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Former Godfrey & Kahn lawyer faces 60-day suspension

A Waukesha County lawyer faces a 60-day suspension of his law license over three counts of alleged misconduct.

According to an Office of Lawyer Regulation complaint filed on Aug. 16, Michael Huitink, a shareholder at the Brookfield-based firm SBR Law Group, broke three Wisconsin Supreme Court Rules of attorney-ethics while representing clients in an insurance dispute. At the time of the misconduct, the OLR alleges Huitink was working at Godfrey & Kahn.

The OLR alleges that Huitink failed to diligently and promptly represent his clients, failed to keep the clients reasonably informed and engaged in behavior involving deceit or misrepresentation.

In August 2014, the clients’ son was injured while playing football, according to the complaint. The son had his first surgery the following month, and a surgeon scheduled a second surgery.

Huitink was friends and neighbors with the clients, Benjamin and Ann Hruz. Benjamin is related to District 3 Court of Appeals Judge Thomas Hruz. Ann told Huitink in September 2014 about the injury and their plans for the second surgery. Huitink offered to help, according to the OLR.

The Hruzs’ insurance provider found the second surgery not necessary and refused to cover it. The son’s surgeon’s office appealed the decision, and the insurance provider rejected it.

In November 2014, the Hruzes asked Huitink to help them appeal the insurance company’s refusal to cover the surgery, and he agreed.

But the OLR alleges that, for more than a year, Huitink lied to the Hruzes about working on the appeal and about the status of the appeal.

Even though his legal assistant at Godfrey had emailed the Hruzes a case number, there was no file opened with that number, according to the complaint.

In August 2015, Huitink asked the Hruzes whether they wanted to take their case to court or to an arbitrator. They eventually chose arbitration and Huitink gave them the name of an arbitrator and told them an arbitration had occurred in October 2014, according to the complaint. In fact, though, no arbitration ever occurred, the OLR alleges.

Moreoever, Huitink told the Hruzes that a wire transfer for $40,000, made to a firm that grew tissue for the Hruzes’ son’s surgery, was from his law firm and that the insurance provider would reimburse the firm. But the money was really from Huitink’s personal account, according to the OLR.

The OLR is asking the Wisconsin Supreme Court to suspend Huitink’s license for 60 days.

Huitink, who earned his law degree from the Washington, D.C.-based Georgetown University Law Center in 1999, has not been previously disciplined by the Wisconsin Supreme Court, according to court records. He has been licensed in Wisconsin since 1999.

According to court records, Huitink is being represented by Dean Laing of the Milwaukee-based firm O’ Neil, Cannon, Hollman, DeJong & Laing. Both Huitink and Laing could not immediately be reached Tuesday.

Once Huitink is served, he has 20 days to respond to the OLR’s complaint. He and the OLR may choose to ask the court to weigh in without the court’s appointing a referee to conduct an evidentiary hearing and recommend appropriate disciplinary measures. Whatever they choose to do, the Wisconsin Supreme Court will issue a final decision in the matter.

About Erika Strebel, erika.strebel@wislawjournal.com

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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