Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Professional Responsibility — revocation

By: WISCONSIN LAW JOURNAL STAFF//December 19, 2012//

Professional Responsibility — revocation

By: WISCONSIN LAW JOURNAL STAFF//December 19, 2012//

Listen to this article

Wisconsin Supreme Court


Professional Responsibility — revocation

Where attorney Joseph W. Weigel systematically ran a deficit in his trust fund, revocation is appropriate, even if he did not take client funds.

“Attorney Weigel admits that when he purchased the firm from Alvin Eisenberg, he was aware the trust account was running a deficit which he believed to be in the $200,000 to $250,000 range. He admits that by late 1999 or early 2000 he recognized the trust account deficit was closer to $1,000,000. Yet, he did not report the problem to the OLR, nor did he close the terribly out of balance trust account and open a new one. It was apparently the culture of the law firm, both when Alvin Eisenberg was in charge and after Attorney Weigel took over, not to keep the requisite trust account records. Attorney Weigel argues that his motives were selfless, that he tried to remedy the situation by gradually paying off the trust account deficit he inherited, thereby saving the jobs of the many people who worked at the law firm, and that he would have made more money if he had simply walked away from the firm. We concur, however, with the referee that profit motives as well as selfish motives led to Attorney Weigel’s decision to try to hide the trust account problems for many years rather than acknowledging the problems and dealing with them in an appropriate fashion.”

“We reject Attorney Weigel’s claim that the OLR failed to prove that anyone was harmed by the trust account violations. L.B. was required to pay healthcare bills out of her own money that she thought had been paid by the firm. MOMS failed to receive timely payments. Attorney Weigel admitted that third parties routinely had to wait for months to get paid. By Attorney Weigel’s own admission, his law firm’s trust account has run a deficit of between $100,000 and $1,000,000 for over 13 years. This is not a case where an attorney’s failure to strictly comply with the recordkeeping requirements of the trust account rule amounts to nothing more than a technical violation.”

“A six- or seven-figure deficit in an account that holds client funds is an ethical failure of epic proportions. We agree with the OLR that it would be difficult to imagine a more aggravated pattern of misconduct than the one presented here. We agree with the OLR that any sanction less than revocation would undermine the public’s confidence in the honesty and integrity of the bar. Revocation of Attorney Weigel’s license is the only sanction proportionate to the seriousness of the misconduct, and revocation will also protect the public, the courts, and the legal system, and it will deter other lawyers from engaging in similar misconduct. We also agree with the referee that Attorney Weigel should be assessed the full costs of the proceeding.”

2011AP659-D OLR v. Weigel

Per Curiam

Attorneys: For Complainant, Respondent, Cross-Appellant: Schwarzenbart, Paul W., Madison; Weigel, William J., Madison; For Respondent, Appellant, Cross-Respondent: Johnson, Terry E., Milwaukee; Weigel, Joseph W., Milwaukee


What kind of stories do you want to read more of?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Legal News

See All Legal News

WLJ People

Sea all WLJ People

Opinion Digests