WI Court of Supreme Court
Case Name: Office of Lawyer Regulation v. Steven D. Johnson
Case No.: 2022AP000011-D
Focus: Disciplinary Proceedings
This disciplinary matter comes to the court on Attorney Steven D. Johnson’s appeal of a report and recommendation of Referee Sue E. Bischel. After holding an evidentiary hearing, the referee concluded that the Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR) had proven the five misconduct charges asserted in its complaint; namely, one count of engaging in offensive personality, in violation of Supreme Court Rule (SCR) 20:8.4(g)1 and SCR 40.15;2 one count of failing to adequately supervise nonlawyer staff members, in violation of SCR 20:5.3(a)3 and (b);4 two counts of violating the duty of candor toward a tribunal, in violation of SCR 20:3.3(a)(1);5 and one count of failing to properly communicate with his client in violation of SCR 20:1.4(b).6 As a sanction, the referee recommended that the court suspend Attorney Johnson’s Wisconsin law license for six months and order him to pay the full costs of this disciplinary matter, which, as of June 14, 2023, total $33,001.74. Restitution is not at issue.
Attorney Johnson has appealed the referee’s report and recommendation. In his appellate briefing, Attorney Johnson argues that the referee made certain incorrect factual findings; that the OLR failed to meet its burden of proof; and that a six-month suspension of his license to practice law is an excessive
The supreme court opined that in considering Johnson’s violation of his duty to supervise nonlawyer staff, in which he demanded or encouraged his nonlawyer staff to essentially engage in the practice of law without any supervision by him and Johnson’s lack of candor with tribunals——both as a lawyer and a litigant; and third, Attorney Johnson’s failure to explain anything at all to his client about the waiver of his right of preliminary examination, the recommended six-month suspension is merited, according to the supreme court.