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Arizona attorney faces discipline in Wisconsin

An Arizona attorney is faced with disciplinary measures in Wisconsin over professional misconduct he has admitted to committing in his home state.

The Office of Lawyer Regulation filed a complaint on Dec. 13 charging Barry Wagner, who practices in Phoenix, with failing to notify the OLR that the State Bar of Arizona had reprimanded him in April and placed his license on probation for two years for breaking Arizona’s rules of professional conduct.

The OLR is seeking reciprocal discipline. The agency is asking the Wisconsin Supreme Court to publicly reprimand Wagner and order him to follow the terms of the Arizona order, which call for probation and require him to complete additional ethics training.

Unlike the Wisconsin Supreme Court, the Arizona Supreme Court does not have a separate entity from the bar that regulates in-state lawyers.

The State Bar of Arizona and Wagner reached an agreement in March in which Wagner admitted to committing misconduct for improperly handling a personal-injury settlement and consented to a reprimand and probation.

The bar was alerted to the alleged misdeeds by Wagner’s client, who filed a grievance in December 2015.

Wagner later admitted that he had received the $16,500 settlement in April 2015 and disbursed some of the money to his client when he believed all the liens had been paid. He forgot that two third parties had more than $7,500 in liens that were active and did not pay them until January 2016.

He also admitted to various trust-account violations that the bar found in its investigation, including converting other clients’ money when he overpaid the client and failing to keep proper trust records. Lawyer-regulation officials found 35 instances in which Wagner overpaid either clients or third parties, then deposited money from elsewhere to make up for it.

A disciplinary judge accepted the agreement in April. The terms of the two-year probation call for Wagner to attend a half-day trust-account ethics program and participate in a two-year review of his office procedures.

Wagner, who earned his law degree at the University of Miami School of Law in 1998, has been licensed in Wisconsin since 2000. His license is not in good standing. He has failed to pay dues since 2006 and failed to report the completion of continuing legal-education requirements since 2007, according to the Wisconsin State Bar website.

Wagner has 20 days to tell the court in writing of any opposition to its imposing disciplinary actions that are reciprocal to those taken by Arizona.

About Erika Strebel,

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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