The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Tuesday publicly reprimanded a suspended Menasha lawyer who quit law to become a nurse.
According to the disciplinary order, Robert Smead hasn’t practiced law since 2010 after receiving two 90-day suspensions followed by an administrative suspension for nonpayment of State Bar dues and delinquency in Continuing Legal Education credit.
Smead, according to the complaint, has since closed his practice and gone to school to obtain a nursing degree.
But that didn’t stop the Supreme Court from reprimanding Smead for failure to notify a client that Smead’s license was suspended in 2007 for failure to cooperate with an Office of Lawyer Regulation investigation.
The client initially filed a complaint with OLR in 2009, but the referee rejected an agreement to a public reprimand because Smead did not have money at the time for restitution.
On April 27, OLR filed a new complaint, and the court mandated in its order that Smead repay $1,500 owed to the client from the 2007 case.
According to the order, referee Timothy Vocke recommended only a public reprimand because of mitigating factors. Vocke said the misconduct took place soon after Smead absorbed the caseload of a suspended attorney he shared office space with, according to the order.
Most clients had already paid the sanctioned lawyer a retainer, and Smead worked the majority of cases for free, according to the order.
The increased caseload overburdened Smead, according to the order, and there was no indication the misconduct was tied to greed or intentional dishonesty.
According to the order, Smead obtained his nursing degree and is working at a hospital.