Soft Attorney Discipline in Wisconsin

By Attorney Gregg Herman
February 25, 2015

Periodically in this blog, I have ranted about the soft discipline in Wisconsin. Now, there is an example of how this hurts the public.

According to an article in today’s MJS, Atty. James Schoenecker has been charged with improperly pocketing more $150,000 from a business he owned with two partners. The article notes that he was the subject of prior discipline where two justices dissented that the sanction was too lenient.

So, I looked up the prior case.  In it, Attorney Schoenecker agreed that he committed multiple acts of professional misconduct. The decision noted that “Although the stipulation lists seven counts, there are actually more than seven violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct for Attorneys because a number of the counts contain multiple violations of a single rule. The stipulation requests that the court impose a three-year suspension as discipline for Attorney Schoenecker’s professional misconduct.”

Those counts included two criminal convictions, one of them a felony. Amazingly, that did not result in a revocation.

Ironically, the dissenting justices were the two most liberal justices on the SC; Justice Ann Walsh Bradley and Chief Justice Shirley S. Abrahamson. Their dissent was very brief; “Although a three-year suspension is a severe sanction, I think that Attorney Schoenecker’s conduct may merit a greater sanction.”

While Attorney Schoenecker certainly has a right to contest the current charges, this appears to be yet another example of Wisconsin’s wussy discipline. In fact, the MJS article notes that “Officials in New York and the District of Columbia used the information in the 2011 Wisconsin complaint to disbar him in those jurisdictions.”

So two states disbarred him for conduct for which Wisconsin believe warranted more than a suspension, even thought the acts occurred in this state. Amazing.

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.