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Milwaukee attorney agrees to give up law license

A Milwaukee attorney charged with 19 ethics violations wants to surrender his law license.

The Office of Lawyer Regulation filed a complaint against the Milwaukee attorney Thomas Vaitys in June alleging 19 charges of misconduct arising from his representation of a single client in a Milwaukee County estate matter.

According to the OLR’s allegations, Vaitys fabricated records to hide the fact that he had misused money that was supposed to be held in trust, failed to file briefs in a timely manner to the state Court of Appeals and failed to explain in writing the reasons for his fee and the scope of his representation.

In its complaint, the OLR had asked for a three-year suspension of Vaitys’ license and for Vaitys to pay more than $70,000 worth of restitution.

Initially, Vaitys denied all the charges. However, he later admitted to some of the allegations in the complaint, noting that he had dissolved his law firm, Vaitys Law, and now lives in California, where he runs a family business.

In September, Vaitys filed a petition for voluntary revocation of his license, telling the court that not only is he unable to defend himself from the 19 allegations in the OLR’s complaint, but he also cannot defend himself against allegations stemming from two pending formal OLR investigations.

One of the investigations involves a grievance filed by the St. Louis resident Willie Armstrong, who had hired Vaitys in 2015 through power of attorney to investigate fraud and the embezzlement of his mother’s bank accounts in Milwaukee. The OLR is investigating at least 16 possible rules violations related to the grievance Armstrong filed and seeks $500 worth of restitution to Armstrong for a refunded arbitration fee Armstrong paid but that Vaitys failed to refund.

The other investigation stems from the representation of a client who had hired Vaitys in 2016 to explore possible claims that a limited-liability company might have against a homeowner’s association and management company. In March 2017, the client specifically hired Vaitys to represent him and his limited-liability company in a small-claims action the homeowner’s association had filed. The OLR is investigating whether Vaitys had broken eight attorney-ethics rules in his dealings with the client.

Vaitys’ petition also states that he would agree to pay the $500 worth of restitution sought by the OLR, along with the $69,867.46 the OLR wanted him to pay the client named in the 2017 complaint and $2,130.05 to the other lawyer that client had hired.

The OLR supports Vaitys’ petition, calling his misconduct “serious, extensive and wide-ranging.”

The referee in the case, Rick Esenberg, will review Vaitys’ petition and submit a recommendation to the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

The high court will review Esenberg’s suggestions and make 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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