A former Madison attorney once deemed a “serious and ongoing threat” saw her law license suspended for two years on Tuesday in her third disciplinary action in Wisconsin.
The decision was the result of the Office of Lawyer Regulation’s latest case against Wendy Alison Nora of Access Legal Services in Minneapolis. At the time of the OLR’s original complaint, Nora had been practicing primarily in Madison.
The OLR filed its original complaint in her disciplinary case in November 2015. The agency then alleged Nora had filed frivolous motions, delayed proceedings, and harassed other parties and judicial officers while representing two separate clients.
The referee in the case accused Nora of intentionally behaving in an offensive and difficult way in order to delay foreclosure proceedings for her clients. The referee said Nora believed her tactics were an appropriate defense and saw herself as a hero.
“(She) represents a serious and ongoing threat to the public, the judges before which she appears, opposing counsel, and the legal profession,” the referee concluded.
He recommended a two-year suspension and said that the reinstatement of her license should be conditional on her showing good faith efforts to pay the “tremendous costs” incurred by the OLR and other lawyers in her disciplinary hearing.
Before the issuance of the referee’s final report and various interlocutory orders, Nora had filed an appeal alleging due-process violations. She initially complained that the OLR had included in its post-hearing brief 174 proposed findings of fact with citations to the record, arguing they were improper because the OLR hadn’t obtained a “cause-to-proceed” determination from a panel of the preliminary-review committee.
The state Supreme Court found no violation of her rights arising out of the submission. The opinion said she had sufficient notice of the charges to prepare her defense and was accorded a four-day hearing at which she could question the OLR’s witnesses and present her own testimony and exhibits.
“Her failure to avail herself of some of those opportunities does not mean that her due process rights were violated,” the opinion said.
The high court found Nora engaged in the professional misconduct alleged in all five counts of the OLR’s amended complaint. The opinion cited a “lengthy pattern of similar misconduct” and her two previous disciplinary actions for this type of conduct.
In 2018, the Wisconsin Supreme Court suspended her law license for one year for filing frivolous lawsuits against the opposing counsel and judge in her foreclosure case. She tried to get Dane County Circuit Court Judge Juan Colas removed from the case by filing a discrimination lawsuit against him in federal court. She also went to federal court to file two lawsuits against the Milwaukee-based lawyers and firms who had represented the banks in her foreclosure case, seeking $10 billion in compensatory and punitive damages.
The high court also suspended her law license for 30 days in 1993 as reciprocal discipline for misconduct in Minnesota. She stood accused, among other things, of bringing a frivolous claim against a bank and bringing litigation primarily as a delay tactic.
“Her misconduct does pose a real threat to the administration of justice,” the opinion said. “Not only has she improperly used the tools of the legal system to delay the completion of civil actions, she has repeatedly attacked the other participants in those actions (judges, lawyers, and litigants) with claims of unethical or even criminal conduct.”
The state Supreme Court justices wrote that they shared the referee’s concerns that Nora hasn’t accepted the fact that her misconduct had caused extensive harm and that she was highly likely to repeat the behavior if allowed to continue to practice law.
“Having considered all of the factors discussed above, we conclude that a two-year suspension of Attorney Nora’s license to practice law in Wisconsin is necessary to impress upon her the seriousness of her misconduct and to protect the courts and the legal system from a repetition of that misconduct,” the opinion said.
The state Supreme Court decided to make the two-year suspension effective on April 1, 2020, due to COVID-19’s effects on the timing of the decision.
The OLR noted that the Minnesota bankruptcy court recently issued a discharge in bankruptcy to Nora and asked the court to not impose the costs of the disciplinary proceeding on her.
However, as a condition of reinstatement, Nora must identify each monetary sanction amount imposed on her individually and show that she’s made a good-faith effort to pay all sanctions.
Her administrative suspensions for failing to pay mandatory bar dues and file a trust-account certification with the State Bar of Wisconsin will remain in effect.
Nora did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Nora was admitted to practice law in Wisconsin in 1975 and in Minnesota in 1985.
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