the dual representation, Torphy violated SCR 20:1.7(a)(2).
By notarizing the affidavit in support of the client’s motion to dismiss in the civil case and misrepresenting that the affidavit was subscribed and sworn before Torphy on Dec. 14, 2017, Torphy violated SCR 20:8.4(c).
By making misrepresentations to the client regarding the timing and substance of Torphy’s knowledge about the client’s grievance against predecessor counsel and regarding matters related to the conflicts of interest caused by Torphy’s concurrent representation of predecessor counsel, the client, and the client’s LLC, Torphy violated SCR 20:8.4(c).
By making misrepresentations to the Milwaukee County Circuit Court during the two hearings in the civil case, Torphy violated SCR 20:3.3(a)(1).
By making misrepresentations to the OLR during the investigation of the client’s grievance against him, Torphy violated SCR 22.03(6), enforced via SCR 20:8.4(h).
As a precondition of this public reprimand, Torphy paid $1,248 owed to opposing counsel for sanctions in the Milwaukee County civil case.
Torphy had no prior discipline.
Public Reprimand of Ann T. Bowe
On Nov. 24, 2020, the supreme court publicly reprimanded Ann T. Bowe, Milwaukee. Disciplinary Proc. Against Bowe, 2020 WI 87. The court also ordered Bowe to pay the $6,482.86 cost of the disciplinary proceeding.
Bowe represented a client charged with first-degree intentional homicide and other felony counts. The homicide victim was the client’s girlfriend and a relative. Bowe received a large amount of the client’s money from his prior attorney and deposited the funds into her trust account. Thereafter, at the client’s request, Bowe wrote several trust account checks from the client’s funds payable to the client’s friends and family members, including the client’s mother and the victim’s parents. The checks were collected from Bowe’s law office and delivered to the intended recipients. Bowe knew that the recipients of the two largest sums of money were the victim’s parents and that the client’s mother – who received the third largest check – was a co-defendant in the client’s criminal case. Bowe also wrote three trust account checks payable to cash.
The victim’s mother notified the district attorney’s office that she and the victim’s father had received checks from Bowe’s law office, after which the state filed an “other-acts” motion and a motion to disqualify Bowe alleging a conflict of interest likely to result in ineffective assistance of counsel. The other-acts motion identified the victim’s parents and the defendant’s mother as state witnesses. The court later allowed Bowe to withdraw from representing the client.
A referee and the supreme court found that by issuing checks from her trust account to potential state witnesses against the client, Bowe violated SCR 20:1.7(a)(2); and by writing trust account checks payable to cash, she violated SCR 20:1.15(f)(2)a.
Bowe had been privately reprimanded in 1993 and publicly reprimanded in 2011.
Disciplinary Proceedings Against Cole J. White
On Nov. 25, 2020, the supreme court suspended the law license of Cole J. White, Green Bay, for four years. Disciplinary Proc. Against White, 2020 WI 88. The court ordered White to pay $11,900 in total restitution to four clients and $18,340 to the Wisconsin Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection. The court further ordered White to pay the $2,514.74 cost of the disciplinary proceeding.
In addition to the four-year disciplinary suspension, White remains subject to administrative suspensions imposed for noncompliance with mandatory-dues and trust-account-certification requirements.
White engaged in 44 counts of misconduct across 13 client matters. White’s misconduct included failing to hold advanced fees in trust; failing to provide written communications defining the terms and scope of the representation; using threatening, vulgar, and abusive language toward clients and OLR staff; failing to respond to client requests for case status updates and accountings; lying to clients about the status of cases; lying to a client about the status of White’s pending disciplinary matters; failing to pursue client matters; failing to return unearned fees; entering into a business transaction with a client without providing required written advice or obtaining informed written consent; and failing to cooperate with the OLR investigations.
In his representation of clients, White violated SCR 20:1.3, SCR 20:1.5(b)(1), (2), (3), (c), and (f), SCR 20:1.8(a)(2) and (3), SCR 20:1.16(d), SCR 20:8.4(c), and SCR 40.15, enforceable via SCR 20:8.4(g). White’s failures to cooperate with the OLR investigations and his misrepresentations to the OLR during the course of OLR investigations violated SCR 22.03(2) or (6), enforceable via SCR 20:8.4(h)
The court previously suspended White’s law license for 15 months, effective Oct. 4, 2019.
Cite to 94. Wis. Law. 49-50 (January 2021).