The Wisconsin Supreme Court has decided to discipline a La Crosse County attorney using a 60-day suspension instead of the public reprimand a referee recommended.
Friday’s disciplinary measures stems from a complaint the Office of Lawyer Regulation filed in 2016 against Sonja Davig, a trusts-and-estates and family lawyer, alleging she had broken eight lawyer-ethics rules while working with her husband at the Holmen-based firm Huesmann Law Office. She now works for Johns, Flaherty & Collins in La Crosse.
According to the allegations, Davig failed to hold thousands of dollars’ worth of client money in her trust account, made prohibited withdrawals from that account and used personal money to cover up the missing money.
The OLR asked that the Wisconsin Supreme Court suspend Davig’s license for a year.
She later reached a stipulation with the OLR, agreeing that the allegations in the complaint were true. However, Davig contended that the misconduct only warranted a public reprimand, which would involve no suspension from law practice. However, the final decision in the case would be made public and would be sent to her hometown newspaper.
The court-appointed referee in the case, Allan Beatty, issued a report in January siding with Davig, who represented herself. He called the OLR’s bid for a license suspension “more punitive than productive.”
The OLR filed notice in January that it was appealing Beatty’s recommendations, contending the public reprimand was too lenient.
The justices on Friday upheld Beatty’s factual findings but imposed a 60-day suspension, citing Davig’s lack of previous professional misconduct. The suspension starts Feb. 8.
The court wrote that although it agreed with the OLR that a public reprimand was insufficient discipline for the misconduct Davig had admitted to, a year-long suspension was too long.
The court on Friday also ordered Davig to pay the full cost of the proceeding, which is $10,360.04.
Chief Justice Pat Roggensack did not participate in considering Davig’s case.Follow @erikastrebel