886 N.W.2d 583 (Wis. 2016), 2015AP655-D, Vance v. Vance
|Citation:||886 N.W.2d 583, 372 Wis.2d 39, 2016 WI 89|
|Opinion Judge:||PER CURIAM.|
|Party Name:||In the Matter of Disciplinary Proceedings Against Craig E. Vance, Attorney at Law: Office of Lawyer Regulation, Complainant, v. Craig E. Vance, Respondent|
|Case Date:||October 26, 2016|
|Court:||Supreme Court of Wisconsin|
Attorney's license suspended.
[372 Wis.2d 583] ATTORNEY disciplinary proceeding.
[¶1] We review the report and recommendation of the Referee Richard M. Esenberg that the license of Craig E. Vance to practice law in Wisconsin be suspended for nine months as discipline for professional misconduct. The referee's findings of fact, conclusions of law, and recommendation for a nine-month suspension were based on the parties' stipulation.
[¶2] The complaint filed by the Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR) against Attorney Vance asserted various forms of misconduct, including that he was inattentive to a number of client matters; failed to cooperate with OLR investigations; failed to inform clients, opposing counsel, and the courts of his temporary license suspension; and continued to practice law after his temporary license suspension. The OLR complaint asserted, the parties stipulated, and the referee found, that Attorney Vance committed 21 counts of misconduct through his actions and inactions.
[¶3] We agree with the referee's determination of misconduct and his recommendation that this misconduct warrants a suspension of Attorney Vance's Wisconsin law license for nine months. We depart from the referee's recommendation that Attorney Vance should pay one-half of the total [372 Wis.2d 584] costs of this proceeding; we instead order him to pay the full costs of this proceeding, which total $2,570.85. Restitution is not an issue in this matter.
[¶4] Attorney Vance was admitted to the practice of law in Wisconsin in 2002. This court temporarily suspended Attorney Vance's license on February 20, 2014, due to his failure to cooperate with an OLR investigation into one of the matters included in the disciplinary complaint before us. Attorney Vance's license was also suspended in October 2014 for nonpayment of bar dues. His license remains suspended to date.
[¶5] Counts 1-6 of the OLR's complaint arose out of Attorney Vance's representation of Z.A. The OLR complaint alleged, and the referee found based on the parties' stipulation, the following facts.
[¶6] In March 2012, Attorney Vance filed a lawsuit on Z.A.'s behalf without informing Z.A. that he had filed the lawsuit. He later failed to notify Z.A. of a settlement offer from the defendant. He failed to respond to requests for admission from the defendant, resulting in the circuit court deeming the requests to be admitted. He failed to respond to the defendant's warning that it would seek costs associated with filing a summary judgment motion based on the deemed admissions unless he dismissed the case. He also failed to inform Z.A. of the defendant's warning. He failed to respond to the defendant's ensuing summary judgment motion, and he failed to appear at the summary judgment hearing, resulting in the circuit court granting summary judgment against Z.A. He failed to respond to Z.A.'s phone call regarding his failure to attend the summary judgment hearing.
[¶7] Z.A. retained a new lawyer, who wrote Attorney Vance to request a copy of the case file. Attorney Vance failed to respond to this request, which in turn forced the new lawyer to recreate the file and pay to obtain copies of documents from the clerk of court's office.
[¶8] Z.A.'s new lawyer filed a grievance with the OLR against Attorney Vance. Attorney Vance was uncooperative with the ensuing OLR investigation; he responded to the grievance only after this court ordered him to show cause why his license should not be suspended for willful failure to cooperate with the OLR investigation. After receiving Attorney Vance's initial response to the grievance, the OLR repeatedly asked him for additional information. He failed to respond to those requests. On February 20, 2014, this court temporarily suspended Attorney Vance's law license for his failure to comply with the OLR investigation.
[¶9] The OLR complaint alleged, and the referee determined based on the parties' stipulation, that Attorney Vance's actions in the Z.A. matter constituted the following professional misconduct: o Count One: By purportedly believing that not responding to the defendant's requests for admission was an appropriate course of action, without seeking a determination of relief from the court, Attorney Vance violated SCR 20:1.1.1
o Count Two: By failing to pursue Z.A.'s suit, including by failing to respond to the defendant's requests for admission, failing to respond to the defendant's summary judgment motion, and failing to appear at the summary judgment [372 Wis.2d 585] hearing, Attorney Vance violated SCR 20:1.3.2
o Count Three: By failing to inform Z.A. that the defendant's requests for admission were deemed admitted by operation of law, and that defendant's counsel requested that Attorney Vance voluntarily dismiss the suit against the defendant or face summary judgment and potential costs, Attorney Vance violated SCR 20:1.4(a)(3).3
o Count Four: By failing to provide Z.A.'s file to successor counsel, causing Z.A. and successor counsel to have to reassemble a file with copies produced by the circuit court at a cost, Attorney Vance violated SCR 20:1.16(d)4
o Count Five: By failing to timely file an initial written response to the grievance against him, and by doing so only after being ordered to show cause by the Supreme Court, Attorney Vance violated SCR 22.03(2)5 and SCR 22.03(6)6 enforced via SCR 20:8.4(h).7
o Count Six: By failing to respond to the OLR's subsequent request for a supplemental response, Attorney Vance violated SCR 22.03(6), enforced via SCR 20:8.4(h).
[¶10] Counts 7-8 of the OLR's complaint arose out of Attorney Vance's representation of D.K. The OLR complaint alleged, and the referee found based on the parties' stipulation, the following facts.
[¶11] In July 2014, after the February 20, 2014 temporary suspension of his Wisconsin law license, Attorney Vance agreed to represent D.K. related to a petition for a temporary restraining order filed against D.K. Attorney Vance appeared with D.K. at a hearing on the temporary restraining order. An individual who assisted the petitioner at the hearing filed a grievance against Attorney Vance. Attorney Vance [372 Wis.2d 586] failed to respond to the OLR's requests to respond to the grievance.
[¶12] The OLR complaint alleged, and the referee determined based on the parties' stipulation, that Attorney Vance's actions in the D.K. matter constituted the following professional misconduct: o Count Seven: By accepting a new matter and appearing in court to represent D.K. at a hearing on the temporary restraining order while his license was suspended, Attorney Vance violated SCR 22.26(2),8 enforced via SCR 20:8.4(f).9
o Count Eight: By failing to file a response to the grievance investigation relating to his representation of D.K., Attorney Vance violated SCR 22.03(2) and SCR 22.03(6), enforced via SCR 20:8.4(h).
[¶13] Counts 9-12 of the OLR's complaint arose out of Attorney...
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