The Wisconsin Supreme Court publicly reprimanded a Milwaukee attorney for paying two witnesses against her client.
Ann T. Bowe, a Milwaukee solo practitioner, stipulated to two charges of misconduct related to her handling of a 2016 Dodge County homicide case. She was representing a man accused of killing his girlfriend — who was also his first cousin — hiding a corpse and incest. The OLR’s complaint said she wrote checks, at her client’s request, drawing on his account and provided the money to his family and friends even though he knew some of the recipients might be state witnesses.
The high court’s opinion, handed down on Nov. 24, noted that Bowe had tried to explain at a hearing with a referee handling the OLR’s case against her why she had written the checks. She said her client had been trying to manage money secured from the settlement of a large personal-injury case. When the criminal charges were filed against him, he was responding to various actions seeking to freeze or seize the money. Fearing he’d lose the money, he was trying to make gifts out of it while he could, Bowe said. He used her legal services to help him distribute the money.
“(O)ne need not dwell on the possible hypothetical problems that this could have created; the details of this case are living proof that this was a bad idea,” the referee said.
The referee noted that Bowe came to perceive that she had to write the checks to appease “a difficult client.” After the district attorney made a motion seeking to have her removed from the case, she immediately stepped aside.
The state Supreme Court agreed a public reprimand was an appropriate punishment and assigned her the costs of the proceeding, which totaled $6,482.86.
“Attorney Bowe made poor decisions in writing checks to potential witnesses in L.W.’s case, which ultimately created a conflict of interest that impacted the administration of justice,” the opinion said.
Bowe’s previous disciplinary history includes a public reprimand in 2011 and a consensual private reprimand in 1993.
Bowe did not immediately return a request for comment. Her voicemail said she is no longer taking new cases as she moves toward retirement.Follow @WLJReporter