Saturday, April 28, 2012

Wife Can't Supervise Reinstated Husband

Another entry on the reinstatement to practice issue comes from a unanimous Wisconsin Supreme Court, which granted the petition of an attorney who has been suspended since the mid-1990s for multiple acts of ethical misconduct.

The court accepted the favorable recommendation of a referee with some reservations and conditions:

Although we determine that Attorney Woodard has now satisfied the criteria for reinstatement, we agree with the referee that some additional conditions on Attorney Woodard's return to the practice of law are appropriate.  We are particularly concerned about Attorney Woodard's stated intention to practice by himself in his own law firm or in conjunction with just his wife.  As the referee noted, the rules regarding the handling of client trust funds and advance fees have changed considerably in the more than 15 years that have passed since Attorney Woodard last practiced law.  Moreover, much of Attorney Woodard's misconduct involved violations of the rules governing client trust accounts and the financial side of attorney/client relationships.  We are not convinced that allowing Attorney Woodard to practice by himself in his own firm with only an outside mentor attorney or with just his wife sufficiently ensures Attorney Woodard's successful reintegration into the practice of law.  Consequently, we determine that in order to ensure that Attorney Woodard does not lapse into a repetition of the misconduct that led to his suspension and revocation, his first three years of practice following reinstatement should be in a law firm or organization where he is subject to the direct supervision of another attorney.  Further, in order to eliminate the temptation of merely relying on the trust that exists between spouses rather than providing direct supervision, we further direct that the supervising attorney must be someone other than Attorney Woodard's spouse.  We also agree with the referee that continuing legal education regarding fee agreements and client trust accounts is appropriate.

Perhaps if someone can't be trusted to practice without direct supervision, that someone should not have a law license. (Mike Frisch)

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