A referee is recommending that the Wisconsin Supreme Court suspend a Green Bay lawyer’s license for 15 months.
The recommendation stems from a complaint the Office of Lawyer Regulation filed in 2017 against Cole White of White Law Offices, alleging 28 violations of the state’s attorney-ethics rules.
The misconduct, according to the OLR, primarily occurred while White was representing four clients in separate cases. The alleged rule-violations included failure to advance his client’s case, failing to deposit thousands of dollars in advanced fees into his trust account, providing fabricated documents to the OLR when the agency was investigating a grievance a clienthad filed against Cole and charging an unreasonable fee for minimal legal work.
The OLR had asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court to suspend White’s license for 15 months and order him to pay $15,000 in restitution to two of his clients. In order to get reinstated, White would have had to present evidence in a hearing showing that he is fit to practice again.
White responded to the complaint denying some of the factual allegations in the OLR’s complaint.
The OLR and White initially reached a stipulation in which White pleaded no contest to four of the 28 counts of misconduct.
The referee in the case, James Erickson, held an evidentiary hearing in the case in September.
Although the OLR moved to dismiss one of the 28 counts, it did not back down on seeking the 15-month suspension.
White, represented by Jevon Jaconi of Antiphon Law offices in Green Bay, did not contest OLR’s request to dismiss that one count, but did contest five counts of misconduct and contended that the referee overseeing the case should instead recommend a 5-month license suspension. A 5-month suspension would not require White to have a hearing before his license can be reinstated. In all, White asked that that the referee find that White had committed only 22 of the 28 counts of misconduct alleged against him.
White also suggested that Erickson recommend that White be required to enroll in the Wisconsin Lawyers Assistance Program, which is run by the State Bar to help lawyers with mental-health and substance-abuse troubles. White contended that some of his behavior stemmed from symptoms of mental illness, such as bipolar disorder.
In a report issued on Jan. 3, Erickson sided with the OLR. He recommended that the justices find that White committed 27 counts of misconduct and, at the OLR’s request, dismiss the remaining count. Erickson also recommended suspending White’s license for 15 months and ordering White to pay for the cost of the proceeding.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court will now review Erickson’s recommendations and issue a final decision in the matter. Follow @erikastrebel