Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Elvis Has Left the Practice

The Wisconsin Supreme Court denied the reinstatement petition of an attorney whose license was revoked in 2003. The court agreed with the referee that the petitioner had done very little in the way of demonstrating present fitness to practice. For example:

...the referee concluded that [the] Attorney...had not demonstrated that he has a proper understanding of and attitude toward the standards that are imposed upon members of the bar of this state.  On the reinstatement questionnaire that [he] submitted to the OLR, he stated that he had been denied an opportunity to earn a living practicing law and that this court's revocation order had caused him to lose an estimated $1 million in income.  The referee indicated that these comments demonstrated an attitude that practicing law is a right rather than the privilege it truly is. 

Moreover, the referee found that [he] had attempted to shift the blame for or minimize the misconduct that led to the revocation of his license, "forgetting that he was disbarred for dishonesty, incompetence, conversion of funds, and lying to a court, among other things."

The referee was particularly troubled by a number of reference letters submitted on [his] behalf.  The reference letters came from individuals without knowledge of the law or of [his] legal abilities, and they consistently claimed that the misconduct claims against [him] had been spurious or unproven.  Despite this court having found multiple violations of SCR 20:8.4(c), one such letter stated that there had been "no evidence of fraud" in the prior disciplinary proceeding.  The referee questioned where these individuals would have gotten such false beliefs if not from [his] statements to them.  The referee concluded that the inaccurate statements in the letters, which must have resulted from communications with [him] showed deliberate misinformation or at least a failure to take responsibility.

In addition, during the reinstatement proceeding [he] attempted to downplay the process that led to the revocation of his license to practice law in 2003.  He described it as only a summary process, falsely insinuating that he did not have a full opportunity to contest the allegations of misconduct.  The referee further stated that [he] had attempted during the reinstatement proceeding, albeit unsuccessfully, to revisit the question of his professional misconduct already decided by this court in 2003.  The referee commented that [his] conduct during the reinstatement proceeding was "the definition of denial" and showed a lack of insight and remorse about his past misconduct.

Nice to see all the justices in agreement. (Mike Frisch)


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Little doubt that this matter was correctly decided, but two points:

1) Actually, the practice of law is a fourteenth amendment protected property right and liberty right and not just a privilege. It is unfortunate that the privilege language continues to find its way into court opinions even today.

2) What is a lawyer to do if he vigorously defends against the discipline, loses but then rightly or wrongly but honestly believes that the court wrongly convicted him? The court might phrase it as “lack of insight and remorse about his past misconduct”, but we all know that what is really going on here is a determination by the court that the lawyer will not be reinstated until he kowtows to the authority of the court by submitting to decision of the court, both legally and morally. So must the lawyer lie to the court that he not only accepts the court’s decision but also fully agrees with it? Apparently, yes. Clearly, this is not about ethics. This is about power.


Posted by: FixedWing | Aug 24, 2010 11:12:52 AM

Is there no one concerned about EEOC and SS "Judges" practicing law without an "active" license by issuing Decisions.

Posted by: joe brown | Aug 26, 2010 4:17:10 PM

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