The Wisconsin Supreme Court has affirmed the Board of Bar Examiners’ decision not to admit a bar applicant who, among other things, had failed to disclose a harassment conviction.
The BBE is the agency charged with administering the state’s bar exam, deciding who may practice law in the state and ensuring lawyers fulfill their continuing-legal-education requirements.
The court’s decision on Friday stems from the BBE’s rejection of Daniel Hausserman’s application for admission to practice law in Wisconsin. Hausserman has been working in Appleton as an assistant at Gill & Gill since 2016, according to his LinkedIn profile.
In refusing to admit Hausserman, the board said he had failed to disclose a conviction for harassment in Iowa involving a former girlfriend and had sought to minimize the misconduct that he did disclose.
Hausserman requested a hearing, which he had in January. But the board in March again rejected his bid for admission. He appealed the decision in April. The justices heard oral arguments in the case in October.
Hausserman, represented by Terry Johnson of von Briesen & Roper, contended that he had taken responsibility for his past mistakes, which he said would not be repeated.
The BBE, on the other hand, contended that Hausserman was minimizing the importance of his past behavior and thus had shown “repeated and blatant disregard for authority and the rule of law.”
The justices on Friday sided with the BBE, noting that it had two main concerns. The first concern, which the justices deemed the most significant, was about Hausserman’s behavior during a seven-month window during and after his last year at Drake University Law School. Hausserman started dating a Drake undergraduate student, B.F., in early 2014 while he was in law school. By December 2014, the relationship had ended but the two continued to communicate. Hausserman thought the relationship would continue.
Hausserman continued reaching out to the student despite the university’s telling him not to and banning him from campus. Eventually, he was charged with third-degree sexual harassment. Citing the charges, Iowa’s Board of Law Examiners did not permit Hausserman to sit for its bar exam.
Hausserman eventually pleaded guilty. The court put him on probation for a year and ordered him not to reach out to the student. The court later found him in contempt for speaking to the student again and violating the terms of his deferred-prosecution agreement. Hausserman was ordered to spend 30 days in jail and a year on probation and under supervision and to undergo a mental-health assessment.
The justices’ second concern was about omissions Hausserman had made in his bar application, such as failing to disclose that the university had put restrictions on him and that he and a friend had been cited in 2003 for destroying a mailbox.
The justices concluded that although they had, in the past, overruled some of the BBE’s decisions, the circumstances in Hausserman’s case did not warrant doing so now.
The court noted that some considerations in those previous instances were absent from Hausserman’s case, such as excellent character references provided by people who were aware of the alleged misconduct and “affirmative evidence of rehabilitation.”
Also absent was the passage of time.
“As of the date of oral argument, three years have elapsed since the last incident involving B.F. and there is no evidence of any other concerning conduct during this period,” the court wrote. “This reflects favorably on Mr. Hausserman. However, given the severity of his misconduct, which includes violation of a court order, it is a relatively short period of time compared with the cases noted above.”
Nevertheless, the justices noted that its rules do not prevent Hausserman from seeking admission again “when he believes he can demonstrate his character and fitness to the satisfaction of the Board and this court.”Follow @erikastrebel