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Court finds Milwaukee lawyer’s ‘lack of diligence’ warrants license suspension

A Milwaukee criminal-defense attorney will lose his law license for five months in his latest punishment from the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Peter Kovac received the suspension on Wednesday for seven counts of misconduct related to failing to work in his clients’ best interests and failing to cooperate with the Office of Lawyer Regulation’s investigation.

A referee in Kovac’s most recent case said Kovac’s conduct showed either a disregard or inability to comply with his obligations to his clients. Kovac had previously blamed some of the violations on medical issues he was having. The referee wrote that if Kovac was having serious health trouble, he had an obligation to seek help in order to protect the public.

The referee called Kovac “astonishingly cavalier” about his obligation to comply with the OLR, and four of the seven misconduct charges detailed in Wednesday’s opinion related to his lack of cooperation. The referee believed the five-month suspension was an appropriate punishment.

Kovac appealed the recommendation, saying it was an “unduly harsh sanction” built upon his previous punishments. His lost his law license for 90 days in 2016, and he was publicly reprimanded by the state Supreme Court in 2008 and 2012.

He said some of the misconduct occurred before his 90-day sanction was imposed. Because he had no previous notice, he believed increasing sanctions with each new complaint was unreasonable.

“Even though the neglect of the various client matters occurred prior to Attorney Kovac’s 90-day suspension in 2016, as the referee and the OLR both note, Attorney Kovac continued to display a lack of diligence and lack of cooperation while the OLR was attempting to investigate the various grievances that had been filed against him,” the opinion said.

Justice Rebecca Dallet dissented, saying she would have imposed a 90-day suspension.

“While I recognize that this court normally adheres to the concept of progressive discipline, based upon the nature and timing of the misconduct in this case, I would depart from that practice here,” Dallet wrote.

The high court also ordered Kovac to pay the costs of the proceeding, which totaled $7,401.87 as of December 2019.


About Michaela Paukner, mpaukner@wislawjournal.com

Michaela Paukner is the legal reporter for the Wisconsin Law Journal. She can be reached at (414) 225-1825 or by email at mpaukner@wislawjournal.com.

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