Monday, July 21, 2014

Revocation Too Severe For Conversion

The Wisconsin Supreme Court rejected a call for license revocation from the Office of Lawyer Regulation and imposed a suspension of 18 months for an attorney's misconduct as a guardian.

The recreation of Attorney Voss's trust account showed that, during the period of time he served as J.K.'s guardian, Attorney Voss converted at least $48,791.73 of J.K.'s funds either for his own use or to cover expenditures for other client matters.  Since Attorney Voss repaid $46,103.88 to J.K.'s estate, the OLR's audit revealed that Attorney Voss still owes $2,077.18 in restitution to J.K.'s estate.

But revocation is too severe, according to the court

Revocation of an attorney's license to practice law is the most severe sanction this court can impose, and is reserved for the most egregious cases.  While Attorney Voss's misconduct is serious, we do not agree that it rises to the level of warranting revocation.  The cases cited by the OLR in support of its argument that revocation is an appropriate sanction are distinguishable...The conduct here simply does not rise to that level...

Wisconsin does adhere to a system of progressive discipline.  Attorney Voss has been licensed to practice law in Wisconsin for nearly four decades.  His disciplinary history consists of one private reprimand and one public reprimand.  After careful consideration, we conclude that an eighteen-month suspension of his license to practice law is an appropriate sanction.  We agree with the referee that Attorney Voss should be required to pay additional restitution in the amount of $2,077.18 to J.K.'s estate and that he be assessed the full costs of this proceeding.  We further agree with the referee that, as a condition of the reinstatement of his license, Attorney Voss be required to demonstrate that he has in place a proper trust account consistent with supreme court rules.

The referee had proposed a one-year suspension. (Mike Frisch)

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/legal_profession/2014/07/the-wisconsin-supreme-court-rejected-a-call-for-license-revocation-from-the-office-of-lawyer-regulation-and-imposed-a-suspens.html

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Comments

I used to teach students that dipping into client funds -- even just "borrowing" them with an intent to repay -- meant disbarment, period. That just does not seem to be true anymore. In this case the lawyer apparently even had not made full restitution. Ugh.

Posted by: Alan Childress | Jul 25, 2014 7:50:12 PM

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