Wednesday, March 26, 2008
The Wisconsin Supreme Court ordered the continued suspension of a lawyer who has been suspended since April 1, 2004 as a result of his conviction of conspiracy to commit offenses against federal program funds. The attorney had served in the Wisconsin Senate for 23 years. He had argued against revocation of his license in this disciplinary case, contending that "the federal court decisions overstate the nature of the conspiracy and, while he concedes it was wrong to use state employees for personal work and wrong to fail to disclose the payments he received... the payments he received from [an entity that held contracts to administer the state's welfare-reform programs] were fairly obtained."
While the court "decline[d] to accept [the lawyer's] characterization of the events giving rise to the conviction, neither are we persuaded that revocation is a necessary sanction in this instance." As to sanction:
"This is a difficult case and one this court considered very seriously. We share the OLR's concerns about the serious violation of public trust committed by Attorney George, and we agree that substantial discipline is warranted to address that misconduct. At the same time, we are mindful that our role is not to duplicate the punishment Attorney George has already received for his actions, which includes a felony conviction, a lengthy prison sentence, and a very substantial restitution obligation that must be paid.
Ultimately, we have concluded that while Attorney George's misconduct was, indeed, extremely serious, it does not warrant the harshest penalty of revocation. We are influenced by the fact that this is the only disciplinary complaint filed against Attorney George since he was admitted to practice law in Wisconsin some 29 years ago. We are influenced by Attorney George's public service to the citizens of Wisconsin. His service long preceded the events giving rise to this disciplinary matter. Ultimately, while we agree that Attorney George has committed serious misconduct, we are persuaded that his prospects for rehabilitation are real. "
The court imposed a four-year and three month suspension nunc pro tunc to the 2004 suspension order. (Mike Frisch)