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Supreme Court reinstates license of lawyer with gambling addiction

After undergoing treatment for a gambling addiction that helped lead him into fraudulent activity, a former Delavan attorney will regain his law license.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court agreed on Friday to reinstate James M. Schoenecker’s license provided he meet various conditions, such as continuing to receive treatment for a destructive gambling habit. Schoenecker, a graduate of Boston College and Columbia University Law School and one-time lawyer at Quarles & Brady, has been the subject of numerous disciplinary actions in the past decade.

In 2011, his license was suspended for three years after he was found to have improperly obtained and used money belonging, in part at least, to his former fiancé. In one instance, he made several withdrawals at a casino from a joint checking account opened in both his and his fiancé’s names. The withdrawals caused the account to go $1,500 into the red.

After the couple’s engagement was broken off, Schoenecker used his former fiancé’s personal information to access her business account and make checks payable to himself. He later pleaded guilty to one felony count of identity theft and one misdemeanor count of theft-moveable property.

In 2008, Schoenecker became an associate at the Clair Law Offices in Delavan. He told his colleagues he was representing his former fiancé and eventually sent her invoices, many of which were fraudulent, claiming that she owed more than $13,000 for legal services.

Meanwhile, Schoenecker had set up his own firm on the side without telling anyone at Clair Law and was later found to have made fraudulent statements in personal bankruptcy proceedings. The result of all that misconduct was his license suspension in 2011.

Five years later, Schoenecker lost his license again, this time for misappropriating money from a business started with two other men and using it to pay off credit-card debt and gamble at the Potawatomi Casino in Milwaukee.

Schoenecker’s first petition for reinstatement came in 2017. Reviewing it, the Wisconsin Supreme Court denied the request after finding Schoenecker had failed to account for his past “moral lapses.” The Justices, though, did not entirely close the door, saying Schoenecker could try again in six months.

In his second attempt, Schoenecker brought forward various people who could attest to steps he had been taking to improve his life. Among them was a counselor who had been treating Schoenecker for his gambling addiction for four years. The counselor said the chances that Schoenecker will relapse are extremely slim as long as he keeps up his current treatment regimen.

In deciding to reinstate his license, the Supreme Court noted that Schoenecker had expressed remorse, avoided blaming others for his troubles and made restitution. As conditions of his reinstatement, Schoenecker will have to undergo at least three more years of counseling and pay the cost of his court proceedings.


About Dan Shaw, dshaw@wislawjournal.com

Dan Shaw is the managing editor at the Wisconsin Law Journal. He can be reached at dshaw@wislawjournal.com or at 414-225-1807.

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