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High court: Madison attorney used lawsuits to harass opposing counsel, judge

The Wisconsin Supreme Court has suspended the license of a Madison attorney over filing frivolous federal lawsuits against the opposing counsel and judge in her foreclosure case.

Friday’s discipline stems from an Office of Lawyer Regulation complaint filed in 2013 against Wendy Alison Nora over four counts of alleged misconduct involving her work in her own foreclosure case, which involved her property in Madison. The OLR alleged that she had lied to a judge and filed three federal lawsuits with no basis in law or fact. The suits, according to the OLR, were intended to harass and injure other parties.

Nora, who practices in Madison and has an office at Minnesota-based Access Legal Services, attempted to get the Dane County judge assigned to the case, Judge Juan Colas, removed from the case by filing a discrimination lawsuit against him in federal court. She also sued twice in federal court the Milwaukee-based lawyers and firms who represented the banks in her foreclosure case, seeking $10 billion in compensatory and punitive damages.

The OLR sought a one-year suspension of Nora’s law license.

The referee in the disciplinary case, Lisa Goldman, issued a report on Jan. 13 agreeing with the one-year license suspension and finding that Nora had violated four attorney-ethics rules, as alleged by the OLR. Goldman noted that Nora had no legitimate purpose or legal reason for bringing the lawsuits against Colas and the lawyers and firms representing the banks in her foreclosure case. Goldman also recommended that Nora pay more than $50,000 in restitution to Gray & Associates and Bass & Moglowsky, the two firms she sued in federal court.

Nora challenged Goldman’s report, contending, among other things, that Goldman had been biased against her and that there was insufficient evidence that she committed two of the four misconduct charges.

But the justices on Friday upheld Goldman’s recommendations for discipline and found Goldman had properly decided that Nora had committed all four counts of misconduct.

The court called Nora’s use of the judicial system “improper” and found that her misconduct was the result of “affirmative and aggressive attempts to use the judicial system to obstruct the foreclosure of her property and to harass those she apparently deemed responsible for the loss of that property.”

The year-long suspension requires Nora to petition the court for reinstatement. The court noted that this requirement was appropriate because Nora offered no evidence that showed the court that she recognized her misconduct or would change her tactics.

“Finally, it seems apparent that Attorney Nora believes that she must personally fight abuses or improprieties in the real estate lending industry,” justices wrote in Friday’s per curiam decision. “A lawyer’s fight for any cause, however noble one might think it to be, must be conducted within the ethical rules that govern the lawyer’s conduct.”

The justices however, did not discuss Goldman’s determinations on costs and restitution to Gray & Associates and Bass & Moglowsky, given that Nora’s bankruptcy proceeding remains pending.

The court’s decision on Friday partially wraps up one of two disciplinary cases against Nora.

The OLR filed a second complaint against Nora in 2015, alleging that she had committed five counts of misconduct involving her representation in both state and federal courts of two clients in foreclosure proceedings. The OLR is asking the Wisconsin Supreme Court to suspend her license to practice law in Wisconsin for one year, consecutive to Friday’s discipline.

A referee’s report is now due in that disciplinary case in April, according to court records.


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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