The Wisconsin Supreme Court has suspended the license of an Oshkosh attorney for four months.
Thursday’s discipline stems from an Office of Lawyer Regulation complaint filed in 2015 against George Curtis, alleging seven counts of misconduct. Some of the allegations result from his conviction in 2014 for failing to pay taxes for two years; others stem from his management of his firm’s trust account. The OLR alleges that Curtis failed to follow proper trust-accounting procedures and, because of that mismanagement, officials at his firm now do not know who owns $29,000 now in its trust account.
The OLR had sought to have Curtis’ license revoked, which would have banned Curtis indefinitely from practicing law, although he would have been able to apply for reinstatement after five years.
A hearing on the matter was held in 2016 before a court-appointed referee, Rick Esenberg. Esenberg filed a report in October recommending that four of the counts of misconduct be dismissed because he alleged the OLR had not met its burden of proof.
He also recommended that Curtis’ license be suspended for only 120 days, or four months, and that there be certain conditions imposed on Curtis should he seek reinstatement, including that Curtis certify to the OLR that his firm has a system to ensure that trust-account rules are followed by both him and his staff.
Curtis, who is represented by the Madison-based lawyer Claude Covelli, did not appeal Esenberg’s recommendation.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court agreed on Thursday with Esenberg’s recommendation for discipline. And although it agreed that some conditions should be placed on Curtis should he seek reinstatement, the justices decided Curtis should have the OLR monitor his trust account only for three years.
The court also ordered Curtis to pay three-fourths of the OLR’s costs, which came to $12,665.15.
As for the remaining money in Curtis’ firm’s trust account, the court ordered Curtis to distribute it to its owners. If he cannot find them, he will have to transfer the money to the state treasurer’s office. The justices also ordered Curtis to provide the OLR with proof that the money was distributed in that manner.
Curtis’ suspension starts March 29.