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Ex-Jackson County DA responds to misconduct allegations

A former Jackson County district attorney is challenging allegations that he engaged in criminal behavior that violated attorney-ethics rules.

The Office of Lawyer Regulation filed a complaint in September charging James Ritland, of Black River Falls-based James C. Ritland Law Office, with one count of misconduct.

Lawyer-regulators alleged that Ritland broke the attorney-ethics rule prohibiting criminal acts that reflect adversely on a lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer. The OLR specifically pointed to how a special prosecutor had charged Ritland in 2016 with, among other things, felony prostitution and maintaining a drug trafficking place.

Ritland in 2017 pleaded no contest to two misdemeanor counts of attempted adultery and one count of disorderly conduct. The remaining charges were dismissed but were read in for sentencing. Ritland spent 25 days in jail and 12 months on probation.

The OLR is asking the Wisconsin Supreme Court to suspend Ritland’s license for six months.

Ritland filed an answer to the OLR’s complaint on Nov. 29, asking the high court to dismiss the charges. He also denied the OLR’s allegation that he had broken an attorney-ethics rule and admitted to most of the OLR’s factual allegations. However, Ritland denied some of them, including that his former client’s legal bills increased after she became addicted to drugs.

He also noted that he had been “tricked” into loaning the former client money and that the attempted adultery and disorderly conduct charges he pleaded no contest to “does not reflect adversely” on his “fitness as a lawyer in any respect.”

The court-appointed referee in the case, Allan Beatty, will oversee discovery and hold a hearing in the case before issuing a report recommending whether the justices should find that Ritland committed misconduct and what discipline, if any, would be appropriate.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court will review Beatty’s findings and issue a final decision in the matter.


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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