Thursday, March 21, 2013
The Wisconsin Supreme Court has imposed a public reprimand of an attorney who originally charged with fourteen counts alleging improper sexual relations with four clients over a sixteen year period.
One divorce client's allegations resulted in eight counts of misconduct. The attorney had "quickly commenced a relationship [with the client] and eventually they lived together for several years. Their relationship ended, acrimoniously, in 2005."
The referee concluded that the sexual relations charges concerning that client should be dismissed "as exceeding the permissible statute of limitations..." but found that the attorney made false and misleading statements during the bar investigation.
The referee found similar charges by other clients were not proven.
The court found the two violations as desevring of a public reprimand because "without minimizing the seriousness of [the violations], it was far less serious and of a significantly different nature than originally alleged."
As to costs:
As the litigation proceeded, one witness changed her story and conveyed exculpatory evidence to the OLR's retained counsel that had not been disclosed to the OLR during its investigation. The OLR promptly disclosed these developments to respondent's counsel resulting in the dismissal of six of the 14 counts. Two counts were dismissed at trial when one of the grievants did not appear in person and the referee concluded telephonic testimony should not be permitted. Under these rather extraordinary circumstances, we agree that a reduction in costs is warranted in part because of the disparity between the allegations and recommended discipline in the complaint and the ultimate conclusions of this court.
Chief Justice Abrahamson and Justice Gableman did not participate. (Mike Frisch)