Monday, June 25, 2012
The Wisconsin Supreme Court has reinstated, with conditions, an attorney who was suspended for six months in 2003.
The reinstatement is conditioned on a payment plan to satisfy a sanction imposed for frivolous litigation (which led to the suspension) and disciplinary costs.
An earlier attempt at reinstatement had failed, in part because he did not admit that his conduct was improper.
The court noted concerning payment of the civil sanction and disciplinary costs:
The referee determined...that Attorney W. had provided a satisfactory explanation for his failure to pay the costs of the prior proceedings and the sanction judgment. Specifically, the referee found that Attorney W. had not earned sufficient income to make additional payments. The referee found that Attorney W.'s annual income since 2004 (the first full year of his suspension) had been quite meager, ranging from a low of $1,864 to a high of $9,086. During his suspension Attorney W.'s primary source of income came from part-time work as a musician in a band. In addition, in the first few years following his suspension, he had also received a limited amount of income from his family's real estate business, but that income had ceased due to the difficult real estate market and the death of his father.
The referee found that Attorney W. has not had a permanent residence for a number of years. He has lived with his parents, various friends, and his girlfriend. He has a two-year-old child, for whom he pays child support, but Attorney W. is in arrearage on his child support obligations due to his lack of income.
Here, the court concluded regarding the unpaid obligations:
There is a difference...between choosing to disobey this court's orders to pay costs and being unable to do so because of a lack of funds. The OLR's positions regarding these requirements for reinstatement are all premised on a view that Attorney W. made a conscious decision not to earn money in order to avoid paying his legal obligations. There is nothing in the referee's report, however, to indicate a deliberate choice by Attorney W. to avoid paying his creditors. The referee found that Attorney W. has not been living a comfort-filled life while stonewalling his creditors. Rather, the referee described Attorney W.'s life since his suspension as a "Spartan like" existence with no frivolous spending or unreported income. Attorney W.'s income simply has not covered even his most basic needs, and he has apparently been forced to live off the kindness of his family and friends. Given the referee's findings, we cannot conclude that Attorney W. chose to violate this court's orders or to avoid paying the civil sanction judgment against him.
The court's order includes a payment schedule. (Mike Frisch)