A referee is not only recommending that a Milwaukee lawyer pay half the cost of his disciplinary hearing; he’s also slapping on additional fees.
The recommendation, filed on July 31, stems from a complaint charging Benjamin Harris with four counts of misconduct stemming from his handling of an Oconto County couple’s lawsuit against an investment adviser. According to the allegations, Harris failed to provide competent representation, lied to clients, failed to hold advance fees in his trust account and paid himself without having done any work in the case.
The OLR had asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court to suspend Harris’ license for six months.
However, the referee Richard Ninneman recommended in May 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 in calling for the license suspension, the OLR had asked that Harris be ordered to pay only $8,902.63 – half the cost of the disciplinary proceeding.
Harris responded by contending that he should only pay a fraction of that – either $68.17 or $461.91.
Ninneman filed a recommendation on July 31 siding with the OLR but tacked on an additional $489.11 in costs, which arose from the time he spent considering Harris’ objection to the OLR’s proposal and filing a report
Ninneman noted that he had to “wade through” Harris’ brief, which he noted was composed of 12 pages, typed single space and filled with“convoluted reasoning.” Ninneman also wrote that Harris spent his brief arguing about matters that were not in the record.
The state Supreme Court plans to review the referee’s recommendations and issue a final disciplinary order on the matter. Follow @erikastrebel