The Wisconsin Supreme Court has reinstated the license of a former Kenosha attorney whose money laundering conviction was later overturned.
The justices suspended Walter Stern III’s license in May 2013 for two years over a federal money laundering conviction, which involved concealing $95,000 of a client’s marital settlement agreement to keep it out of consideration in her bankruptcy filing.
A federal jury indicted Stern, and he was sentenced to 357 days in prison in January 2013. However, while Stern was serving his prison sentence in July 2013, a federal court reversed his conviction on the grounds that the trial court wrongly prevented him from testifying about his own conduct. He later pleaded guilty to contempt of court, a federal misdemeanor.
Stern had asked the high court to reinstate his license in February 2015, and the justices granted his request Thursday.
The court also ordered him to pay 3,440.84, half the cost of the reinstatement proceeding. A referee had recommended that Stern pay no costs because he had been wrongfully convicted and as a result spent six months in prison and could not work for two years. On the other hand, the OLR contended that Stern’s circumstances did not justify the court deviating from its policy of imposing all costs on lawyers seeking reinstatement.
But the court noted that Stern did not dispute his misconduct.
“There is no doubt that Attorney Stern’s misconduct, which he did not dispute in his 2013 disciplinary proceedings, necessitated these reinstatement proceedings,” the court wrote Thursday. “We see no reason to transfer all of the associated costs of these reinstatement proceedings to other attorneys who have not engaged in misconduct.”
Stern had been licensed to practice law in Wisconsin since 1974. He has been disciplined several times. He was privately reprimanded in 1988, publicly reprimanded in 1992 and privately reprimanded again in 1993 and 2008. The 2008 discipline stemmed from Stern pleading no contest to a second and third drunk driving offense.