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Wis. Attorney General Kaul: State Bar has good process in place when lawyers face criminal charges

Wis. Attorney General Kaul: State Bar has good process in place when lawyers face criminal charges

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By Steve Schuster
[email protected]

Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul praised the State Bar of Wisconsin’s process for when an attorney faces criminal charges during a May 1 press conference at the State’s Intelligence Center in the greater Madison area.

When asked by the Wisconsin Law Journal if attorneys who have criminal charges pending should remain in good standing with the State Bar of Wisconsin, Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul complimented the State Bar. The question was raised in light of the recent criminal prosecution of former District Attorney Daniel Steffen.

“I know that the State Bar has a process that it follows when people are facing criminal charges and for understandable reasons they don’t want to generally move forward with administrative proceedings while criminal proceedings are pending,” Kaul said.

“So, I think the State Bar has a good process in place,” Kaul added.

“But certainly, these were very serious crimes. I am proud of the work our team did investigating and prosecuting those offenses and ensuring that the public trust is upheld and that when people violate the public trust, they are held accountable. That is one of our priorities at the (Wisconsin) Department of Justice, Kaul said.

As previously reported on May 1, the press conference was held to educate the public on the work the agency does and to make a case for an increase in the state’s budget to hire additional agents and analysts.

Should attorneys who have criminal charges pending remain in good standing with the State Bar?

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On April 24, the Wisconsin Law Journal reported Steffen, a former Wisconsin assistant district attorney who faced three felony counts for allegedly secretly recording sexual encounters with victims he offered to help with their criminal cases, was in good standing with the State Bar of Wisconsin. To date, he has not been subject to professional discipline.

In Wisconsin, The Office of Lawyer Regulation (not the State Bar) investigates attorney misconduct. The OLR’s disciplinary process may occur when an attorney is formally charged with a crime or if a formal complaint is filed. Additional information is available in Wis. Supreme Court Rule Chapter 22.

“The Office of Lawyer Regulation would take court records into consideration, as applicable, in handling a lawyer discipline matter,” said Tom Sheehan, a public information officer for the State of Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Wis. Supreme Court Rule 22.20 states: “Upon receiving satisfactory proof that an attorney has been found guilty or convicted of a serious crime, the supreme court may summarily suspend the attorney’s license to practice law pending final disposition of a disciplinary proceeding, whether the finding of guilt or the conviction resulted from a plea of guilty or no contest or from a verdict after trial and regardless of the pendency of an appeal.”

As previously reported, on April 27, a St. Croix County jury convicted Steffen with three felony counts of representations depicting nudity in violation of Wisconsin Statutes 942.09(2)(1).

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