Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Fifth Reprimand For "Inattention To Details"

An attorney who has been privately reprimanded three times and publicly reprimanded once in the past gets his second public reprimand from the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

The problem involved his representation of a corporation that owned a restaurant

Although the court of appeals ultimately reversed the circuit court since Attorney Hudec timely filed an amended answer that joined issue as to all causes of action, the court of appeals criticized statements made by Attorney Hudec at the motion hearing in circuit court.  The court of appeals referred to Attorney Hudec's "lack of attention to detail."  The court of appeals also said Attorney Hudec's conduct was "egregious."  The court of appeals further found that Attorney Hudec incorrectly stated the standard of review as being de novo, whereas the correct standard of review was whether the lower court's decision was an erroneous exercise of discretion.

The court of appeals also said Attorney Hudec's "mistake" in signing and filing an incomplete answer appeared "not to be an isolated incident but a pattern of gross and inexcusable inattention to details."  The court of appeals sanctioned Attorney Hudec for intentionally including materials not appropriate to the appeal, including an administrative decision which postdated the decision being appealed and for intentionally including materials the court deemed "salacious."  The court of appeals imposed a $500 penalty as a sanction.

The court of appeals also found that Attorney Hudec failed to serve a copy of the reply brief on the respondent as required by Wis. Stat. ยง 809.19(8).  The court of appeals also chastised Attorney Hudec for failing to proofread his submissions and said, "Frankly, we are at a loss to understand what is clearly Hudec's intentional disregard of the rules and the details, including his failure to proofread."

Chief Justice Abrahamson dissented

I would not adopt the stipulation that imposes a public reprimand.  The court of appeals characterized Attorney Hudec's conduct as demonstrating "a pattern of gross and inexcusable inattention to details."  Attorney Hudec has in the past been the subject of three private reprimands and one public reprimand.  A public reprimand in the present case does not comport with the violation of the Code or the concept of progressive discipline.

(Mike Frisch)


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