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Milwaukee attorney faces suspension for not responding to courts, clients

A Milwaukee lawyer faces a 60-day suspension of his law license for failing to respond to his clients and to inquiries from the Office of Lawyer Regulation.

Peter Kovac, who practices criminal law, graduated from Northwestern University Law School and was admitted to practice law in Wisconsin in 1973. His license is in good standing, according to the State Bar.

Kovac could not be immediately reached by phone or email Tuesday.

He has been professionally disciplined twice. In 2008, Kovac was publicly reprimanded for failing to communicate with and competently represent three criminal clients, representing a client despite a conflict of interest and failing to cooperate with OLR investigations. Kovac was publicly reprimanded again in 2012 for failing to respond to an OLR investigation into a grievance filed against him in 2010.

In a complaint filed Wednesday, the OLR is asking the state Supreme Court to suspend Kovac’s license for 60 days for seven counts of misconduct stemming from his dealings with two clients.

Kovac represented a client who was found guilty of two drug-related charges and sentenced Feb. 1, 2013. According to the OLR, Kovac failed to file a notice of intent to appeal, so his client filed a pro se motion for an extension. The client attempted to contact Kovac to obtain his client file so his new counsel could file the appeal. The new counsel also attempted to contact Kovac to get the file. Kovac failed to respond, according to the OLR.

The state Court of Appeals issued multiple orders for Kovac to respond to the client, but Kovac did not respond to the order. The client filed a grievance with the OLR, which notified Kovac multiple times and requested he respond. According to the complaint, Kovac did not respond until the Supreme Court ordered him to show why his license should not be suspended for failing to respond to the OLR.

But even after the high court’s order, Kovac failed to continue communicating with the OLR, according to the complaint. The OLR went to the Supreme Court twice, asking the justices to issue an order to show cause as to why Kovac’s license should not be temporarily suspended. The justices granted the orders, and Kovac finally responded to the OLR’s requests.

The same happened to a second client who hired Kovac to defend him against felony criminal charges in federal court. Kovac had no written fee agreement with the client, though he did receive $5,000 for reviewing the case and discussed charging between $15,000 and $25,000 in fees, according to the complaint. The client was later convicted and sentenced to six months of incarceration, supervised release and restitution for a felony.

Another lawyer was appointed for the client, and that lawyer attempted many times to get the client file from Kovac, but Kovac failed to respond, according to the complaint. The court then ordered Kovac to turn over the file or be arrested and held by the U.S. Marshal until the file was produced. Kovac had the client file delivered to the lawyer’s office.

Kovac also failed to communicate with the OLR in an investigation into a grievance related to Kovac’s dealings with the client, appeals court and the client’s new counsel, according to the OLR.

Once the OLR’s complaint is served to Kovac, he has 20 days to respond.

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