Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Bad for Business: Lawyer Must Tell Clients, “I am a Crook.”

A Wisconsin judge sentenced a lawyer to probation and five days in jail for the offense of criminal contempt. Because the contempt charge was based on the lawyer’s misrepresentations to a client about a plea agreement, the judge required as a condition of probation that the lawyer provide a copy of the contempt charge and a letter to each of his clients. The letter stated:

I am a crook. I am a cheat. I am a thief. I am a liar. I was convicted of a crime on November 9, 2015. My conviction resulted from my intentional choice to sell my own clients down the river and then trying to cover it up. You may not hire me or have me or have me legally represent you in any fashion until you read the Criminal Complaint and Judgment of Conviction in my Outagamie County Wisconsin Case no. 15-CM878. This disclosure is required as one of the conditions of my probation.

In a subsequent disciplinary proceeding brought by the Wisconsin Office of Lawyer Regulation, the hearing referee recommended a one-year suspension. The Wisconsin Supreme Court adopted the referee’s recommendation and suspended the lawyer’s license for one-year, effective January 26, 2018. The dissenting justices believed that the one-year suspension was “too light” for the lawyer’s “egregious” misconduct, including his repeated lies to his client, the police, and the court; falsifying an email; and “apparently forg[ing] a judge’s signature on a fabricated court order.”

The Wisconsin Supreme Court’s opinion detailing the contempt proceeding and the disciplinary action is available here.

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