Tuesday, July 27, 2010

License Revoked After 57 Years In Practice

There is something deeply depressing about a bar discipline matter that results in the ultimate sanction of disbarment of an attorney after 57 years of practice.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court accepted the consent revocation of an attorney who had engaged in serious misconduct in two estate matters. The court agreed with the Office of Disciplinary Counsel that an order of restitution was appropriate in both matters as well as in a third bar complaint.

Milwaukee World reports that the attorney had been incarcerated for contempt in failing to turn over assets of one of the estates. ("Office hours now visiting hours for jailed attorney"). This report on the contempt matter from InsuranceNewsNet.com provides some additional details:

According to a motion filed by his attorney, Richard Frederick, [the attorney] "is in financial distress." He owes judgments of about $30,000 to a bank and a law firm, lost the heat in his office -- Christian Legal Services -- over unpaid bills, and nearly lost his longtime Brookfield home to foreclosure.

[The attorney] has "agreed in principle" to surrender his law license, but needs to wind up his practice first, Frederick wrote. He declined to talk about the case with a reporter.

A Wisconsin lawyer for more than 50 years, [the attorney] had built a reputation around the Milwaukee County Courthouse as "the grand master of probate," someone who would take on the messiest cases others couldn't or wouldn't handle, mostly small estates with muddied issues of beneficiaries and heirs. Many such cases don't pay much, if anything, but are considered a favor to the courts and part of a lawyer's professional obligations.

That trust he built up over the years may have allowed his practices to go unnoticed by clerks and judges until a lawyer in a much larger estate, worth about $1.8 million, began encountering stall tactics from [the attorney] and a growing paper trail of misused estate assets that led to overseas accounts of "church bonds," according to [the attorney].

(Mike Frisch)


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