The Wisconsin Supreme Court has suspended a Milwaukee attorney’s license for a year and a half.
Wednesday’s discipline stems from an Office of Lawyer Regulation complaint filed in 2015, charging Christopher Meisel with 15 counts of misconduct involving misappropriating thousands of dollars tied to an estate and two guardianships. The OLR had asked the justices to suspend Meisel’s license for three years, then bumped down its request to two years.
A referee agreed with the OLR. Meisel, though, contended that the misconduct warranted nothing more than a suspension of less than six months. He argued that he had presented sufficient evidence showing that he was suffering from brain cancer, which had caused him to engage in the misconduct.
When subjected to a license suspension of six months or more, Wisconsin attorneys must apply for reinstatement, a process that can take up to two years.
A majority of the justices on the Wisconsin Supreme Court agreed with the referee that Meisel had committed all 15 counts of misconduct that he was accused of. Still, they declined to adopt either the referee’s or Meisel’s recommendation for the discipline. Rather, the justices suspended Meisel’s license for a year and a half.
The justices noted that they considered Meisel’s health and personal troubles as mitigating considerations and that, without them, the misconduct would have warranted a longer suspension or the revocation of Meisel’s license.
In her one-paragraph dissent from Wednesday’s decision, Justice Shirley Abrahamson wrote that she agreed with the referee’s recommendation to suspend Meisel’s license for two years because it already taken into account mitigating considerations.
Abrahamson wrote that she was unwilling to join the majority opinion, saying it undermined a previous case, In re Disciplinary Proceedings Against Sosnay, by considering Meisel’s brain cancer as a mitigating factor. Abrahamson wrote that Meisel had failed to prove there was a causal connection between the cancer and his misconduct.
“What is left of Sosnay?” she wrote. “Lawyers, the OLR, and referees ought to know what factors are mitigating factors.”Follow @erikastrebel