Thursday, March 1, 2018
The Wisconsin Supreme Court has agreed with a referee that a suspended attorney who practiced in Rhinelander be denied reinstatement
After two relatively minor brushes with discipline
In 2014, Attorney Voss's license to practice law was suspended for 18 months for his conduct as the court appointed guardian of the person and estate of an individual suffering from mental illness. This court determined that Attorney Voss committed 11 counts of misconduct by, among other things, converting at least $48,791.73 of his client's funds either for his own use or to cover expenditures for other client matters, committing various trust account violations, and making misrepresentations to the circuit court about the client's assets...
In 2015, Attorney Voss's law license was suspended for a period of 60 days, to run consecutive to the discipline imposed in 2014. The misconduct at issue in the 2014 case included improprieties in the handling of matters filed in United States Bankruptcy Courts; failing to adequately supervise his staff so as to ensure the documents prepared and filed by staff on behalf of clients conformed in all respects with applicable law and court rules and were in all respects accurate; failing to take reasonable steps to ensure his staff timely informed him and/or clients of case developments, including the payment status of filing fees; trust account violations; and failing to provide the Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR) with a copy of his trust account transaction register for the period requested of him by the OLR.
Findings on reinstatement
The referee said most importantly, Attorney Voss failed to comply with the Order of Suspension by not properly notifying his clients, by mail, of his suspension and that the cessation of his law practice was a result of the suspension. The referee said while it was true that Attorney Voss did send letters to his bankruptcy clients, those letters made no mention of any suspension or attorney disciplinary action. Rather, the letters simply indicated that Attorney Voss would be "leaving my Law Practice on September 4, 2014." The referee said when questioned about the letters at the evidentiary hearing, Attorney Voss seemed to feel that there was no need to give his bankruptcy clients a reason for why he was leaving his law practice since the end result —— the client would need to find a new attorney —— would be the same whether or not the clients knew about the suspension. The referee said, "any reasonable reading of the Voss letters makes clear that Voss was trying to give his clients the impression that his winding up of his practice was just a routine matter and was, implicitly, based upon some 'good' reason such as retirement."
There were other failures to properly notify
the referee noted that SCR 22.26(1)(c) requires all suspended or revoked attorneys to give written notice to all courts, agencies, and opposing counsel of the suspension or revocation and of the termination of practice. The referee said Attorney Voss provided no such notification to any of the required persons or entities, nor did he attempt to gain the circuit court's approval for withdrawal and substitution of counsel with respect to his criminal clients. The referee noted that at the evidentiary hearing, Attorney Voss said there had been an article about his suspension in the Rhinelander newspaper. The referee said Attorney Voss seemed to consider the newspaper article substitute notice sufficient to meet the requirements of SCR 22.26.
We adopt the referee's findings and conclusions and agree that Attorney Voss has failed to meet his burden of demonstrating by clear, satisfactory, and convincing evidence that he fully complied with all of the terms of the order of suspension. We also agree with the referee that, at the present time, Attorney Voss cannot safely be recommended to the legal profession, the courts, and the public as a person fit to be consulted by others and to represent them and otherwise act in matters of trust and confidence and in general to aid in the administration of justice as a member of the bar and as an officer of the court.