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 Reprimand of T. Michael Barrett
The Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR) and T. Michael Barrett, Elm Grove, 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 in accordance with SCR 22.09(3) on Nov. 19, 2020.
On Aug. 16, 2011, Barrett was charged with one count of possession of a firearm silencer. According to the criminal complaint, Barrett purchased a semiautomatic .22 caliber handgun with an attached silencer from a confidential informant working with the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. During a series of recorded phone conversations, Barrett acknowledged the illegality of the silencer but agreed to meet the informant in the parking lot of a local shopping mall to look at the firearms. Law enforcement officers monitored the meeting by video and audio recording and by surveillance. During the meeting, Barrett again stated the silencer was highly illegal. Barrett placed the firearm and silencer in the trunk of his car and later was arrested and charged.
Beginning on Feb. 17, 2014, a jury trial was held. On Feb. 21, 2014, the jury found Barrett guilty. On April 18, 2014, Barrett was sentenced to five months in the House of Correction, a sentence that he served. Nevertheless, Barrett appealed his conviction, and on June 18, 2020, the supreme court affirmed the conviction.
By engaging in conduct leading to a criminal felony conviction for possession of a firearm silencer in violation of Wis. Stat. section 941.298(2), Barrett violated SCR 20:8.4(b), which states, “It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to commit a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects.”
Barrett has no prior discipline.
Reinstatement of Beth M. Bant
On Jan. 26, 2021, the supreme court reinstated the law license of Beth M. Bant and ordered her to pay the cost of the reinstatement proceeding. Disciplinary Proc. Against Bant, 2021 WI 03.
On Jan. 29, 2020, Bant’s Wisconsin law license was suspended for six months for misconduct related to her employment as in-house counsel for an insurance company.
In violation of SCR 20:8.4(c), Bant made false statements and submitted falsified documents to obtain reimbursement for expenses not actually incurred and provided additional false statements and falsified documents when she was confronted about the reimbursement requests. The same conduct violated the standard of conduct set forth in Disciplinary Proceedings Against Shea, 190 Wis. 2d 560, 527 N.W.2d 314 (1995), which holds that an attorney has a fiduciary duty and a duty of honesty in the attorney’s dealings with the attorney’s firm.
The OLR did not oppose Bant’s reinstatement. Following a hearing on Bant’s petition, a referee found that Bant had met her burden of proof concerning reinstatement standards. The supreme court agreed and granted Bant’s petition.
Reinstatement of William J. Spangler
On Jan. 26, 2021, the supreme court reinstated the law license of William J. Spangler and ordered him to pay the cost of the reinstatement proceeding. Disciplinary Proc. Against Spangler, 2021 WI 04.
On Aug. 12, 2016, the supreme court suspended the law license of William J. Spangler for six months for misconduct related to two client matters. His misconduct involved two violations of SCR 20:1.2(a) for failing to consult with clients and abide by their decisions, two violations of SCR 20:1.4(a) and (b) for failing to adequately communicate with clients, and two violations of SCR 20:8.4(c) for providing fake documents and false information to clients regarding the status of their cases.
The OLR did not oppose Spangler’s reinstatement. After a hearing on Spangler’s petition, a referee found that Spangler had met his burden of proof concerning reinstatement standards. The supreme court agreed and granted Spangler’s petition. By separate order on Jan. 26, 2021, the court noted that Spangler’s law license remained suspended for failure to pay State Bar of Wisconsin dues and file a trust account certificate and directed him to pay owed dues and file the certificate within 20 days.
Disciplinary Proceedings Against Christopher S. Carson
The OLR and Christopher S. Carson, New Berlin, 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 Dec. 21, 2020, in accordance with SCR 22.09(3).
On or about March 5, 2019, a woman hired Carson to represent her in an anticipated divorce. The representation was governed by a written fee agreement calling for placement of an advanced fee into Carson’s business account, as permitted under SCR 20:1.5(g). The fee agreement contained the notices required by SCR 20:1.5(g)(1)
when an advanced fee will be placed into a business account.
Carson deposited the entire amount paid by the woman, including a $2,000 advanced fee and a $200 advance toward anticipated costs, into his business account. The deposit violated SCR 20:1.5(f), which provides, in relevant part, without exception, “Funds advanced by a client or 3rd party for payment of costs shall be held in trust until the costs are incurred.”
For fees incurred in excess of the advanced fee, the fee agreement also established a property interest in favor of Carson and adverse to the client by providing, in part, “I accept that Attorney Carson has a continuing lien on all of my property, real and personal until the balance of his fee is paid.” This language violated SCR 20:1.8(i)(1), in that Carson did not advise the client of the desirability of seeking independent counsel, nor did the client provide informed consent, separate from the fee agreement, to Carson obtaining a property interest.
On March 21, 2019, the client requested that Carson stop all divorce proceedings until further notice. In early May 2019, the client repeated her request and asked for an itemization of earned fees and a refund. Carson did not refund any unearned advanced fees until Oct. 22, 2019, and did not refund any payment of advanced costs until Dec. 3, 2019, stating that the accounting and refund slipped his mind due to personal issues.
By acquiring a lien on all of the client’s property via the fee agreement without advising the client of the desirability of seeking independent counsel and without obtaining the client’s informed consent, separate from the fee agreement, Carson violated SCR 20:1.8(a). By depositing and holding the client’s cost advance in his business account, Carson violated SCR 20:1.5(f). By delaying (until Oct. 22, 2019) to refund the unearned portion of the client’s advanced fee and delaying (until Dec. 3, 2019) to return the client’s cost advance, Carson violated SCR 20:1.16(d).
Carson received a private reprimand in 2008, a public reprimand in 2009, a 90-day suspension in 2015, and a private reprimand in 2016.
Disciplinary Proceedings Against
David G. Dudas
On Jan. 27, 2021, the supreme court revoked the law license of David G. Dudas, retroactive to May 21, 2014. Because the matter was resolved pursuant to SCR 22.12 with the filing of a stipulation and without the appointment of a referee, no costs were assessed against Dudas. Disciplinary Proc. Against Dudas, 2021 WI 5.
On April 30, 2014, following a trial, Dudas was found guilty of 30 criminal counts, including one count of felony first-degree sexual assault, one count of felony second-degree reckless injury, one count of felony substantial battery, 14 counts of felony second-degree sexual assault, 11 counts of felony strangulation and suffocation, one count of misdemeanor battery, and one count of misdemeanor intimidation of a victim. Following the verdict in the criminal case, the OLR moved pursuant to SCR 22.20 for a summary suspension of Dudas’ license. On May 21, 2014, the court granted the OLR’s motion.
On July 16, 2014, the OLR filed a disciplinary complaint alleging that Dudas’ criminal acts violated SCR 20:8.4(b). The disciplinary proceeding was placed on hold pending Dudas’ appeal of his criminal convictions. The court of appeals affirmed Dudas’ convictions, and the supreme court denied his petition for review.
On Oct. 27, 2020, after the stay on Dudas’ disciplinary proceeding was lifted, the OLR and Dudas filed a stipulation with the supreme court. Dudas acknowledged that his conviction remained unreversed and that, under the current status of his criminal case, the OLR could establish a violation of SCR 20:8.4(b). The court accepted the stipulation, adopted the stipulated facts and conclusion of law, and determined that revocation was the appropriate level of discipline. The revocation was made retroactive to the date of Dudas’ summary suspension, with the court noting that his license will remain revoked unless and until he is able to prove his fitness to regain his license in a reinstatement proceeding.