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High court revokes Madison-area attorney’s license

The Wisconsin Supreme Court revoked the law license of a Madison-area attorney on Tuesday and ordered him to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in restitution.

The disciplinary measure stemmed from a complaint the Office of Lawyer Regulation filed in 2015 charging Patrick Sweeney with five counts of misconduct. Among other things, he was accused of practicing law while his license was suspended, failing to pay filing fees in a bankruptcy case even though he had been ordered to do so and misappropriating hundreds of thousands of dollars belonging to companies he partly owned.

The OLR sought the revocation of Sweeney’s law license, meaning he would be indefinitely banned from practicing law in Wisconsin but would be able to apply for reinstatement after five years.

The allegations also landed Sweeney in federal court in 2017, when a grand jury in the Western District of Wisconsin indicted Sweeney on charges that included wire fraud and identity theft.

Sweeney took a plea deal later that year, pleading guilty to filing a false declaration in the bankruptcy proceeding, and the court dismissed the charges of wire fraud and identity theft. Sweeney was sentenced to five years of probation and ordered to pay $481,970 in restitution.

In the disciplinary case, Sweeney, initially denied the allegations in the OLR’s complaint but later reached a stipulation with the OLR in which he pleaded no contest to those allegations.

They also agreed that the record in the federal criminal case would become part of the factual record on which the court-appointed referee in the case, James Boll, would draw for his recommendations.

Although the OLR remained firm on its request for Sweeney’s license to be revoked, Sweeney contended that his license should be suspended for a year.
Boll in July sided with the OLR, recommending that Sweeney’s license be revoked and that the high court order Sweeney to comply with the restitution order issued in the federal criminal case.

Sweeney filed notice on Aug. 20 that he would be appealing Boll’s recommendation but later withdrew his challenge on Dec. 10.

The justices on Tuesday adopted Boll’s recommendations, immediately revoking Sweeney’s license and ordering him to pay the $481,970 in restitution.

“We determine that the seriousness of Attorney Sweeney’s misconduct demonstrates that his law license must be revoked to protect the public, courts,
and legal system from the repetition of the misconduct; to impress upon Attorney Sweeney the seriousness of his misconduct; and to deter other attorneys from engaging in similar misconduct,” the court wrote in Tuesday’s per curiam decision.

The justices also ordered Sweeney to pay the OLR’s costs, which amounted to $10,338.75 on August 17.

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