Office of Lawyer Regulation v. Templin (In re Disciplinary Proceedings Against Templin), No. 2016AP51–D.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
Writing for the CourtPER CURIAM.
Citation371 Wis.2d 618,886 N.W.2d 79
Parties In the Matter of DISCIPLINARY PROCEEDINGS AGAINST Thor TEMPLIN, Attorney at Law. Office of Lawyer Regulation, Complainant, v. Thor Templin, Respondent.
Docket NumberNo. 2016AP51–D.
Decision Date12 October 2016

371 Wis.2d 618
886 N.W.2d 79

In the Matter of DISCIPLINARY PROCEEDINGS AGAINST Thor TEMPLIN, Attorney at Law.

Office of Lawyer Regulation, Complainant,
v.
Thor Templin, Respondent.

No. 2016AP51–D.

Supreme Court of Wisconsin.

Decided Oct. 12, 2016.


ATTORNEY disciplinary proceeding. Attorney's license suspended.

886 N.W.2d 80

PER CURIAM.

371 Wis.2d 620

¶ 1 We review Referee Jonathan V. Goodman's recommendation that the court declare Attorney Thor Templin in default and suspend his Wisconsin law license for a period of 60 days for professional misconduct in connection with his work on three client matters and his non-cooperation with the Office of Lawyer Regulation's (OLR) investigation into that misconduct. The referee also recommended that Attorney Templin be required to pay the full costs of this proceeding, which total $1,041.40 as of June 20, 2016.

¶ 2 Because no appeal has been filed, we review the referee's report pursuant to Supreme Court Rule (SCR) 22.17(2).1 After conducting our independent review of the matter, we agree with the referee that,

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based on Attorney Templin's failure to answer the complaint filed by the OLR, the OLR is entitled to a default judgment. We also agree with the referee that Attorney Templin's professional misconduct warrants a 60–day suspension of his Wisconsin law license, consecutive to the six-month suspension Attorney Templin is currently serving. We also agree with the referee that Attorney Templin should be ordered to pay the full costs of the proceeding.

¶ 3 Attorney Templin was admitted to the practice of law in Wisconsin in May 2008. His disciplinary history consists of: (1) a consensual private reprimand for failing to act diligently and communicate appropriately in a client matter, Private Reprimand, 2011–04 (electronic copy available at https://compendium.wicourts.gov/app/raw/002344.html ); and (2) a six-month suspension, commencing on May 3, 2016, for 12 counts of misconduct involving four clients, including filing frivolous motions, failing to respond to client requests for information, charging an unreasonable fee, and failing to provide competent representation, In re Disciplinary Proceedings Against Templin, 2016 WI 18, 367 Wis.2d 351, 877 N.W.2d 107.

¶ 4 On January 7, 2016, the OLR filed the current complaint against Attorney Templin. The complaint alleges six counts of professional misconduct in connection with his work on three client matters.

¶ 5 Counts 1–3 of the OLR's complaint arose out of Attorney Templin's representation of E.S. In May 2009, E.S. hired Attorney Templin to help resolve certain property disputes related to the estate of E.S.'s mother. E.S. claimed that her siblings had defrauded the estate to her disadvantage. In 2009, Attorney

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Templin filed an action for special administration in Milwaukee County, but took no further action in that matter.

¶ 6 Although Attorney Templin exchanged correspondence with an attorney

886 N.W.2d 81

representing E.S.'s siblings, it was not until April 2011 that Attorney Templin filed suit against E.S.'s siblings alleging fraud. Attorney Templin then failed to serve the summons and complaint on the defendants, and the court dismissed the lawsuit in July 2012.

¶ 7 In October 2013, Attorney Templin filed the same lawsuit against E.S.'s siblings alleging fraud. But Attorney Templin again failed to serve the summons and complaint on the defendants, and the court dismissed the lawsuit in May 2014.

¶ 8 In April 2014, E.S. filed a grievance against Attorney Templin with the OLR. In September 2014, the OLR sent Attorney Templin its notice of formal investigation requesting Attorney Templin's response to the allegations raised by E.S.'s grievance. Attorney Templin failed to respond.

¶ 9 In October 2014, the OLR sent Attorney Templin a second letter reminding him of his duty to cooperate with the OLR and requesting a response by a certain date. Attorney Templin failed to respond.

¶ 10 The OLR then emailed to Attorney Templin electronic copies of the initial notice of formal investigation and the second investigative letter and advised Attorney Templin that a response was due. Attorney Templin responded to the email and told the OLR that he had placed a response in the mail on that same day. The OLR did not receive Attorney Templin's response.

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¶ 11 Attorney Templin only responded to the OLR's grievance after this court ordered him to show cause why his license should not be suspended for failing to cooperate in an OLR investigation.

¶ 12 The OLR's complaint alleged the following counts of misconduct with respect to Attorney Templin's representation of E.S.:

• Count One: By failing to achieve service on the defendants in two separately filed lawsuits, resulting in the dismissal of both lawsuits, Attorney Templin violated SCR 20:1.1.2

• Count Two: By failing to diligently pursue meaningful action on behalf of his client over a period of four years, Attorney Templin violated SCR 20:1.3.3

• Count Three: By failing to timely provide relevant information to OLR in the E.S. matter, Attorney Templin violated SCR 22.03(2)4 and
371 Wis.2d 624
SCR 22.03(6),5 as enforced through
886 N.W.2d 82
SCR 20:8.4(h).6

¶ 13 Count 4 of the OLR's complaint arose out of Attorney Templin's representation of J.A.M. Repeating all the allegations of the J.A.M. matter, which we deem admitted by virtue of Attorney Templin's default (see infra at ¶ 24), is unnecessary. It is sufficient to describe the pattern that Attorney Templin generally followed in his work on the J.A.M. matter.

¶ 14 The J.A.M. matter involved a dispute over real estate owned by J.A.M. Over a year into the representation, J.A.M.'s daughter, L.B., contacted Attorney Templin and asked for information about the case. Attorney Templin chose not to communicate with L.B. because he had not been specifically authorized by J.A.M. to do so.

¶ 15 In light of L.B.'s inability to communicate with Attorney Templin, J.A.M. signed a “Designation of Agent or Power of Attorney,” which gave broad general powers to L.B. to act on her mother's behalf, and explicitly gave L.B. authorization to receive a copy of the entire case file and to speak with Attorney Templin. In July 2014, L.B. wrote Attorney Templin and enclosed a copy of the “Designation of

371 Wis.2d 625

Agent or Power of Attorney.” L.B. asked that Attorney Templin provide her with a copy of the entire case file. Attorney Templin did not comply with L.B.'s request for the file, nor any of her subsequent requests for the file, including requests that L.B. made after Attorney Templin withdrew from representing J.A.M. Attorney Templin provided a copy of J.A.M.'s file to the OLR in March 2015, following the OLR's specific request for the file. The OLR in turn forwarded the file to L.B.

¶ 16 The OLR's complaint alleged the following count of misconduct with respect to Attorney Templin's work on J.A.M.'s matter:

• Count Four: By failing to comply with L.B.'s multiple requests following termination of representation to obtain a copy of J.A.M.'s file, Attorney Templin violated SCR 20:1.16(d).7

¶ 17 Counts 5 and 6 of the OLR's complaint arose out of Attorney Templin's representation of P.D.P. In November of 2011, P.D.P. was involved in an automobile accident and was cited for inattentiveness. P.D.P. admitted fault.

¶ 18 In January 2013, State Farm Insurance Company (State Farm) sued P.D.P. to recover property damages caused by P.D.P. to an insured's vehicle. State

371 Wis.2d 626

Farm served its Summons and Complaint by publication. When P.D.P. failed to answer the suit, State Farm filed a motion for default judgment. In July 2013, the circuit court granted judgment to State Farm in the amount of $9,013.88 plus costs and attorney's fees. P.D.P. received a letter from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation advising her that her driver's license was suspended because of the unpaid State Farm judgment.

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¶ 19 P.D.P. hired Attorney Templin in May 2014 to try to reopen the default judgment entered against her in July 2013, or to otherwise resolve the matter with State Farm. Attorney Templin prepared a written fee agreement, but took no immediate action on the matter. After about one month, P.D.P. called Attorney Templin multiple times and left numerous messages to inquire about the case, but she was unable to speak with Attorney Templin. During a subsequent meeting between Attorney Templin and P.D.P. and her husband, Attorney Templin promised that he would contact State Farm and try to resolve the matter, yet he did nothing further on the case. Attorney Templin failed to return subsequent telephone...

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