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In re Disciplinary Proceedings against Bishop

Supreme Court of Wisconsin

October 18, 2016

In the Matter of Disciplinary Proceedings Against Michael F. Bishop, Attorney at Law:
v.
Michael F. Bishop, Respondent. Office of Lawyer Regulation, Complainant,

         DISCIPLINARY PROCEEDINGS AGAINST BISHOP

         ATTORNEY disciplinary proceeding. Attorney's license suspended.

          PER CURIAM.

         ¶l We review a stipulation filed pursuant to Supreme Court Rule (SCR) 22.12[1] by the Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR) and Attorney Michael F. Bishop. In the stipulation, Attorney Bishop admits the misconduct alleged by the OLR and agrees to a 60-day suspension of his Wisconsin law license.

         ¶2 We adopt the stipulated facts and conclusions of law. We agree that Attorney Bishop's misconduct warrants the suspension of his Wisconsin law license for a period of 60 days. The OLR does not seek either restitution or the costs of this proceeding and we decline to impose either upon him.

         ¶3 Attorney Bishop was admitted to practice law in Wisconsin in 1993. He practices in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In 2014, Attorney Bishop received a consensual public reprimand for several trust account violations. Public Reprimand of Michael F. Bishop, 2014-2 (electronic copy available at https://compendium.wicourts.gov/app/raw/002658.html).

         ¶4 The matter presently before the court also involves trust account violations, coupled with a failure to cooperate with the OLR.

         ¶5 Between 2012 and 2014, Attorney Bishop maintained a client trust account at BMO Harris Bank (BMO) . On August 19, 2013, OLR sent Attorney Bishop a letter, informing him that it had received notice of an overdraft on his client trust account. The OLR directed Attorney Bishop to provide a written response within 20 days of his receipt of the letter, and to provide copies of his trust account's bank statements for May 2013 and June 2013, a copy of his transaction register for May 2013 and June 2013, and a copy of his client ledger relating to an alleged $50 withdrawal. Attorney Bishop did not respond. He also failed to respond to two subsequent notices from the OLR.

         ¶6 On January 10, 2014, OLR filed a motion asking this court to issue an order to show cause as to why Attorney Bishop's law license should not be suspended for his willful failure to cooperate in the OLR investigation concerning his conduct. This court issued the requested order. By January 22, 2014, Attorney Bishop had provided the OLR with enough information to allow the OLR to continue its investigation, so the OLR withdrew its motion and the investigation continued.

         ¶7 By letter dated February 26, 2014, the OLR directed Attorney Bishop to inform the OLR whether he had opened a business account subsequent to September 1, 2012, but Attorney Bishop failed to respond.

         ¶8 On May 28, 2014, the OLR sent Attorney Bishop a second letter requesting the same information. This time, Attorney Bishop responded by email, stating "I have not had a business account since 2012 ..."

         ¶9 During its investigation, the OLR discovered that in a Waukesha County case in which Attorney Bishop represented the defendant, the court ordered the return of $3, 000 from the bail deposit to be paid to Attorney Bishop. The Waukesha County Clerk of Courts paid the $3, 000 to Attorney Bishop and Attorney Bishop deposited the check directly into his BMO trust account, describing the deposit as a "$3, 000.00 deposit for monies past due." These funds should have been placed in a business account.

         ¶10 On August 17, 2015, Attorney Bishop advised the OLR that a chargeback on his trust account had resulted in an overdraft. In response, the OLR requested certain trust account records, including bank statements, a transaction register, and client ledgers. Attorney Bishop provided some information, but did not submit a transaction register or client ledgers for his trust account. The OLR investigation revealed that Attorney Bishop made numerous cash withdrawals from his trust account.

         ¶11 On February 22, 2016, OLR filed a disciplinary complaint in this matter, as amended on July 1, 2016. The OLR complaint alleged the following seven counts of misconduct:

Count 1: By failing to cooperate with OLR's investigation of a May 20, 2013 overdraft on his trust account by failing to respond to OLR's letters of August 19, 2013, September 23, 2013 and December 3, 2013, and by failing to respond to OLR's letter of February 26, 2014, Bishop violated SCR 22.03(2) and (6), [2] as enforced via SCR 20:8.4(h).[3]
Count 2: By failing to maintain a business account from 2012 through at least May of 2014, despite the fact that he had a trust account during that time, Bishop violated SCR 20:1.15(e) (8) .[4]
Count 3: By depositing into and retaining in his Trust Account at least $3, 000 in earned fees, Bishop violated SCR 20:1.15(b) (3) .[5]
Count 4: By making at least 199 cash withdrawals from his trust account between May 2, 2013 and July 1, 2015, totaling $50, 097.82, Bishop violated SCR 20:1.15(e) (4)a.[6]
Count 5: By failing to maintain a transaction register and client ledgers and failing to comply with record keeping requirements, Bishop violated ...

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