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State Supreme Court to consider 3 lawyer discipline cases

The Wisconsin Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Thursday in the first of three lawyer-discipline cases scheduled for review this month.

All three disciplinary proceedings involve Milwaukee-area attorneys. Joseph Weigel and Matthew Siderits are accused of separate financial improprieties. John Kenyatta Riley faces charges that he submitted false evidence and knew his client, a suspended attorney, lied during a reinstatement hearing.

Here’s a brief look at each case:

OLR v. Weigel

Thursday afternoon, the court will review allegations that Milwaukee attorney Joseph Weigel, president of Weigel, Carlson, Blau and Clemens SC, mishandled his firm’s finances. The state Office of Lawyer Regulation filed charges against Weigel in 2011, alleging he kept insufficient financial records, paid creditors late and “converted funds belonging to clients.”

The charges stem from Weigel’s attempts at replacing nearly $1 million stolen from the firm’s trust account. Weigel and his firm’s partners were “injecting personal funds into the trust account” and paid settlements “out of funds that belong to other clients,” according to a case synopsis from the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

A court-appointed referee substantiated the OLR’s allegations and recommended suspending Weigel’s law license for 30 months. Weigel appealed that recommendation to the state Supreme Court. He is contesting the allegations and the propriety of the recommended sanction. OLR cross-appealed and is asking the court to revoke Weigel’s law license.

Weigel has been sanctioned before. In June, the state’s high court issued a public reprimand after finding him guilty of two counts of misconduct. The court held that Weigel violated ethics rules by entering into a noncompete agreement with a former partner of the firm, Alvin Eisenberg. The court also found Weigel engaged in false and misleading advertising.

Weigel is represented by attorney Terry Johnson of Peterson, Johnson, and Murray SC, Milwaukee.

OLR v. Siderits

Justices will hear another OLR appeal Friday, this one involving a Waukesha lawyer charged with intentionally misreporting his billable hours.

The OLR alleges Matthew Siderits inflated his billable hours to obtain bonus pay. According to the court’s case synopsis, Siderits later reduced his hours on client invoices. The hours on the invoices, however, did not meet the threshold for bonus pay.

The alleged misconduct occurred while Siderits was a shareholder of a Milwaukee law firm. He also was the firm’s treasurer.

Siderits, now of Aplin and Ringsmuth LLC, asserts his billing records were accurate and he did not know his conduct violated any employment policy or law.

The referee is recommending an 18-month license suspension – a penalty Siderits claims would “effectively end” his legal career.

Siderits is asking the court for a shorter license suspension or a public reprimand. He is represented by Raymond Dall’osto of Gimbel, Reilly, Guerin and Brown LLP, Milwaukee.

OLR v. Riley

Later this month the court will review a referee’s report that Milwaukee lawyer John Kenyatta Riley violated multiple ethics rules while representing a fellow attorney client.

In 2006, Riley was counsel to attorney Brian Polk, who was seeking reinstatement to the bar. Polk testified during a reinstatement proceeding that he did not engage in legal work while his law license was suspended.

The OLR, however, claims Polk actually was employed as an attorney during his suspension, and that Riley knew about it. The OLR alleges Riley submitted false evidence, knew his client’s testimony was false and “engaged in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.”

The referee found merit to the allegations and recommended a public reprimand. Riley has appealed the referee’s findings and the proposed sanctions, and is asking the state Supreme Court to dismiss the charges.

Riley is represented by Paul Erickson and Stacie Rosenzweig of Gutglass, Erickson, Bonville and Larson SC, Milwaukee. Oral arguments are scheduled for Oct. 23.

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