Thursday, January 7, 2010

Insufficent Atonement

The Wisconsin Supreme Court has denied the reinstatement petition of an attorney convicted in 1992 of first-degree sexual assault as a result of sexual intercourse with his 11-year-old stepdaughter. He consented to revocation of his license. In 1997, while an inmate assigned to a work-release program, he met his wife for lunch. He made sexual advances that she rebuffed and "he assaulted his wife such that for a period of time she feared for her life." He pled guilty to aggravated battery and related offenses and was sentenced to a 16 year term of imprisonent consecutive to the first sentence.

The petitioner sought reinstatement in October 2007. The petition was opposed by the Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR"). At hearing, the petitioner denied the offenses relating to his wife and stated that he pled guilty because he was depressed and wanted to end the matter.

The appointed referee concluded that the petioner had "come to grips about the deep-seated psychological turmoil that allowed him to rape his 11-year-old stepdaughter" and that he would have recommended reinstatement if not for the second incident. OLR contended that the petitioner had show a lack of candor in the process.

The court held:

We adopt the referee's findings and conclusions and agree that Attorney...has failed to meet his burden of demonstrating by clear, satisfactory, and convincing evidence that his post-revocation conduct was exemplary or above reproach.  In addition, we agree with the OLR that Attorney...has also failed to demonstrate by clear, satisfactory, and convincing evidence that he has the moral character to practice law in Wisconsin and he has failed to prove that his resumption of the practice of law will not be detrimental to the administration of justice or subversive of the public interest. 

We do not reach this decision lightly.  It has been 16 years since Attorney...agreed to the voluntary revocation of his license to practice law.  In his petition for reinstatement he indicated that if his license were reinstated he intended to advocate for the rights of blind persons and others who are disabled and also intended to appear before legislative bodies concerning issues relating to disabled persons.  While these are laudable goals, we are troubled by the fact that throughout his lifetime Attorney...has been given multiple opportunities to atone for his past behavior and time after time he has failed to live up to the chances he has been given.  We conclude that he has failed to satisfy the burden placed on him by [the rule governing reinstatement].

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