A former Quarles & Brady LLP partner who stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from a client with Alzheimer’s disease had his law license revoked Tuesday by the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
Jeffrey Elverman, 54, in 2011 was convicted of theft for taking at least $604,000 from Dorothy Phinney while representing her between 2000 and 2004. He did this, at least in part, by billing her for an excessive amount of work that he never did.
Elverman was sentenced to five years’ probation and ordered to spend seven months in the House of Correction and pay $325,000 in restitution. He is appealing the case.
His law license was suspended in 2008 and it has not been reinstated. He and the Office of Lawyer Regulation agreed that a license revocation was the appropriate sentence for eight counts of misconduct, and the court imposed the revocation in a Tuesday opinion.
The justices ordered Elverman to pay an additional $325,000 in restitution, plus $19,558.08 for the cost of the OLR proceedings.
“We agree that in this case, no sanction short of revocation would be sufficient to protect the public, achieve deterrence, and impress upon Attorney Elverman the seriousness of his misconduct,” the opinion states.
Elverman could not be reached for comment Tuesday. The State Bar’s website states he has an office in Brookfield.
Elverman appealed the disciplinary referee’s decision to revoke his license now, however, as opposed to Feb. 13, 2009, when a previous suspension ended. Making the revocation retroactive would have allowed Elverman – a 1986 Notre Dame Law School graduate – to now petition the court to reinstate his license, as the rules state a disbarred attorney can petition five years after revocation.
The OLR agreed to his request, but the court did not. In its opinion (PDF), the court stated that Elverman’s failure to disclose an additional domestic violence-related conviction is “yet another indication of [his] true character.” An attempt to challenge the restitution amount also was rejected by the court.
Elverman left Quarles & Brady in 2004 after the firm found out he received $230,000 in co-trustee fees that he had not turned over. He had worked there for 12 years.
Soon thereafter, he was hired at Michael Best & Friedrich LLP, though he was subsequently fired for not disclosing Phinney as a client, even though he still was working with her.
The opinion states Phinney hired Eleverman in 2000 to prepare a real estate plan. She had assets worth between $1 million and $2 million.
In 2001, as Phinney’s mental health deteriorated, Elverman took over as agent for her finances and health care. In 2003, he made an amendment to her trust that gave him the power to appoint a successor trustee, the opinion states.
But after authorities got involved, a forensic accountant showed Elverman was lying about the amount of work he was doing for Phinney, according to the opinion.
“Adding the hours he billed at Quarles & Brady to the hours he claimed to have worked for [Phinney], Attorney Elverman would have worked 75 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, in 2002; 74 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, in 2003; and 54 hours a week in 2004,” the opinion reads.
Milwaukee County Circuit Judge John DiMotto appointed a guardian for Phinney in December 2008, writing in an opinion that Elverman “engaged in questionable conduct.”
Elverman’s license was suspended in 2008 for not reporting co-trustee fees as income on his tax returns between 1999 and 2003.
Phinney filed suit against Elverman in 2009, though that case has not been resolved. A status conference is set for April 14 in front of Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Paul Van Grunsven.Follow @eheisigWLJ