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Milwaukee lawyer’s license suspended for 2-1/2 years

The Wisconsin Supreme Court has suspended the license of a Milwaukee attorney who did not pay his storage locker fee, resulting in closed case filings to be publicly auctioned.

The court ordered Phillip Ramthun’s license to be suspended for 2-1/2 years over 42 counts of misconduct, which involved more than the failure to pay the locker fee. According to the decision, Ramthun repeatedly mishandled client cases, allegedly failing to keep money in trust accounts, filing court documents late, and not monitoring pending cases.

Ramthun, who practices in Milwaukee, graduated from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1978. His license, according to the Office of Lawyer Regulation and the State Bar websites, has been suspended because he did not pay dues, report the completion of continuing education requirements, failed to submit a trust account certification, and failed to cooperate with the OLR’s investigation into the conduct leading to Wednesday’s discipline.

Ramthun could not immediately reached for comment. The telephone number listed on the State Bar and OLR websites was no longer in service.

The discipline stems from a complaint filed in October 2014, alleging 22 counts of misconduct, including the failure to pay the storage locker fee. The OLR asked the court to suspend Ramthun’s license for six months but later amended the complaint in March 2014 to include 52 counts of misconduct related to 13 client matters and asked that the court suspend his license for three years.

Ramthun did not file an answer to the complaint. However, after the OLR sought a default judgment, Ramthun sent an email opposing the motion and said a number of factors contributed to the allegations, including how he had moved his office three times in the past five years, got divorced and had medical issues such as a hip replacement, cancer and chronic fatigue syndrome.

Although the court-appointed referee denied the default judgment, Ramthun failed to appear at any of the hearings and conferences related to the disciplinary proceedings, according to the OLR. The referee found that Ramthun committed 46 of the alleged 52 counts of misconduct in 13 client matters from 2007 to 2014. The referee recommended a 2-½ year suspension because Ramthun had not been previously disciplined in the preceding 30 years of practicing law.

The Supreme Court agreed and also ordered Ramthun to pay $1,955 in restitution to a client who had hired Ramthun to represent him in a Social Security benefits claim, and $4,152.23 to the Milwaukee Medical Plan related to a personal injury settlement he did not pay. He was also ordered to complete 20 hours of continuing legal education ethics and trust account courses.

The court also ordered Ramthun to pay $8,040.99 for the cost of the proceeding.

About Erika Strebel, [email protected]

Erika Strebel is the law beat reporter for the Wisconsin Law Journal and a law school student at UW-Madison. She can be reached at 414-225-1825.

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