March 24, 2010
Complainant Incredible, Lawyer Reprimanded
The Wisconsin Supreme Court imposed a public reprimand of an attorney in connection with his handling of a probate matter. the attorney had previosly been disciplined for a conflict of interest. A referee had sustained chargers that the attorney had violated rules governing fees by charging a percentage of the gross estate contrary to statutory provisions. The attorney had also allowed an employee to notarize a document outside of the presence of the affiant.
Charges predicted on the complainant's credibility were rejected:
The referee commented at length about the credibility of the various witnesses who testified at the hearing. The referee found that [the complainant] A.W. "was argumentative and often nonresponsive, especially on cross-examination. . . . She attempted to parse words . . . when it suited her. She did run on answers. She basically tried to take control of the questioning when she was on the stand." The referee said during her testimony A.W. repeatedly denied the obvious, gave opinions she was not qualified to give, and frequently made overstatements of fact. The referee noted that A.W. waited for six years before filing a grievance with the OLR. When asked about the delay, A.W. said she had spent 700 hours working on the second estate and that she had been injured and laid up for a year and a half or two years. The referee said, "I found her reasons to be entirely unconvincing."
The referee said although A.W. continually denied she had hired [the] Attorney['s] firm for the probate, exhibits admitted into evidence clearly indicated that she did in fact hire the law firm for probate. While A.W. denied receiving [the] Attorney['s] March 6, 2000, letter, the referee found she did not receive the letter because she deliberately avoided picking it up. The referee summed up A.W.'s testimony by saying, "She basically accuses everybody else, at the best, of being wrong, and at the most of lying. Therefore, unless her testimony was corroborated by some other witness, I gave it absolutely no weight whatsoever."
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