Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Reinstatement Denied in Light Of Restitution Issues

The Wisconsin Supreme Court denied the petition for reinstatement of a former attorney who had been appointed to represent Milwaukee Cheese and Sheboygan Sausage in a Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceeding. He embezzled over $550,000 of entrusted funds to support his lifestyle. He also took funds from his mother's living trust. His license was revoked in 1993 and he was convicted of related federal offenses.

The court notes:

We do not reach this decision lightly.  It has been 16 years since Attorney Jennings agreed to the voluntary revocation of his license to practice law.  Sixteen years is a long time.  In the interim, Attorney Jennings has taken some significant steps to turn his life around and atone for his bad behavior.  He has maintained steady employment.  He has been making court-ordered restitution payments to the Employee Stock Ownership Trust of Milwaukee Cheese.  He has attended legal educational programs to maintain competence and learning in the law.  In spite of these positive steps, we are troubled, as was the referee, by the fact that Attorney Jennings' former law firm and the president and CEO of DSI are still owed large sums of money.  We recognize that Attorney Jennings may lack the financial resources to ever make full restitution.  What we find far more troubling than his failure to make restitution is his apparent failure not to have ever tried to determine exactly how much he owes his former law firm.  When pressed on this issue at oral argument, Attorney Jennings first seemed to skirt the issue, and only when directly pressed on the subject did he admit that he has made no direct payments to his former law firm since 1997 and he did not know——and apparently never made a real effort to figure out——how much he owes the firm.  This seeming failure to completely face up to his obligations gives us pause and tips the balance against granting the reinstatement petition.

(Mike Frisch)



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