Friday, December 13, 2019

Attorney Reinstated

The Wisconsin Supreme Court has reinstated with conditions an attorney who had been subject to a three-year and one year suspensions in two bar matters. 

Much of the misconduct in that case arose out of Attorney Schoenecker's personal and professional relationship with his former fiancée. In late 2007, Attorney Schoenecker and his fiancée opened a joint checking account and the fiancée obtained a home equity line of credit and loaned Attorney Schoenecker $48,500. Attorney Schoenecker executed a promissory note whereby he promised to repay the loan with interest. Two days later, the fiancée learned Attorney Schoenecker had made cash withdrawals from her checking account at a casino, resulting in a $1,500 negative balance in her account. She closed the joint checking account and ended her engagement to Attorney Schoenecker.

Attorney Schoenecker repaid part of the loan balance. At some point the former fiancée filed a collection action against him. The parties reached a settlement, and Attorney Schoenecker paid the former fiancée over $32,000 as part of a full resolution of their financial issues.

In December 2008, Attorney Schoenecker used the former fiancée's personal information to enter her business account without her permission and made checks payable to himself. As a result of these actions, he was charged in two separate criminal proceedings, one in Walworth County where he pled guilty to one felony count of identity theft and was placed on two years of probation and ordered to make restitution and pay court costs, and one in Waukesha County where he pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge of Theft-Moveable Property. The Waukesha County circuit court imposed and stayed a four-month jail sentence and placed Attorney Schoenecker on probation for one year. In addition, Attorney Schoenecker was required to pay restitution to the former fiancée and pay court costs.

In 2008, Attorney Schoenecker became an associate at the Clair Law Offices. He told the law firm he was representing his former fiancée, so she was considered a firm client. He sent invoices to the former fiancée in the fall of 2008 showing that she owed over $13,000. A substantial number of the entries on the invoices were fraudulent.

Attorney Schoenecker also set up his own separate law firm on the side while he was working as an associate at the Clair Law Offices. He did not inform the law firm of this fact. In addition to the incidents involving the former fiancée and the Clair Law Office, Attorney Schoenecker's 2011 suspension also arose out of his making fraudulent statements in his own personal bankruptcy proceeding.

In 2016, Attorney Schoenecker received an additional one-year license suspension. See In re Disciplinary Proceedings Against Schoenecker (Schoenecker II), 2016 WI 27, 368
Wis. 2d 57, 878 N.W.2d 163. The misconduct at issue in that case arose out of Attorney Schoenecker's involvement in a business partnership he entered into in 2012 with two other men. One man gave Attorney Schoenecker $25,000 in cash as his capital contribution, and the other man contributed $20,000. Instead of immediately depositing the $25,000 capital contribution into a business account, Attorney Schoenecker deposited the bulk of that money into his own personal checking account. He also used company funds to pay personal credit card bills without preapproval from his partners, and he withdrew funds from company accounts in order to gamble at Potawatomi Casino in Milwaukee.

Here he presented evidence of his recovery from gambling addiction

While Mr. Harrison agreed that there is no guarantee Attorney Schoenecker would not relapse, he stated the chances of relapse were very minimal so long as Attorney Schoenecker continues what he has been doing for the past four years. When asked if had any opinion regarding whether anything outside of the gambling addiction might explain Attorney Schoenecker's conduct, Mr. Harrison said that lying and misconceptions were part of a gambling addiction. He said, "it is a body rush.
They will do anything they can to obtain that, whether it's lying, whether it's stealing, whether it's embezzling. So this is part of the addiction."

The court

After careful review of this matter, we adopt the referee's findings of fact and conclusions of law and agree with the referee that Attorney Schoenecker has demonstrated he has
met the burden of proof imposed upon him by our Supreme Court Rules. We agree with the referee that, in order to ensure, to the extent possible, that Attorney Schoenecker will not relapse, he should be required to continue monthly counseling either with Mr. Harrison or a counselor with similar credentials for a period of three years, with the counselor being required to file semi-annual progress reports with the OLR.

(Mike Frisch)

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