Wednesday, July 15, 2020
The Wisconsin Supreme Court has suspended an attorney for two years for misconduct in defending foreclosure actions.
We reject Attorney Nora's arguments on appeal and conclude that the OLR proved violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct for Attorneys on all five counts of the second amended complaint. We do not agree with the referee's conclusion that Counts 1 and 4 should be dismissed on due process grounds because we determine that Attorney Nora forfeited any due process notice challenge by not raising it before the referee. Had she raised the issue in a timely manner before the referee, the OLR could have amended its complaint to more fully specify the subsections at issue. Moreover, the OLR's complaints did specify the particular actions by her that constituted violations of the rule. Attorney Nora had notice of the allegations against her.
We further conclude that the appropriate level of discipline to impose upon Attorney Nora for her professional misconduct is a further two-year suspension of her license to practice law in this state. Given the nature of her misconduct at issue in this proceeding, we do not require her to pay any restitution. We do, however, require that if Attorney Nora seeks the reinstatement of her license, her reinstatement petition must allege that she has made a good faith effort to pay all outstanding amounts that she personally owes as a result of sanction orders imposed by any court, and she must prove that good faith effort as one of the conditions of reinstatement.
The attorney was admitted in 1975 and has two prior discipline matters that involved a 30-day reciprocal suspension from Minnesota and a one-year suspension in a Wisconsin case.
The misconduct involved fighting foreclosure actions
It cannot reasonably be disputed that Attorney Nora's misconduct is serious. Although she criticizes as "inflammatory" the referee's description of the tactics she used, we view them as fair comments on Attorney Nora's actions. Quite simply, she has repeatedly abused the legal system to pursue her agenda of delaying foreclosure actions by any means possible.
This is not an isolated incident of a lawyer allowing the lawyer's zeal in the heat of battle to overcome the lawyer's better judgment. This is now the third time that Attorney Nora is being disciplined for similar conduct. In just Nora II and this case, she has been found to have filed frivolous claims or taken frivolous positions in five separate actions. Clearly, there is a lengthy pattern of similar misconduct. She has been sanctioned multiple times in multiple courts for her frivolous filings.
Her misconduct does pose a real threat to the administration of justice. Not only has she improperly used the tools of the legal system to delay the completion of civil actions, she has repeatedly attacked the other participants in those actions (judges, lawyers, and litigants) with claims of unethical or even criminal conduct. She alleged that Judge Potter had abandoned his role as a neutral magistrate to manipulate the record and to collude with opposing counsel to reach a corrupt result. She accused Judge Crabb of engaging in a personal campaign of libel against her. She accused the judges of the Seventh Circuit of being biased against the rights of homeowners. Not only was she unwilling to accept the rulings of these judicial officers and therefore repeatedly challenged their rulings after the fact, she labeled those judges who did not accede to her tactics as being biased and unethical. Lawyers do not have to agree with a judge's rulings, but the legal system cannot function properly and maintain the necessary respect in the eyes of the public if lawyers baselessly attack the integrity of the individuals who preside in our courts.
As to the referee's "no remorse" finding
Further, his belief was supported by the fact that during this disciplinary proceeding, Attorney Nora had reached into the same playbook, accusing the investigators and attorneys acting on behalf of the OLR of being biased and having engaged in serious professional misconduct, even in criminal activities.
We do, however, recognize that the COVID-19 pandemic and the attendant matters that have consumed the court over the last several months have impacted the timing of this decision. We therefore conclude that it is appropriate to make the two year suspension effective as of April 1, 2020.