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Milwaukee attorney may not have to pay full cost of disciplinary proceeding

Lawyer-regulators are requesting that a referee recommend that a Milwaukee lawyer should be responsible for paying only half of the costs of his disciplinary proceeding.

The Office of Lawyer Regulation charged Benjamin Harris last year with four counts of misconduct stemming from his handling of an Oconto County couple’s lawsuit against an investment adviser. Among other things, the OLR alleged that Harris had failed to provide competent representation, lied to his clients in a letter, failed to hold in trust the $5,000 advance fee the couple had paid to him and had paid himself half of that money the day afterward without having done any work on the matter and without notifying the couple.

The OLR had asked that the Wisconsin Supreme Court suspend Harris’ license for six months.

However, referee Richard Ninneman recommended last month that Harris be privately reprimanded rather than suspended, that three of the four charges of misconduct be dismissed and that Harris be privately reprimanded for the remaining trust-account violation.

Because it was unable to prove the four charges and did not prevail on the license suspension, the OLR is asking that Harris only be ordered to pay $8,106.38 – half the cost of the disciplinary proceeding. The agency noted in its statement of costs filed Tuesday that although the court’s policy is to usually impose all possible costs in disciplinary cases, it would be unfair for the referee to do so in Harris’ case.

The state Supreme Court will review the referee’s recommendations and issue a final disciplinary order on the matter.

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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