Thursday, September 30, 2010
A rather remarkable reinstatement case decided today by the Wisconsin Supreme Court rejected an unfavorable recommendation and granted the return to practice of a former attorney. The court really could not point to much that favored reinstatement. The attorney had been a State Senator.
The findings below were entirely adverse--the petitioner had been suspended for four years and three months after a criminal conviction. He had denied that he had done anything wrong and was still under court supervision. He had been less than diligent on restitution. The referee had recomended against reinstatement. Nonetheless, the court found on de novo review:
We begin by acknowledging that some of Attorney...'s past conduct has been deeply flawed. He has been professionally disciplined and criminally prosecuted for that bad conduct. He has been less than forthcoming with information about his activities while under suspension. He has steadfastly maintained that he did nothing wrong and that his criminal prosecution was politically motivated. He appears to operate under the misapprehension that he is somehow entitled to reinstatement upon the expiration of his license suspension. Indeed, Attorney...'s approach to this entire reinstatement proceeding has made it a more difficult and time-consuming inquiry than it might otherwise have been.
However, we focus on the specific question before us today: Whether Attorney... has demonstrated by clear, satisfactory, and convincing evidence that his license to practice law should be reinstated at this time. After careful review of the entire record, we conclude the answer to this question is, "Yes."
This is so because the a disbarred attorney need not admit guilt to achieve reinstatement (the District of Columbia has taken a contrary view in the case of William Borders, convicted in the attempted bribery of Alcee Hastings) and a reinstatement is not a retrial of the criminal case. I agree, but so what?
The court's rationale in toto:
Attorney...is a high-profile individual whose criminal and professional misconduct has been well publicized. However, we must guard against a temptation to "re-try" the disciplinary case or revisit the criminal conduct for which Attorney...has been punished. At the same time, Attorney... is not "entitled to reinstatement" simply because the period of suspension has lapsed. (citation omitted)
Upon careful consideration of the entire record, we conclude Attorney...has met his burden of proof with respect to the elements necessary to justify reinstatement. We conclude Attorney...can safely be recommended to the legal profession, the courts, and the public as a person fit to be consulted by others as a lawyer.
That's a comfort.
This report on the court's decision comes from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.