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.
Public Reprimand of Janet L. Heins
The Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR) and Janet L. Heins, Germantown, entered into an agreement for imposition of a public reprimand pursuant to SCR 22.09(1). A referee appointed by the Wisconsin Supreme Court approved the agreement, and issued the public reprimand on Dec. 2, 2020, in accordance with SCR 22.09(3).
A man hired Heins to represent him in an employment discrimination and retaliation matter. Several months after Heins filed a lawsuit on the client’s behalf, the client and his former employer entered into a settlement agreement.
On Sept. 9, 2019, the client’s former employer sent a check representing the client’s settlement funds to Heins. On Sept. 16, 2019, Heins deposited the client’s settlement funds into her business account, in violation of SCR 20:1.15(b)(1).
Heins did not promptly notify the client of receiving the settlement funds, in violation of SCR 20:1.15(e)(1). Instead, in response to inquiries from the client in late September and early October, Heins misrepresented to the client that she had not yet received the settlement funds, in violation of SCR 20:8.4(c).
On Oct. 14, 2019, Heins finally informed the client she had received the settlement funds. By that time, she had converted all the funds she should have been holding on the client’s behalf to her personal use, in violation of SCR 20:8.4(c).
Between late October and mid-November, Heins paid the client the funds owed to him, via three checks plus $100 “extra cash for inconvenience.”
Heins asserted that she was ill and unable to go into the office during the time she was handling the disbursement of the client’s settlement funds.
Heins was publicly reprimanded in 2017.
Disciplinary Proceeding Against Benjamin A. Hanes
On Dec. 9, 2020, the supreme court suspended the law license of Benjamin A. Hanes, Menasha, for four years. In addition, the court ordered that Hanes pay the $7,704.67 cost of the disciplinary proceeding. The court also imposed several conditions on any future reinstatement of Hanes’ law license. Disciplinary Proc. Against Hanes, 2020 WI 89.
After going out for dinner and drinks with a group of people, Hanes and others returned to an apartment. A woman in the group fell asleep on the couch. While she was sleeping, Hanes sexually assaulted her. When she awoke, Hanes assaulted her again, at which time the woman left and reported the assault to the police. Hanes was charged with one felony count of second-degree sexual assault of an unconscious victim and one misdemeanor count of fourth-degree sexual assault. Hanes was convicted of fourth-degree sexual assault, and the felony charge was dismissed. By engaging in conduct leading to a misdemeanor criminal conviction for fourth-degree sexual assault, Hanes violated SCR 20:8.4(b).
While Hanes was out on bail on the sexual assault charges, he was pulled over for erratic driving. Hanes’ driver’s license was revoked at the time. Law enforcement officers noticed items associated with drug use in Hanes’ car and asked Hanes to exit his car. Instead, Hanes drove off and a high-speed chase ensued. Hanes eventually attempted to flee on foot and was subdued by a Taser device. Hanes was charged with three felonies: second-degree recklessly endangering safety, fleeing or eluding an officer, and bail jumping. He was also charged with misdemeanor counts of resisting or obstructing an officer and operating while revoked. Hanes was convicted of the three felonies. The misdemeanors were dismissed but read in. By engaging in conduct leading to three felony convictions for second-degree recklessly endangering safety, fleeing or eluding an officer, and bail jumping, Hanes violated SCR 20:8.4(b).
Hanes failed to report the convictions to the OLR, in each instance in violation of SCR 21.15(5).
Hanes has no prior discipline. His license also is suspended for failure to comply with continuing legal education requirements, pay State Bar of Wisconsin dues, and submit the required trust account certification to the State Bar.
Disciplinary Suspension of Michael W. Starkweather
On Oct. 30, 2020, the supreme court suspended the Wisconsin law license of Michael W. Starkweather, Tampa, Fla., for 36 months, as discipline reciprocal to an Oct. 17, 2019, suspension from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The Wisconsin court also ordered Starkweather to comply with the terms and conditions of the USPTO suspension, including probation for two years with terms and conditions upon his practice. Disciplinary Proc. Against Starkweather, 2020 WI 83.
The 2019 USPTO suspension arose out of Starkweather’s misconduct in violation of 37 C.F.R. §§ 11.101, 11.102(a), 11.103, 11.104(a)(1) and (b), 11.104(a)(2), 11.104(a)(3), 11.107(a), 11.303(a)(1), (3) and (d), 11.504(c), 11.804(c) and (d), and 11.804(d). In general, Starkweather did not adequately inform clients referred to him by a third-party service and ceased work when the third party stopped providing payment.
Starkweather received a public reprimand in 2012 for appearing in federal bankruptcy court in Utah, without being admitted to practice in the state or federal courts of Utah. Public Reprimand of Starkweather, 2012-OLR-6.