Office of Lawyer Regulation v. Voss (In re Voss), No. 2014AP2086–D.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
Writing for the CourtPER CURIAM.
Citation365 Wis.2d 442,871 N.W.2d 859
Parties In the Matter of DISCIPLINARY PROCEEDINGS AGAINST Richard W. VOSS, Attorney at Law. Office of Lawyer Regulation, Complainant, v. Richard W. Voss, Respondent.
Docket NumberNo. 2014AP2086–D.
Decision Date08 December 2015

365 Wis.2d 442
871 N.W.2d 859

In the Matter of DISCIPLINARY PROCEEDINGS AGAINST Richard W. VOSS, Attorney at Law.

Office of Lawyer Regulation, Complainant,
Richard W. Voss, Respondent.

No. 2014AP2086–D.

Supreme Court of Wisconsin.

Decided Dec. 8, 2015.

ATTORNEY disciplinary proceeding. Attorney's license suspended.

871 N.W.2d 860


365 Wis.2d 445

¶ 1 We review a stipulation filed by Richard W. Voss and the Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR), pursuant to Supreme Court Rule (SCR) 22.12,1 which sets forth findings of fact and conclusions of law regarding Attorney Voss's six counts of professional

365 Wis.2d 446

misconduct. Attorney Voss is already under suspension pursuant to the 18–month suspension ordered in In re Disciplinary Proceedings Against Voss, 2014 WI 75, 356 Wis.2d 382, 850 N.W.2d 190, which runs until February 22, 2016.

¶ 2 The parties' stipulation did not contain an agreement regarding the appropriate level of discipline to be imposed. The parties agreed to brief the issue of sanctions before the referee, James R. Erickson.

¶ 3 The referee accepted the stipulation and found, based on the stipulation, that

871 N.W.2d 861

the stipulated facts supported a conclusion of misconduct on all six counts. The referee recommended that the court suspend Attorney Voss for a 60–day period, consecutive to the 18–month suspension Attorney Voss is currently serving. The referee also recommended that the court assess the OLR's full costs against Attorney Voss, which total $2,801.98 as of July 30, 2015.

¶ 4 Because no appeal has been filed from the referee's report and recommendation, we review the matter pursuant to SCR 22.17(2).2 We adopt the findings of fact and conclusions of law to which the parties have stipulated and as adopted by the referee. We agree that the seriousness of Attorney Voss's misconduct warrants a 60–day suspension of his license to practice law, consecutive to the 18–month suspension he is currently serving, together with costs.

365 Wis.2d 447

¶ 5 Attorney Voss was admitted to the practice of law in Wisconsin in 1976.

¶ 6 Attorney Voss has been disciplined previously for misconduct. In 2004, Attorney Voss was privately reprimanded for failing to provide competent representation and failing to keep a client reasonably informed. Private Reprimand No. 2004–24.3 In 2006, Attorney Voss received a public reprimand for various trust account violations. Public Reprimand of Richard W. Voss, 2006–7. In 2014, Attorney Voss received an 18–month suspension for his conduct as the court-appointed guardian of the person and estate of an individual suffering from mental illness. This court determined that Attorney Voss committed 11 counts of misconduct by, among other things, converting at least $48,791.73 of his client's funds either for his own use or to cover expenditures for other client matters, committing various trust account violations, and making misrepresentations to the circuit court regarding his client's assets. Voss, 356 Wis.2d 382, 850 N.W.2d 190.

¶ 7 This disciplinary matter involves six counts of misconduct, four of which concern Attorney Voss's work in bankruptcy matters, and two of which concern Attorney Voss's trust account practices. We take the following facts from the parties' stipulation.

¶ 8 Attorney Voss was hired to file bankruptcies for his clients, J.M. and L.R. In both cases, before doing any work, Attorney Voss had the client pay approximately $500 in attorney fees and approximately $300 in filing fees. Attorney Voss placed these funds into his

365 Wis.2d 448

client trust account. It is undisputed that while the funds remained in trust, they remained an asset of the client.

¶ 9 Attorney Voss, or his staff under his direction, told J.M. and L.R. that the firm would file a fee waiver application with the appropriate United States Bankruptcy Court. Attorney Voss's office would prepare the fee waiver application, along with the bankruptcy petition. When drafting these documents, Attorney Voss failed to disclose to the bankruptcy court that the filing fee had already been paid by the

871 N.W.2d 862

client and that Attorney Voss was holding the funds in trust.

¶ 10 Attorney Voss, or his staff under his direction, had J.M. and L.R. sign the bankruptcy documents under penalty of perjury. In signing the bankruptcy documents, J.M. and L.R. verified that the documents were accurate, including a statement that they could not afford to pay the filing fee, and including an asset disclosure that did not disclose the filing fee payments held in Attorney Voss's firm's trust account.

¶ 11 In the J.M. bankruptcy case, the bankruptcy court denied the filing fee waiver application on September 25, 2013. The court ordered that J.M. pay the filing fee in installments beginning on October 25, 2013. Neither Attorney Voss nor his staff contacted J.M. to let her know of the denial of her filing fee waiver application. J.M. first learned that the bankruptcy court had denied her waiver application and that her filing fee remained unpaid at the meeting of creditors on October 17, 2013. J.M. was upset upon learning this information because she had paid the filing fee to Attorney Voss months earlier and had not been told of the denial of her filing fee waiver application.

365 Wis.2d 449

¶ 12 On October 25, 2013—the date the first installment of J.M.'s filing fee was due—Attorney Voss's secretary paid the filing fee in full. Before this date, Attorney Voss's secretary had experienced difficulties determining from the bankruptcy court's website how much was owed as a filing fee and how to pay it. Because Attorney Voss's secretary did not inform him of her difficulties in paying the filing fee, Attorney Voss was unaware of the problems until he received a letter from the OLR about the matter.

¶ 13 In the L.R. bankruptcy case, the bankruptcy court approved L.R.'s filing fee waiver application. When Attorney Voss received the notice of the approval, he refunded to L.R. the filing fee which was held in trust.

¶ 14 Attorney Voss has submitted filing fee waiver applications for bankruptcy clients other than J.M. and L.R. after having collected filing fees from those other clients. In all of those cases, the filing fee held in trust was not disclosed as an asset of the debtor in the bankruptcy documents. If the bankruptcy court waived the filing fee, Attorney Voss's office returned the filing fee to the clients. If the bankruptcy court did not waive the filing fees, Attorney Voss's office paid the filing fee to the bankruptcy court.

¶ 15 The remaining conduct at issue concerns Attorney Voss's continued inability or unwillingness to comply with the trust account rules. Since at least 1986, Attorney Voss has used a particular bank account at M & I Bank (n/k/a BMO Harris Bank) as his client trust account. Attorney Voss has designated this account as his client trust account. However, the account is not an Interest on Lawyer Trust Accounts (IOLTA) account and does not accrue interest to be paid to the Wisconsin Trust Account Foundation, Inc.

365 Wis.2d 450

¶ 16 Attorney Voss has long been on notice that he must rectify his handling of trust account funds. In 2006, Attorney Voss...

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