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In re Disciplinary Proceedings Against Gegner

Supreme Court of Wisconsin

February 17, 2017

In the Matter of Disciplinary Proceedings Against Thad M. Gegner, Attorney at Law:
v.
Thad M. Gegner, Respondent. Office of Lawyer Regulation, Complainant,

         ATTORNEY disciplinary proceeding. Attorney's license revoked.

          PER CURIAM.

         ¶1 The court has before it a report and recommendation filed on October 12, 2016, by Referee James G. Curtis. The report recommends that this court accept Attorney Thad M. Gegner's petition for consensual license revocation, revoke his license to practice law in Wisconsin, and order him to pay restitution to certain aggrieved parties, including the Wisconsin Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection (the Fund). Attorney Gegner is the subject of a disciplinary proceeding alleging that he committed 47 counts of misconduct in 11 different client matters, as well as an allegation of practicing law after suspension. He is also the subject of four additional pending Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR) grievance matters that have not yet been fully investigated by the OLR.

         ¶2 We agree with the referee that both revocation and restitution are appropriate. We also agree with the referee's recommendation that Attorney Gegner should pay the full costs of this proceeding, which are $2, 019.58 as of October 31, 2016.

         ¶3 Attorney Gegner was admitted to the practice of law in Wisconsin in 2003. He does not have a disciplinary history. His Wisconsin law license has been suspended since April 17, 2015, for non-cooperation with the OLR in certain of the matters at issue in this case.

         ¶4 On September 28, 2015, the OLR filed a complaint against Attorney Gegner, setting forth 24 counts of misconduct over six client matters and an allegation of practicing law after suspension. The complaint requested a two-year suspension, plus payment of restitution and costs. On January 6, 2016, the OLR filed an amended complaint against Attorney Gegner, setting forth 47 counts of misconduct over 11 client matters and an allegation of practicing law after suspension. The amended complaint requested revocation, plus payment of restitution and costs. Attorney Gegner retained counsel. At the parties' request, the referee stayed the proceedings while the parties discussed the possibility of Attorney Gegner filing a petition for consensual license revocation pursuant to Supreme Court Rule (SCR) 22.19. On September 22, 2016, Attorney Gegner filed such a petition.

         ¶5 In his petition, Attorney Gegner acknowledges that he cannot successfully defend himself against the allegations in the amended complaint, which is attached to his petition as Appendix A. He also acknowledges that he cannot successfully defend himself against four pending investigative matters that have not been publicly charged, a summary of which is attached to his petition as Appendix B.

         ¶6 On September 29, 2016, the OLR filed a recommendation supporting Attorney Gegner's SCR 22.19 petition. The referee filed a report on October 12, 2016, recommending revocation and restitution. On November 30, 2016, the referee filed a recommendation on costs, in which he advised the court to impose full costs on Attorney Gegner. On October 26, 2016, the OLR filed a restitution statement, which it later supplemented in a December 29, 2016 filing. In those filings, the OLR states that Attorney Gegner should pay restitution as recommended by the referee.[1]

         ¶7 No appeal has been filed in this matter, so our review proceeds pursuant to SCR 22.17(2).

         ¶8 We revoke Attorney Gegner's Wisconsin law license effective the date of this order. The scope of his misconduct is vast and troubling. It is not necessary to set forth the particular factual allegations of every instance of misconduct in every client matter involved in this case. Doing so would be overly cumbersome, given that the amended complaint alone alleges almost four dozen misconduct counts, described in some 231 separately numbered paragraphs. A synopsis of the information contained in the attachments to Attorney Gegner's petition for revocation will provide a sufficient description of the nature and scope of his professional misconduct.

         ¶9 As stated above, the OLR's amended complaint in this disciplinary proceeding, attached as Appendix A to the revocation petition, sets forth 47 counts of misconduct involving 11 different clients and an allegation of practicing law after suspension. The alleged misconduct involved violations of the following supreme court rules: SCR 20:1.3 (failing to act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client); SCR 20:1.4(a)(3) (failing to keep a client reasonably informed about the status of a matter); SCR 20:1.4(a)(4) (failing to promptly comply with reasonable requests by the client for information); SCR 20:1.5(b)(3) (failing to promptly respond to a client's request for information concerning fees and expenses); SCR 20:1.15(b)(4)[2](failing to deposit advanced payments of fees and costs into trust account); SCR 20:1.15(d)(1) (failing to notify a client promptly after receiving funds in which a client has an interest and promptly deliver the funds absent an agreement or legal requirement to do otherwise); SCR 20:1.16(d) (failing to take steps to protect client's interests upon termination of representation); SCR 20:3.3(a)(1) (knowingly making a false statement of fact to a tribunal); SCR 20:3.4(c) (knowingly disobeying an obligation under the rules of a tribunal); SCR 20:8.4(c) (engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation); SCR 22.03(2) and (6), enforced via SCR 20:8.4(h) (failing to promptly and fully cooperate with an OLR investigation); and SCR 31.10(1) (engaging in the practice of law after a suspension for failing to satisfy continuing legal education requirements).

         ¶10 The OLR's summary of misconduct allegations in the four pending investigative matters that have not been publicly charged, attached as Appendix B to the revocation petition, summarizes alleged violations or potential violations of the following supreme court rules: SCR 20:1.3 (failing to act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client); SCR 20:1.4(a)(3) (failing to keep a client reasonably informed about the status of a matter); SCR 20:1.4(a)(4) (failing to promptly comply with reasonable requests by the client for information); SCR 20:1.5(a) (charging an unreasonable fee); SCR 20:1.15(d)(1) (failing to notify a client promptly after receiving funds in which a client has an interest and promptly deliver the funds absent an agreement or legal requirement to do otherwise); SCR 20:1.15(g)(1) (failing to notify clients of withdrawal of non-contingent fees from trust account); SCR 20:1.16(d) (failing to take steps to protect a client's interests upon termination of representation); SCR 20:3.4(c) (knowingly disobeying an obligation under the rules of a tribunal); SCR 20:8.4(c) (engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation); SCR 21.15(4) (failing to cooperate with an OLR investigation); SCR 22.03(2) and (6), enforced via SCR 20:8.4(h) (failing to promptly and fully cooperate with an OLR investigation); and SCR 22.26 (failing to comply with the duties of a person whose license to practice law in Wisconsin has been suspended).

         ¶11 We find instructive the referee's synopsis of Attorney Gegner's misconduct:

The facts established by OLR portray a repeated pattern of serious misconduct from 2011 into 2015. The facts establish a law practice that was spiraling out of control. Mr. Gegner would fail to communicate with his clients and would fail to perform the legal work and services that were necessary. He would at times misrepresent the status of his work to both the clients and court. He misused and converted client funds and failed to provide any accounting. The record establishes numerous ...

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