In the Matter of Disciplinary Proceedings Against Margaret Bach, Attorney at Law:
Margaret Bach, Respondent. Office of Lawyer Regulation, Complainant,
disciplinary proceeding. Attorney publicly reprimanded.
We review the report of Referee James J. Winiarski
recommending that the court publicly reprimand Attorney
Margaret Bach for professional misconduct and order her to
pay the full costs of this disciplinary proceeding, which
total $14, 765.09 as of August 26, 2016.
No appeal has been filed from the referee's report and
recommendation, so we review the matter pursuant to Supreme
Court Rule (SCR) 22.17(2)- After considering the referee's
report and the record in this matter, we agree with the
referee's determination that the Office of Lawyer
Regulation (OLR) proved by clear, satisfactory, and
convincing evidence that Attorney Bach engaged in some, but
not all, of the acts of professional misconduct alleged in
the OLR's amended complaint. We agree that a public
reprimand is appropriate and we require Attorney Bach to pay
the full costs of this proceeding.
This court is familiar with the underlying facts giving rise
to this case. It stems from Attorney Bach's efforts to
advocate on behalf of her adult son, A.B., who is disabled.
A.B. has a rare medical condition that renders him a danger
to himself and others. Since approximately 2006, when A.B.
turned 18, Attorney Bach has engaged in extensive litigation
regarding his placement, level and quality of care, payment
for that care, and guardianship.
Initially, Attorney Bach was appointed her son's guardian
and cared for him at her home. However, in 2009, following a
series of incidents and acrimonious litigation relating to
A.B.'s level of care, the court appointed a corporate
guardian for him. In 2011, the court appointed a new
guardian, ARC of Greater Milwaukee, n/k/a Life Navigators,
and appointed Elizabeth Ruthmansdorfer as A.B.'s guardian
ad litem. Attorney Bach was aggrieved by these appointments
and has challenged them repeatedly in court.
On July 5, 2011, Attorney Bach was admitted to practice law
in Wisconsin. She continued to litigate but, as a licensed
attorney, she is subject to the Rules of Professional Conduct
for Attorneys, SCR Ch. 20.
On August 31, 2011, Attorney Bach filed a complaint in
federal court against Milwaukee County and several other
defendants, naming herself and her son as plaintiffs.
Bach v. Milwaukee County, E.D. Wis. Case No.
ll-C-828. The federal court dismissed Attorney Bach's
complaint and Attorney Bach appealed. On July 24, 2012, the
Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed Attorney
Bach's appeal. Bach v. Milwaukee County, 490
Fed.Appx. 806 (7th Cir. 2012), cert, denied (Feb.
19, 2013) . The Court held that "Life Navigators
and Ruthmansdorfer are the only persons authorized to
act on [A.B.'s] behalf." (Emphasis added.)
Meanwhile, on June 21, 2012, the Milwaukee County circuit
court judge presiding over A.B.'s guardianship case
denied Attorney Bach's request to access the confidential
guardianship court file. On July 11, 2012, the court issued a
written order confirming this ruling.
On October 16, 2012, the circuit court issued another written
order, this time enjoining Attorney Bach:
... from filing, without this Court's prior approval,
either on her own behalf and/or on [A.B.'s] behalf and/or
on behalf of any other person purporting to represent
[A.B.'s] interests, any complaint, petition, motion, or
other request for relief (hereinafter 'pleading') in
this guardianship proceeding, or in any other proceeding
before any other state or federal court or other tribunal
(including appellate courts), regarding [A.B.] and/or
regarding any person or entity providing care or services to
[A.B.] and/or any person or entity who serves as a legal
representative to [A.B.], except that Ms. Bach may appeal
this Order to the Wisconsin Court of Appeals.
On April 2, 2013, Attorney Bach filed another complaint in
federal court challenging the circuit court's injunction
as well as A.B.'s placement and visitation. Attorney Bach
did not name A.B. as a plaintiff, but requested the court
appoint a guardian ad litem for him. Bach v. Milwaukee
County Circuit Court, E.D. Wis. Case No. 13-CV-370. On
May 31, 2013, Attorney Bach amended her complaint, naming
A.B. as a plaintiff.
In June 2013, in state court, Attorney Bach ordered
transcripts of certain proceedings in A.B.'s guardianship
case from court reporters. Later that month, the circuit
court informed Attorney Bach that the court reporters had
been instructed to cease their work, based on the 2012 June
and July court orders.
In a June 2013 order, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals warned
Attorney Bach that "[b]eing [A.B.'s] mother does not
endow her with the right to sidestep, manipulate or disregard
the rules by which all litigants must play."
Margaret B. v. County of Milwaukee, No. 2012AP1176,
unpublished slip op., ¶7 (Wis. Ct. App. Jun. 12, 2013) .
On July 31, 2013, Attorney Bach appealed the circuit
court's ruling regarding transcripts in the guardianship
proceeding. The court of appeals summarily affirmed, stating:
Proceedings in guardianship cases are confidential by
statute, and this court has previously upheld determinations
that, because she is not her son's guardian, guardian ad
litem, or adversary counsel, Bach has no standing in the
guardianship case, no right to review his confidential legal