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 Eric L. Crandall
In a decision dated Dec. 21, 2021, the Wisconsin Supreme Court suspended the law license of Eric Crandall for 60 days, effective Feb. 1, 2022. The court also ordered Crandall to pay the proceeding’s cost, $5,824.25. Disciplinary Proc. Against Crandall, 2021 WI 90.
In 2018, a client hired Crandall to represent him in a civil matter and to represent the client’s girlfriend in a separate matter. Crandall provided the client a hybrid contingent-fee agreement. The fee agreement did not contain any language regarding placement of advanced fees in Crandall’s operating account, nor was the fee agreement signed by the client. Crandall later asked the client to pay $2,500 for the representation. The client authorized a $2,500 payment on his credit card. However, Crandall charged the client $3,500 on the credit card and deposited the funds, minus a processing fee, into his operating account.
After depositing the funds, Crandall took no further action on the matter and did not respond to the client’s requests for information. In addition, Crandall did not provide any notices regarding the treatment of advanced fees. The client terminated the representation in both matters and requested the return of his file and a refund of fees. Crandall returned the client’s files and promised to refund fees, but he failed to refund fees in a timely fashion. Crandall also initially failed to cooperate with the Office of Lawyer Regulation’s (OLR) investigation.
By agreeing to provide legal services to a client pursuant to a fee agreement containing a contingent-fee component although the client had not signed the agreement, Crandall violated SCR 20:1.5(c)(1). By charging $3,500 to the client’s credit card when the client had only authorized a charge of $2,500, Crandall violated SCR 20:8.4(c). By mishandling advanced fees, Crandall violated SCR 20:1.5(g). By failing to act diligently on the client’s behalf and failing to respond to the client’s request for information about the matters, Crandall violated SCR 20:1.3 and SCR 20:1.4(a)(4). By failing to refund unearned fees, Crandall violated SCR 20:1.16(d). By failing to cooperate with the OLR’s investigation, Crandall violated SCR 22.03(2) and (6), enforced via SCR 8.4(h).
Crandall’s prior discipline includes a three-month suspension of his law license in 2006 (reciprocal to Minnesota discipline), a public reprimand in 2008, a 30-day suspension in 2008 (reciprocal), a five-month suspension in 2011, and a public reprimand in 2015.
Reinstatement of Donald J. Peterson – Petition Withdrawn
On Jan. 12, 2022, the supreme court granted Donald J. Peterson’s motion to withdraw his pending petition for reinstatement and ordered him to pay the full cost of the reinstatement proceeding.
In 2006, the supreme court had suspended Peterson’s law license for two years for directing clients to make checks for legal fees payable to him instead of his law firm, diverting fees belonging to his law firm for his own personal use, pawning law firm property, and committing a crime by using cocaine. Disciplinary Proc. Against Peterson, 2006 WI 41.
On July 8, 2020, Peterson filed a petition for reinstatement of his license. Approximately one week before the final hearing, Peterson said that he would be withdrawing his petition. The OLR requested the cost of the proceeding be assessed against Peterson; Peterson objected, citing financial hardship and claiming an inability to pay. The referee recommended Peterson be ordered to pay the full $3,992.38 cost, finding that the amount was reasonable and necessarily incurred in the litigation.
The supreme court agreed and assessed the full cost. As to Peterson’s claimed inability to pay, the court directed Peterson to contact the OLR to negotiate a payment plan if he is financially unable to timely pay the assessed amount.