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Disciplinary Decision Dissent
January 29, 2014
Here is some irony: The two most liberal (dare I say “lenient”?) justices on the Wisconsin SC in criminal cases are the two toughest justices in disciplinary cases.
Today’s example: The SC adopted a referee’s recommendation to suspend an attorneys license for 90 days in In the Matter of Disciplinary Proceedings Against Randy J. Netzer
Netzer had received a private reprimand in 2006 for violating SCR 20:8.4(b) “by committing acts resulting in his conviction for one count of misdemeanor stalking and one count of violating a harassment injunction.”
Apparently not having learned his lesson, he was criminally convicted in April, 2011 of two misdemeanor counts of violating a harassment injunction, again related to stalking an ex-girlfriend (some guys just cannot accept “no” as an answer).
OLR charged Netzer with two violations for the criminal convictions and for failing to notify OLR as required by SCR. The referee found both violations (thanks in large part to Netzer’s stipulation to facts) and recommended a 90 day suspension. The SC accepted the referee’s recommendation.
Here is the surprising part: CJ Abrahamson and Justice Bradley dissented, opining that “Such a sanction is not only appropriate under the circumstances of the present case but has the advantage that reinstatement must be by order of this court after prescribed proceedings, not merely by affidavit of the attorney of compliance and the director’s notification of compliance.”
The difference between a suspension of less than six months and those over 6 months is huge. For suspensions under six months, Mr. Netzer would simply get his license reinstated when the term has run. For a suspension of 6 months (or more), he would have to apply for reinstatement and go through a proceeding to prove that he should be allowed to practice law.
I have criticized both CJ Abrahamson and Justice Bradley for being too lenient on criminals. While I greatly respect both of them (they are both good people and brilliant jurists), I have often felt they are too lenient. This is not the first time they have dissented on the stricter side in disciplinary cases and once again I agree with their dissent.
P.S. Netzer reminds me of a cartoon of a guy standing in a florist shop, saying to the florist: “Which flowers will say to her: Yes, I’ll obey the restraining order”