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In re Medical Incapacity Proceedings Against Muwonge

Supreme Court of Wisconsin

February 17, 2017

In the Matter of Medical Incapacity Proceedings Against Godfrey Y. Muwonge, Attorney at Law:
v.
Godfrey Y. Muwonge, Respondent-Appellant. Office of Lawyer Regulation, Complainant-Respondent,

         ATTORNEY disciplinary proceeding. Conditions imposed.

          PER CURIAM.

         ¶1 We review the report and recommendation of Referee Dennis J. Flynn approving a stipulation filed by the Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR) and Attorney Godfrey Y. Muwonge. Attorney Muwonge stipulated to the facts underlying 43 counts of misconduct as alleged in the OLR's amended complaint, and Attorney Muwonge and the OLR jointly recommend certain conditions and restitution as discipline for the admitted misconduct. The referee determined there was an adequate factual basis to establish the alleged misconduct and concluded that the parties' joint recommendation for discipline was appropriate.

         ¶2 Upon careful review of this matter, we uphold the referee's findings of fact and conclusions of law, as derived from the parties' stipulation, and agree that imposition of conditions and restitution are sufficient discipline for Attorney Muwonge's misconduct. We impose the full costs of this proceeding on Attorney Muwonge, which are $2, 053.07, as of November 21, 2016.

         ¶3 This is an unusual disciplinary proceeding. It commenced in 2007 but was held in abeyance because Attorney Muwonge was deemed to have a medical incapacity. That medical incapacity has been removed so the disciplinary proceeding can proceed.

         ¶4 Attorney Muwonge was admitted to practice law in Wisconsin in 1997, and practiced immigration law in the Milwaukee area.

         ¶5 In April 2007, the OLR filed a disciplinary complaint against Attorney Muwonge alleging 43 counts of misconduct and seeking revocation of Attorney Muwonge's law license.

         ¶6 On September 29, 2008, the OLR and Attorney Muwonge stipulated that Attorney Muwonge had a medical incapacity and that, because of the medical incapacity, Attorney Muwonge could not successfully defend against the allegations of professional misconduct. On October 22, 2008, a referee agreed, recommending, consistent with this court's rules, that we suspend Attorney Muwonge's law license indefinitely, pursuant to SCR 22.16(4), and that we hold the pending disciplinary proceeding in abeyance. On December 23, 2008, we issued an order adopting the referee's findings and conclusions; the 2007 disciplinary proceeding was held in abeyance. In re Medical Incapacity Proceedings Against Muwonge, No. 2007AP776, unpublished order ( S.Ct. Dec. 23, 2008).

         ¶7 In the following years, Attorney Muwonge successfully sought and obtained treatment for his mental health and substance abuse issues.

         ¶8 In June 2015, Attorney Muwonge sought reinstatement of his license to practice law, asserting that his medical incapacity had been removed. An extensive evidentiary proceeding ensued. The referee agreed, and ultimately this court concluded that Attorney Muwonge had demonstrated by clear, satisfactory and convincing evidence that he is no longer medically incapacitated and that he is fit to practice law. In re Medical Incapacity Proceedings Against Muwonge, 2016 WI 55, 369 Wis.2d 658, 881 N.W.2d 25. On July 1, 2016, we reinstated Attorney Muwonge's law license subject to a number of stringent conditions designed to monitor his continued fitness to practice law and to ensure protection of the public. Id.

         ¶9 Upon reinstating Attorney Muwonge's law license, we also issued an order pertaining to the underlying 2007 disciplinary proceeding that had been held in abeyance during his period of medical incapacity. See SCR 22.16(4)(d) ("[u]pon reinstatement, the court shall direct the referee to proceed with the misconduct action.") We directed the referee and the parties to proceed with the 2007 disciplinary proceeding.

         ¶10 The parties executed a stipulation that the referee has accepted. Our task now is to review the referee's recommendation regarding the 2007 disciplinary proceeding.

         ¶11 The misconduct alleged in the 2007 disciplinary proceeding is serious. The amended complaint alleged 43 counts of professional misconduct involving 15 clients, primarily in immigration cases. It reflects a pattern of failure to pursue client matters, failure to respond to client inquiries, failure to communicate with clients, failure to keep clients informed, failure to refund retainers or costs that were not expended, and failure to return client files. For example, Attorney Muwonge was retained to help A&W Iron Metal, Inc. (A&W) obtain permanent resident status for certain employees. Attorney Muwonge failed to meet with the clients to address their questions, failed to return filed documents, and "[n]one of the workers received permanent status." Individual clients were also harmed when Attorney Muwonge failed to appear at hearings or to complete work he had undertaken for them.

         ¶12 All told, the OLR alleged and Attorney Muwonge has stipulated that he violated the following supreme court rules:

• Former SCR 20:1.4(a)[1] as alleged in counts one (L.C. and J.C.), four (A.L.), seven (A.B.), ten (N.R.), sixteen (P.K. and K.P.), nineteen (A&W), twenty-three (A.K.), twenty-five (L.P.), twenty-eight (W.W.), thirty (M.O. and K.O.), thirty-two (G.B.), thirty-five (P.M.), thirty-nine (M.B.), and forty-one (A.D. and S.D.).
• SCR 20:1.4(b)[2] as alleged in count thirty-three (G.B.).
• Former SCR 20:1.16(d)[3] as alleged in counts two (L.C. and J.C.), five (A.L.), eight (A.B.), twelve (N.R.), fourteen (S.M.), seventeen (P.K. and K.P.), twenty (A&W), twenty-one (A&W), twenty-six (L.P.), thirty-four (G.B.), thirty-six (P.M.), forty-two (A.D. and S.D.), and forty-three (A.D. and S.D.).
• SCR 20.1.3[4] as alleged in counts three (A.L. and H.N.), six (A.B.), nine (A.B.), fifteen (P.K.), eighteen (A&W), twenty-two (A.K.), twenty-four (L.P.), twenty-seven (W.W.), twenty-nine (M.O.), thirty-one ...

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