The Wisconsin Supreme Court has disciplined a Milwaukee lawyer for a sixth time for attorney-ethics violations.
Benjamin J. Harris, a solo practitioner, received a 60-day suspension of his law license on Tuesday for four counts of misconduct. A complaint from the Office of Lawyer Regulation said he failed to communicate with two of his clients and didn’t take appropriate action in their cases.
The court’s opinion said Harris pleaded no contest to the charges in a stipulation with the OLR. A referee then weighed the appropriate punishment for the misconduct.
The referee considered Harris’ disciplinary history in his decision. Harris was privately reprimanded in 2007 and publicly reprimanded in 2008. He lost his law license for 60 days in 2010 and was privately reprimanded again in 2012. The state Supreme Court then suspended his law license for five months in 2013.
The referee pointed out that those previous violations were, in part, also due to Harris failing to keep his clients informed about their cases.
“The referee said, ‘Here we go again,'” the opinion said.
The referee said although Harris failed his clients, he cooperated with the OLR proceeding and took responsibility for his actions. The referee concluded a 60-day license suspension was appropriate punishment.
The state Supreme Court agreed, noting that it had been eight years since Harris’ last suspension.
“We reach this conclusion in spite of the fact that this is Attorney Harris’ sixth disciplinary proceeding,” the opinion said. “… (T)he common theme running through all of the proceedings is, as the referee pointed out, Attorney Harris’ objective failure to keep his clients informed and meet basic requirements with respect to court filings and court dates.”
The suspension goes into effect on May 18. Harris must also pay the full costs of the proceeding, which totaled $1,616.83 as of February.
Harris did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Follow @WLJReporter