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In re Disciplinary Proceedings Against Kranitz

Supreme Court of Wisconsin

November 8, 2016

In the Matter of Disciplinary Proceedings Against Richard A. Kranitz, Attorney at Law:
v.
Richard A. Kranitz, Respondent. Office of Lawyer Regulation, Complainant,

         ATTORNEY reinstatement proceeding. Reinstatement granted upon conditions.

          PER CURIAM.

         ¶1 We review, pursuant to Supreme Court Rule (SCR) 22.33(3), [1] a report filed by Referee James W. Mohr, Jr., recommending that the court reinstate the license of Richard A. Kranitz to practice law in Wisconsin. Upon careful review of the matter, we agree that Attorney Kranitz's license should be reinstated, with the conditions described herein. We agree that Attorney Kranitz should be responsible for the costs of this proceeding, which total $3, 142.97.

         ¶2 Attorney Kranitz was licensed to practice law in Wisconsin in 1969. He practiced corporate law in the Milwaukee and Grafton areas. He had no disciplinary history until the matter giving rise to this proceeding.

         ¶3 In 2013, Attorney Kranitz was convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1348, 1349, and 2. See United States v. Kranitz, CR No. 11-10415-NMG (D. Mass.). He was sentenced to 18 months at a federal prison camp in Duluth, Minnesota, and served 14 of the 18 months, receiving time off for good behavior.

         ¶4 The conviction resulted in the summary suspension of his license to practice law pursuant to SCR 22.20.[2] Thereafter, this court accepted a stipulation executed by Attorney Kranitz and the OLR, and suspended Attorney Kranitz's license to practice law for two years for the professional misconduct giving rise to the federal felony conviction. In re Disciplinary Proceedings Against Kranitz, 2014 WI 47, 354 Wis.2d 710, 848 N.W.2d 292.

         ¶5 In March 2016, Attorney Kranitz filed a petition seeking reinstatement of his law license. In June 2016, the OLR filed a response stating it did not oppose the reinstatement petition. The referee conducted a public hearing in July 2016. At the hearing, Attorney Kranitz testified on his own behalf and called several witnesses, including several business associates, attorneys, and clients who knew, worked, or practiced law with him. The referee filed his report and recommendation in August 2016, recommending reinstatement. No appeal was filed.

         ¶6 SCR 22.31(1)[3] provides the standards to be met for reinstatement. Specifically, the petitioner must show by clear, satisfactory, and convincing evidence that he or she has the moral character to practice law, that his or her resumption of the practice of law will not be detrimental to the administration of justice or subversive to the public interest, and that he or she has complied with SCR 22.26 and the terms of the order of suspension. In addition, SCR 22.31(1)(c) incorporates the statements that a petition for reinstatement must contain pursuant to SCR 22.29(4)(a)-(4m).[4] Thus, the petitioning attorney must demonstrate that the required representations in the reinstatement petition are substantiated.

         ¶7 When reviewing referee reports in reinstatement proceedings, we utilize standards of review similar to those we use for reviewing referee reports in disciplinary proceedings. We do not overturn a referee's findings of fact unless they are clearly erroneous. On the other hand, we review a referee's legal conclusions, including whether the attorney has satisfied the criteria for reinstatement, on a de novo basis. In re Disciplinary Proceedings Against Jennings, 2011 WI 45, ¶39, 334 Wis.2d 335, 801 N.W.2d 304; In re Disciplinary Proceedings Against Gral, 2010 WI 14, ¶22, 323 Wis.2d 280, 779 N.W.2d 168.

         ¶8 The referee found that Attorney Kranitz demonstrated by clear, satisfactory, and convincing evidence all of the requirements for reinstatement of his Wisconsin law license. The referee found that Attorney Kranitz has not practiced law during the period of his suspension;[5] that he has complied fully with the terms of the order of suspension and will continue to do so until his license is reinstated; that he has maintained competence and learning in the law;[6] that his conduct since the suspension has been exemplary and above reproach; that he has a proper understanding of and attitude toward the standards that are imposed upon members of the bar and will act in conformity with those standards; and that he can be safely recommended to the legal profession, the courts, and the public as a person fit to be consulted by others and to represent them and otherwise act in matters of trust and confidence and in general to aid in the administration of justice as a member of the bar and an officer of the courts.

         ¶9 The referee urged reinstatement of Attorney Kranitz's license to practice law, conditioned upon his compliance with the terms of two consent orders issued by the United States Securities and Exchange Commission that are included in the record in this matter. See In re Richard Kranitz, Securities & Exch. Comm'n, No. 3-16149 (Sec. Exch. Act of 1934, Release No. 73169, Sept. 22, 2014) (https://www.sec.gov/litigation/admin/201 4/34-73169.pdf); In re Richard Kranitz, Securities & Exch. Comm'n, No. 3-16149 (Sec. Exch. Act of 1934, Release No. 73170, Sept. 22, 2014) (https://www.sec.gov/litigation/admin/2014/34-73170.pdf). The consent orders provide that Attorney Kranitz is suspended from appearing or practicing before the Securities and Exchange Commission pursuant to Rule 102(e)(2) of the Commission's Rules of Practice, and is barred from acting as an officer or director of any public corporation registered under the Exchange Act, and barred from participating in any capacity in any offerings of penny stocks. The referee noted that Attorney Kranitz is aware of both of those consent orders and has stated he will abide by them.

         ¶10 In rendering his recommendation, the referee noted that Attorney Kranitz was sincere, forthright, credible, and entirely candid in his testimony. Attorney Kranitz affirmed that he will not do any further securities work, but stated that he would like to train clients and others in various types of financing transactions; and to do contract, estate planning, mergers and acquisitions, and other family corporation type transactions. The referee noted that Attorney Kranitz is "more than current" in all of his continuing legal education requirements, having taken more ethics credits than were required and has educated himself regarding the variety of criminal law issues involved in securities and corporate law practice.

         ¶11 The referee noted that several witnesses appeared on behalf of Attorney Kranitz, including attorneys who have known Attorney Kranitz for a long time, and former clients. The referee was particularly impressed by the clients' testimony. They described the extremely high ethical, moral and character standards that Attorney Kranitz adhered to prior to the indictment. Although each of them was very surprised to hear of the indictment, they all testified that their exceedingly high opinion of Attorney Kranitz's character had not decreased and that they would still use him as their attorney, and would refer other clients to him. They described him as an exceptionally qualified attorney who can render a valuable service to the small business community in Wisconsin. The two attorneys who testified in support of Attorney Kranitz's reinstatement were equally laudatory in their testimony. They support his reinstatement petition and praised his extensive knowledge base, which they deem an asset to small businesses in this state.

         ¶12 Upon review of the record, we agree that Attorney Kranitz has established by clear, satisfactory, and convincing evidence that he has satisfied all the criteria necessary for reinstatement. Accordingly, we adopt the referee's findings of fact and conclusions of law and we accept the referee's recommendation that we reinstate Attorney Kranitz's license ...


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