In the Matter of the Disciplinary Proceedings Against Diane R. Caspari, Attorney at Law: Office of Lawyer Regulation, Complainant,
Diane R. Caspari, Respondent.
PROCEEDINGS AGAINST CASPARI
disciplinary proceeding. Attorney's license suspended.
We review a stipulation pursuant to Supreme Court Rule (SCR)
22.12 between the Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR) and
Attorney Diane R. Caspari. The stipulation provides that
Attorney Caspari committed six counts of professional
misconduct arising out of four client representations and
requests that the court impose a sixty-day suspension of
Attorney Caspari's license to practice law in this state.
After carefully reviewing this matter, we accept the
stipulation and impose the requested discipline. Pursuant to
the stipulation and because Attorney Caspari has already
reimbursed the Office of the State Public Defender (SPD) for
fees she did not earn, we do not order any restitution.
Because this matter has been resolved by a stipulation under
SCR 22.12 without the need for the appointment of a referee,
we also do not impose any costs on Attorney Caspari.
Attorney Caspari was admitted to the practice of law in
Wisconsin in January 2004. She maintains a private law
practice in Milwaukee.
Attorney Caspari has been the subject of professional
discipline on one prior occasion. In 2015 she was privately
reprimanded for her misconduct in two client representations.
In the first matter, Attorney Caspari failed to file a
petition for a writ of certiorari on behalf of an
incarcerated client within the statutory time period, in
violation of SCR 20:1.3. She also failed to respond to that
client's multiple inquiries about the status of the
matter, in violation of SCR 20:1.4(a)(3) and (a)(4). Further,
she charged that client legal fees for preparing the
certiorari petition even though she never filed it, and she
failed to refund those fees upon termination of the
representation, in violation of SCRs 20:1.5(a) and
20:1.16(d). In the second matter, Attorney Caspari again
violated SCR 20:1.4(a)(3) and (a)(4) by failing to respond to
the client's requests for information about the status of
In the stipulation in the present case, Attorney Caspari
states that she fully understands the allegations against her
and her right to contest those allegations. She represents
that she also understands her right to consult with counsel
and the ramifications of the imposition of the requested
level of discipline. Finally she affirms that her entry into
the stipulation is knowing and voluntary and that it was not
the product of negotiation for any reduction in charges or
requested level of discipline. Attorney Caspari admits all of
the allegations of misconduct and assents to the level of
discipline requested by the OLR.
The first matter addressed in the stipulation is Attorney
Caspari's representation of M.W. The SPD appointed
Attorney Caspari in July 2012 to represent M.W. in
postconviction proceedings. Over the next nearly three years,
Attorney Caspari failed to advance M.W.'s case through
the postconviction proceedings into an appeal of his
conviction. She filed multiple motions seeking extensions of
time, but then often failed to meet the new deadline. She did
not file a postconviction motion for over a year. Even after
she filed the motion, she did not schedule a hearing date
with the circuit court for another five months. In that
intervening time period, she failed to provide a status
report to the court of appeals as she was ordered to do.
After the circuit court conducted the hearing and denied
M.W.'s postconviction motion, Attorney Caspari failed to
ensure that a written order was submitted to the circuit
court for approximately nine months.
Once the order was finally submitted, the court of appeals
extended the deadline for filing a notice of appeal. Attorney
Caspari, however, failed to file a notice of appeal or a
further extension motion by the new deadline, causing
M.W.'s appeal rights to lapse. When the SPD communicated
with her about this matter, she stated that she had developed
a new theory of the defense for appeal and that she was now
planning to file a second postconviction motion and to
request a further extension of the deadline for filing an
appeal so she could pursue the second postconviction motion.
She still failed, however, to file any second postconviction
motion or to seek a further extension of time from the court
In May 2015 the court of appeals issued an order stating that
it could "discern no reason for inaction in this
matter" and referred the case to the SPD for a response
as to whether Attorney Caspari should remain counsel for M.W.
The SPD filed a response that acknowledged that some of the
delay in M.W.'s case had been the result of late
transcripts and of needed investigation, but also concluded
that Attorney Caspari had not acted with diligence or
competence and had not communicated properly with M.W. The
SPD further stated that it would appoint new counsel for M.W.
Attorney Caspari also filed a response admitting that her
conduct had "unreasonably and improperly held up
[M.W.'s] appeal." As a result of the responses, the
court of appeals discharged Attorney Caspari from her
representation of M.W. and directed the SPD to appoint new
Attorney Caspari stipulates that her conduct in failing to
pursue postconviction or appellate relief for M.W. in a
timely manner constitutes a violation of SCR
The second matter stems from Attorney Caspari's
appointment to represent M.W. in a criminal case pending
against him in the circuit court. After M.W. was found guilty
and sentenced, the SPD appointed Attorney Diane Erickson in
May 2014 to represent M.W. in postconviction proceedings and
on appeal. Attorney Erickson made several requests to
Attorney Caspari for her complete file on M.W.'s case.
Eventually, Attorney Caspari produced only some of the
materials requested by Attorney Erickson. Various materials
that should have been in the file were missing, including
various items of discovery. Attorney Erickson was forced to
obtain some of these items from the investigator who had
worked on M.W.'s case and to reconstruct other parts of
the discovery and case file from the files of the police
department and the district attorney's office. The
failure of Attorney Caspari to provide a complete file and
the time and effort required to reconstruct the file resulted
in substantial delays to M.W.'s postconviction
proceedings and appeal.
As a result of M.W.'s allegations and the OLR's
review of M.W.'s criminal case file during its
investigation, it became evident that Attorney Caspari had
billed the SPD and had received payment for several jail
visits to M.W. that did not occur. Attorney Caspari failed to
correct her invoices to the SPD and did not refund the
payments for those entries for years until February 2016,
just prior to the filing of the OLR's complaint in this
disciplinary proceeding. In addition, Attorney Caspari billed
the SPD for a visit to M.W.'s mother and brother.
Attorney Caspari acknowledged, however, that she merely went
to the mother's house, knocked on the door a couple of
times without receiving a response, waited for a while, then
placed her business card in the door, and left.
In the stipulation, Attorney Caspari agrees that her failure
to deliver her case file for M.W. to successor counsel
constituted a violation of SCR 20:1.16(d). She also agrees
that her submission of invoices containing charges for tasks
that she did not actually perform and her failure to correct