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Madison lawyer challenging referee’s reprimand recommendation

A Madison lawyer is challenging a recommendation that she be privately reprimanded for failing to produce an invoice.

The Office of Lawyer Regulation filed a complaint against Kathleen Wagner in 2014 alleging three counts of misconduct stemming from her representation of an 87-year-old woman in estate and trust-planning matters.

The OLR alleged Wagner had waited six months before depositing a $500 advance fee into her trust account, charged the client excessive fees and, despite having received two orders from a Dane County judge, had continuously failed to provide an invoice account of the legal services she had provided to the client.

The OLR had asked that the Wisconsin Supreme Court suspend Wagner’s license for 60 days.

But the OLR later dismissed the count of misconduct involving charging excessive fees and made a motion for summary judgement on the remaining two counts of misconduct, contending that Wagner had violated both rules as a matter of law.

Wagner, however, contended that summary judgement was not appropriate for several reasons. For one, she argued, her representation of the client had started later than the OLR had stated. As for the invoices, Wagner said she was unable to produce them because her hard drive had crashed, she was suffering from ongoing medical troubles and she had not received necessary documents..

The referee in the case, James Boll, stated in a report filed May 17 that he did not buy Wagner’s arguments. Even so, he found that her failure to deposit advanced fees into her trust account was a de minimus violation and did not warrant discipline. Boll argued state rules do not proscribe a deadline by which lawyers must deposit an advanced fee into their trust accounts.

Boll also found that Wagner should be privately reprimanded for her delay of two years in producing an invoice of the legal services she had provided to her client. Boll argued that his recommendation took into account Wagner’s medical troubles. Without those, he said, he would have recommended harsher discipline.

Wagner filed an appeal of Boll’s decision on Monday, according to court records. That matter will be reviewed by the state Supreme Court.

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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