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Referee: Beloit attorney should be suspended

A referee is recommending a two-month license suspension for a Beloit attorney who admitted to using thousands of dollars from her trust account to pay her taxes and rent.

The referee’s recommendation stems from an Office of Lawyer Regulation complaint filed in September charging Suzanne Kitto with five counts of misconduct, all involving improper trust-account practices.

According to the allegations, Kitto failed to hand over in a timely manner money that she was supposed to be holding in trust and used more than $10,000 from her trust account to pay her real-estate taxes, office rent and personal debts. The OLR alleged much of that money belonged to the couple and that Kitto still owed them $1,674.93. The OLR sought a 60-day suspension of her license and called on the Wisconsin Supreme Court to order Kitto to pay restitution.

Kitto, who is representing herself, filed an answer to the charges in October, admitting to the five rule violations alleged by the OLR but contending that she had already paid restitution to the clients named in the complaint.

The Supreme Court appointed William Eich in November to preside over the proceeding.

Kitto and the OLR reached a stipulation in which Kitto agreed to let the referee use the allegations laid out in the complaint, according to court documents filed in January. The OLR has dropped its request for restitution, having confirmed with the client that full restitution was paid.

Kitto and the OLR also stipulated that the only matter in question is what disciplinary measures ought to be imposed. Kitto has contended that the punishment should be a public reprimand, which would not cause her to be barred from practicing law. Any final decision in the case would merely be made a public record.

The OLR, on the other hand, stayed firm on its request for a 60-day license suspension, which is the shortest license suspension the high court may impose on lawyers found to have committed misconduct.

Eich on March 28 filed a report recommending that Kitto’s license be suspended for 60 days. He noted that commingling and converting client money as Kitto did constitutes serious misconduct and has, standing on its own, resulted in a 60-day suspension in other cases.

Kitto may choose to appeal Eich’s findings. Whatever she chooses, the Wisconsin Supreme Court will review Eich’s recommendations and issue a final decision in the matter.

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