In a rare step, the Wisconsin Supreme Court has indefinitely suspended the law license of a Mequon attorney, finding that he is medically incapable of defending himself in a pending lawyer-discipline proceeding.
The court’s decision on Friday puts on hold disciplinary proceedings that began in 2017, when the Office of Lawyer Regulation charged Gerald Boyle, a solo-practitioner known for defending the convicted serial Jeffrey Dahmer, with six counts of misconduct connected with his representation of two clients who were defendants in criminal cases in Kenosha and Brown counties.
In its original complaint, the OLR had asked that the Wisconsin Supreme Court suspend Boyle’s license for 60 days and order him to either provide proof that he has submitted a fee dispute to arbitration through the State Bar or inform the OLR that he and the client had reached a final settlement over the fee dispute.
Boyle, represented by Anthony Cotton and Donna Kuchler of Waukesha-based Kuchler & Cotton, filed an answer denying most of the OLR’s allegations and asking that the complaint be dismissed.
However, the case was sealed earlier this year after Boyle made filings in February declaring that he had a medical condition that made it impossible to defend himself throughout the disciplinary proceeding. According to the court’s decision, Boyle’s medical condition required an extended stay in the hospital, and doctors deemed him incapable of working as a lawyer.
In July, Boyle and the OLR filed a stipulation in which they agreed that Boyle had substantial medical troubles that made defending himself in the lawyer-discipline case impossible.
Later that month, the referee in the case, Jonathan Goodman, relying on the stipulation and medical records that Boyle submitted, filed a report recommending that the high court find that Boyle has a medical condition that makes his defense in the disciplinary proceeding impossible and that his license should be indefinitely suspended. Goodman also recommended that the proceeding be halted and that the court not impose any costs on Boyle. The OLR had sought $1,426.93 worth of costs.
In September, Boyle filed a letter with the court encouraging the justices to adopt Goodman’s recommendations, noting that he was unable to work.
The justices on Friday agreed to adopt most of Goodman’s recommendations. However, they declined to adopt Goodman’s proposal not to impose costs on Boyle, noting that the disciplinary case may continue in the future.
“Because we are staying a determination on the merits of this disciplinary proceeding due to Attorney Boyle’s medical incapacity, it would be premature to rule now on the OLR’s request for costs, one way or the other,” the court wrote.
The high court’s decision is a rare one. The last time the justices indefinitely suspended a lawyer’s license over medical incapacity was in 2008, in the case of the Milwaukee immigration attorney Godfrey Muwonge. The OLR had charged him with 43 counts of misconduct.
The court reopened the disciplinary case in 2016 and, in 2017, declined to suspend Muwonge’s license for the misconduct, to which Muwonge pleaded no contest. Instead, the justices added more conditions to the reinstatement of his license. Follow @erikastrebel