Home / Legal News / Court suspends lawyer for taking money out of wife’s fund (UPDATE)

Court suspends lawyer for taking money out of wife’s fund (UPDATE)

The Wisconsin Supreme Court has suspended the license of a Grafton attorney for 60 days.

Friday’s discipline stems from an Office of Lawyer Regulation complaint filed in 2014, alleging that attorney Shawn Rice took more than $600,000 from the trust account of his ex-wife, Liesl Testwuide, while they were married.

Testwuide had filed a grievance with the OLR during their divorce, alleging that Rice had forged her signature as well as a co-trustee’s so that he could get the money. At around the same time, Rice notified the OLR that he had violated the rules of professional responsibility from 1998 to 2010 by executing documents without power of attorney.

Testwuide had filed a lawsuit against Rice and Davis & Kuelthau in November 2012, alleging fraud, conversion and legal malpractice. The judge in the case barred any transactions that occurred before Nov. 21, 2005, because the statute of limitations had run out. The rest of the claims were settled in May 2013.

The OLR’s complaint had asked for a six-month suspension, which would have required Rice to petition the high court to reinstate his law license.

Rice reached a stipulation with the OLR that he had forged the signatures on the checks, but the two could not agree on the warranted discipline. The OLR reduced the discipline it sought to a 60-day suspension. However, Rice contended that a public reprimand was sufficient given that he had the knowledge and approval of his then-wife to take the money.

A referee eventually recommended that the high court grant the OLR’s request for reduced discipline.

The high court agreed with the referee on Friday and suspended Rice’s license for 60 days starting Feb. 17, noting that the referee did not find that Rice had misused the $600,000 he took. The court also ordered Rice to pay the cost of the disciplinary proceeding, which came to more than $14,000.

Rice graduated from the Marquette University Law School in 1993 and previously worked at Davis & Kuelthau and Godfrey & Kahn. He was publicly reprimanded in 2007 for his misconduct in a commercial real estate transaction.

About Erika Strebel, erika.strebel@wislawjournal.com

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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