The Wisconsin Supreme Court has revoked an attorney’s license and ordered her to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in restitution to several clients.
Sarah Laux graduated from Marquette University Law School in 2004. She has not been previously disciplined.
Laux practices in Greenfield. According to the State Bar’s website, her license has been suspended for not completing continuing education requirements, and the Wisconsin Lawyer’s Fund for Client Protection has approved a claim against Laux.
Laux could not be immediately reached Wednesday.
Wednesday’s discipline stems from an Office of Lawyer Regulation complaint filed April 2014, alleging Laux withdrew more than $500,000 from accounts owned by her clients for her personal use. At the time the complaint was filed, she was also being investigated by the FBI. The complaint was later amended in October 2014 to allege 23 counts of misconduct regarding four client matters.
Wednesday’s decision also details grievances aside from those detailed in the OLR complaint. Some were filed by attorneys who worked with Laux, including attorneys with Associated Bank, who alleged she sent them false bank statements, drafted documents without a conflict waiver and misappropriated money. A recent law school graduate who worked for Laux expressed concern about her practices, according to the decision.
The court also noted that the clients mentioned in the OLR complaint are not the only ones who have filed grievances against Laux — the OLR was investigating 28 more grievances when Laux petitioned the court to revoke her license.
Plaintiffs in a Milwaukee County lawsuit allege Laux misappropriated more than $1.6 million regarding a trust account and engaged in, among other things, fraud, theft and conspiracy.
Others, according to court documents, allege they paid Laux to prepare trusts but later learned the documents she prepared would or did cause them financial harm. Several clients also allege that Laux was difficult to reach, failed to produce promised legal work and provided incorrect legal advice.
In Wednesday’s decision, the justices called Laux’s conduct “egregious” and noted that it “warrants the severest level of discipline that we impose. … Anything less than a revocation of her license to practice law would unduly depreciate the seriousness of her misconduct.”
The court also ordered Laux pay any restitution ordered by the U.S. District Court in the criminal proceeding. The court noted that if Laux ever petitions for her license to be reinstated, the court will examine whether she has paid all restitution or settled all claims against her.
The court ordered Laux to pay $626,515 in restitution to several clients and the WLFCP, plus full costs of the disciplinary proceeding.
Laux has had other professional troubles.
Two of the client matters that were part of the misconduct for which Laux was disciplined on Tuesday are also part of a federal case pending against her. In December, she was indicted on 33 criminal charges, including two counts of bank fraud, nine counts of wire fraud, one count of mail fraud, 20 counts of money laundering and one count of filing a false tax return. She is accused of defrauding four clients of $2.2 million.
Laux’s insurance license also was revoked in January 2014. The state insurance commissioner’s office ordered her to pay more than $584,000 in restitution to a client, pay $60,000 in forfeitures that represents the money she allegedly profited from in stealing from that client, and $32,000 for violating 32 insurance laws. Follow @erikastrebel