A criminal-defense attorney is losing his law license after threatening to use former criminal defendants to cause harm to an ex-girlfriend, physically assaulting her, making hundreds of unwanted phone calls to her and threatening to send harmful information to her employer, among other things.
In deciding to revoke Matthew R. Meyer’s law license, the Wisconsin Supreme Court declined to accept an Office of Lawyer Regulation referee’s agreement that his license instead be suspended for two years. The court chose revocation, which it deemed the most severe sanction it can impose, after finding that Meyer had exhibited a clear pattern of “using his position as an attorney to intimidate and threaten” his ex-girlfriend.
Meyer’s behavior toward his ex-girlfriend had already led him to plead guilty in July 2020 to felony charges of threatening to communicate derogatory information and stalking. Prosecutors then dismissed counts of substantial battery and witness intimidation. Meyer was sentenced to one year of “straight time” in the House of Corrections followed by three years of probation.
In taking up Meyer’s case, the OLR alleged two counts of misconduct: One related to his felony convictions and one to his providing false testimony purported to be from character witnesses in his criminal trial.
In its decision Wednesday, the Supreme Court said Meyer’s misbehavior dates to when his then-girlfriend – only named by the initials H.S. in the record – first decided to break up with him in October 2017. Soon after, he engaged in “a pattern of conduct aimed at H.S. to cause her to believe that Attorney Meyer would ruin her life, commit acts of violence against her and her family and friends, damage her property, interfere with future relationships she may have, and leave her without a job and money.”
On one occasion, in April 2018, Meyer punched his ex-girlfriend in the face, leaving her with a black eye and a concussion. She had to miss two weeks of her work as a physician’s assistant as a result.
He called her hundreds of times – once more than 120 times in a single day – and sent hundreds of text messages and emails. He threatened to send harmful information about her to her employer and her family and friends if she did not pay off debts he claimed he was owed, reveal details of her relationships with others and have sexual intercourse with him.
He also threatened to use some of his criminal defendants to inflict violence on her family and men she was dating, to hire a private investigator to follow her and to sue her over a negative online review of his law practice. Later he fabricated a letter, supposedly from his ex-girlfriend’s father, purporting to show that she had violated the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and threatened to send it to her employer.
In his criminal trial, he furnished two letters supposedly from friends and acquaintances vouching for his character. Both of those also proved to be fabricated.
In revoking Meyer’s license, the Supreme Court stipulated that Meyer cannot be readmitted to the legal profession unless he shows proof that he has taken part in mental-health counseling, completed an anger-management program and complied with all terms and conditions of his probation, among other things. He was also ordered to pay $1,891.81 in costs.
In a concurring opinion, Justice Annette Ziegler questioned why Wisconsin allows lawyers whose licenses have been revoked to apply for readmission after five years. The word “revocation,” she said, should be used to refer to a permanent condition.
“I believe that when it comes to lawyer discipline, courts should say what they mean and mean what they say,” Ziegler wrote. “We should not be creating false perceptions to both the public and to the lawyer seeking to practice law again.”
In a dissenting opinion, Justice Ann Walsh Bradley said she is aware of no other OLR case in which the justices handed down a license revocation without citing a precedent.
Meyer’s LinkedIn page lists him as a partner specializing in drunken-driving cases at the firm Meyer Van Severen LLC. The firm now goes by the name Van Severen.