Public Notice of Misconduction Investigation

By Attorney Gregg Herman
February 11, 2014

Some issues are far from clear cut – there are fairly equal pros and cons on both sides.  Such is the case with a petition which the Wisconsin Supreme Court will consider on February 24, 2014.  According to an article on the State Bar website, the petition is to provide the public with information when an attorney is being investigated – not formally accused or convicted, but merely investigated.  According to the article:

The Wisconsin Supreme Court may authorize public notice in the following circumstances:

Before public notice is authorized, the attorney must show cause why the public notice should not be issued. Once a public notice is posted, OLR has six months to complete the formal investigation or show cause why it cannot be completed in six months.

There are pros and cons.  Some pros:

Some cons:

So, since good arguments can be made on both sides, I have two alternative suggestions:  First, create a streamlined process for OLR to seek immediate suspensions where a lawyer is incapacitated or involved in conduct which is harming clients.  Currently, OLR can file an Order to Show Cause for Temporary Relief, but the process is slow and cumbersome.

Second, speed up the process!  Here, the problem starts with the SC.  One current example:  I filed a complaint on behalf of OLR on January 2, 2014.  Nearly six weeks later, the SC has STILL not appointed a referee.  Even their own calendering system required a referee to be appointed by January 23, 2014, which was almost three weeks ago.  Of course, since it was their own deadline, so there is no sanction for ignoring it.  Btw, it takes about two seconds to appoint a referee (pull out your list, select next name).  And, the case sits still until a referee is appointed.

This is typical of the SC – they ignore their own deadlines for appointing referees and deciding motions.  Decisions can take forever, especially if the case concludes near the time of their summer break (why do they get a summer break, anyway?  Circuit court judges and court of appeal judges work 12 months per year and they work very hard).

So my suggestion is that instead of risking a media frenzy against a possibly innocent lawyer, the SC should adopt a rule that says “Justice delayed is justice denied.”  Then, after adopting it, they should abide by it.

Attorney Gregg Herman is a founding partner of Loeb & Herman S.C. in Milwaukee, WI. He practices family law exclusively, and can be reached via e-mail or by calling (414) 272-5632.