Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The other shoe drops

Back in February, Mr. Torvik posted about how the Seventh Circuit disbarred Milwaukee, Wisconsin criminal defense attorney Bridget Boyle.  The Wisconsin Supreme Court suspended Ms. Boyle's law license for 60 days, effective June 27, 2012.  Ms. Boyle also had to pay at $5,000 fine.  The order is here.  One might think tht the suspension is related to the disbarrment.  Surprisingly, however, the case that prompted the Seventh Circuit to disbar Ms. Boyle is not part of the events that led the Wisconsin Supreme Court to suspend Ms. Boyle's law license.  Of course, because this is the Wisconsin Supreme Court, two justices dissent. Athough they dissent because they think the penalty is not sufficient so maybe we are ok with that.

According to the order Mr. Boyle has been practice law in Wisconsin since 1995.  She was privately reprimanded for failing to act with reasonable diligence and failing to keep a client informed in 2008.

Ms. Boyle's suspension involves 11 counts related to work for three clients as well as her cooperation--or lack of cooperation--into the investigaiton of the counts. 

Three counts related to a client who hired Ms. Boyle to do review the client's criminal conviction and see if there were grounds for collateral relief.  According to the order, Ms. Boyle accepted a $5,000 advance fee but never filed anythign with a court.  Ms. Boyle also did not return the client's phone calls or return his advance fee or file.  It will surprise no one to learn that not doing any work on a file is a violation of the Wisconsin Rules of Professional Conduct.  The fourth count is that Ms. Boyle failed to return a different client's complete file after she unsucessfully represented the client on a criminal appeal.

Demonstrating the truth in the adage that the cover-up is worse than the crime. the remaining seven counts of Ms. Boyle's discipline relate to her actions in responding to the two grievances I mentioned as well as a third grievance that did not result in a charge of misconduct.  Ms. Boyle did not give complete answers to the client grievances and to the investigators.  She also dated letters to the Wisconsin Office of Lawyer Regulation so that they would appear to have been submitted on or before deadlines when they were actually late.  Ms. Boyle also expressed "very little remorse" with respect to her conduct.

The dissent takes issue with two parts of the order.  First, the dissenters believe that Ms. Boyle should be suspended for more than 60 days.  Second the dissent says Ms. Boyle should have to make some showing that she has made efforts to remedy the causes of her "repeated failures to serve her clients.  Attorney Boyle must demonstrate that she is competent to practice law."  On this last point, it is hard to argue with the dissent (although I am sure that Mr. Torvik will try).

So what might the Reader(s)™  take away from this?  Well, if you are an attorney accused of misconduct, it behooves you to cooperate with the investigation.  Also, expressing remorse for a mistake is rarely a bad idea.  Lastly, if you take a client's money but do not do any work for the client, go ahead and give the client their money back.

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