In the Matter of Disciplinary Proceedings Against John H. Peiss, Attorney at Law:
John H. Peiss, Respondent. Office of Lawyer Regulation, Complainant,
PROCEEDINGS AGAINST PEISS
disciplinary proceeding. Attorney's license revoked.
We review the report of Referee John B. Murphy recommending
that Attorney John H. Peiss's license to practice law in
Wisconsin should be revoked, as discipline reciprocal to that
imposed by the Supreme Court of Illinois. Upon careful review
of the matter, we accept the referee's recommendation. We
also assess the costs of the proceeding, which are $2, 026.90
as of December 28, 2016, against Attorney Peiss.
Attorney Peiss was admitted to practice law in Wisconsin in
1982. He was also admitted to practice law in Illinois on
March 6, 1992. Attorney Peiss's license to practice law
in Wisconsin was suspended in 1999 for failure to comply with
continuing legal education requirements and failure to pay
state bar dues. In 2010, Attorney Peiss's Wisconsin law
license was suspended for one year as discipline reciprocal
to that imposed by the Supreme Court of Illinois. Attorney
Peiss's misconduct in Illinois consisted of conversion
and the unauthorized practice of law. See In re Disciplinary
Proceedings Against Peiss, 2010 WI 115, 329 Wis.2d 325, 788
N.W.2d 636. His Wisconsin license remains suspended.
On September 21, 2015, the Supreme Court of Illinois entered
an order disbarring Attorney Peiss in that state. The
disbarment was based on four counts of misconduct: (1)
practicing law in a jurisdiction where doing so violates the
regulation of the legal profession in that jurisdiction by
practicing law in Illinois while suspended; (2) committing a
criminal act that reflects adversely on the attorney's
honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other
respects by committing the criminal offense of theft; (3)
engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or
misrepresentation; and (4) engaging in conduct prejudicial to
the administration of justice.
Attorney Peiss did not notify the Office of Lawyer Regulation
(OLR) of the Illinois disbarment within 20 days of its
On April 1, 2016, the OLR filed a complaint against Attorney
Peiss alleging the following counts of misconduct:
Count One: By virtue of the Illinois disciplinary disbarment,
Attorney Peiss is subject to reciprocal discipline in
Wisconsin pursuant to SCR 22.22.
Count Two: By failing to notify the OLR of his disbarment in
Illinois for professional misconduct within 20 days of the
effective date of its imposition, Attorney Peiss violated SCR
Attorney Peiss filed an answer to the OLR's complaint on
July 12, 2016. He filed an amended answer on September 9,
2016. The amended answer raised three affirmative defenses:
(1) that the hearing in Illinois was conducted without notice
to, or service of process on Attorney Peiss; (2) that
Attorney Peiss had no opportunity to be heard in the Illinois
action; and (3) that there was no proof of any misconduct in
The OLR filed a motion for summary judgment. Following
briefing, the referee granted the summary judgment motion.
The referee noted that under SCR 22.22(3), this court shall
impose the identical discipline imposed in another
jurisdiction unless one or more of three exceptions apply.
Attorney Peiss argued that "the procedure in the other
jurisdiction was so lacking in notice or opportunity to be
heard as to constitute a deprivation of due process."
See SCR 22.22(3)(a). Attorney Peiss claimed that the failure
of the Illinois disciplinary authorities to personally serve
him with either of the two complaints filed in the Illinois
action was fatal to the Illinois court's prosecution of
the disciplinary case against him. The referee disagreed.
The referee noted that the pertinent Illinois rule, Attorney
Registration and Disciplinary Commission (ARDC) Rule 214(b)
provides that an attorney may be served either by personal
service or, if a person authorized to make personal service
files an affidavit that the respondent resides out of state,
has left the state, on due inquiry cannot be found, or is
concealed within the state so that process cannot be served
upon him, the respondent may be served by ordinary mail.
The referee said a review of the Illinois ARDC record and
statements of Attorney Peiss confirm that he was not
personally served. However, the referee said the Illinois
record makes clear that at the time the ARDC's original
complaint was filed, Attorney Peiss was in contact with the
ARDC and was aware as early as June of 2013 that a
disciplinary inquiry was under way. In addition, the referee
said following the filing of the first complaint, Attorney
Peiss was in contact with an investigator from the ARDC and
was aware the ARDC wanted to personally serve the complaint
on him. According to the Illinois record, Attorney Peiss told
an ARDC investigator that he would return to Chicago to
accept service of the complaint on August 6, 2013. Attorney
Peiss never made contact with the ARDC to accept service.
ARDC later hired a process server to attempt service on
Attorney Peiss in Madison, Wisconsin, where he was taking
care of his mother who had suffered a stroke. This attempt at
personal service was also unsuccessful and substitute service
was made by mail. Attorney Peiss did not answer the
The referee went on to note that the ARDC subsequently filed
an amended complaint on December 10, 2013. This complaint was
mailed to Attorney Peiss, and the record indicates that he
received the complaint but failed to file an answer. The
Illinois matter came on for a hearing before the Board of
Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission
(Board) on June 16, 2014. Attorney Peiss appeared at the
hearing and was represented by counsel. The referee noted
that because the substantive accusations of the amended
complaint had been deemed admitted by Attorney Peiss's
failure to file an answer, the hearing dealt with the
disciplinary recommendation. However, the referee said it
appeared from the report and recommendation in the Illinois
case that the Board did allow Attorney Peiss to make some due
process arguments pertaining to the alleged lack of personal
service, but the Board was not persuaded by his claims. The
chair of the Board specifically said that "after
listening to respondent's testimony and observing his
demeanor at the hearing, we did not find him credible."
The referee said:
[I]t [is] impossible to believe that the respondent was in
any way deprived of due process in the Illinois proceedings
against him. Any problems in service were the direct result
of the respondent's own misbehavior and not the result of
any failure on the part of the ARDC. Further, the due process
issue was considered by the Illinois authorities at the June
2015 [sic] hearing and respondent's arguments were
properly rejected by that tribunal.
The referee went on to point out that Attorney Peiss
"undertook the same sort of behavior" when attempts
were made to serve the complaint in the instant action. The
referee noted that according to an affidavit of the process
server, numerous attempts at personal service were made
without success and when the process server finally made
telephone contact with Attorney Peiss to discuss meeting to
accept service, Attorney Peiss's response was, "ah
no, " whereupon he hung up on the process server, after
which the complaint had to be served by mail.
The referee rejected Attorney Peiss's argument that
reciprocal discipline was unwarranted because he was denied
due process in the Illinois proceeding. The referee granted
the OLR's motion for summary judgment and recommended
that this court impose discipline reciprocal to that imposed
by the Supreme Court of Illinois, i.e. the revocation of
Attorney Peiss's license to practice law in Wisconsin.
The referee also recommended that Attorney Peiss be assessed
the full costs of this proceeding.
Attorney Peiss has not appealed the referee's report and
recommendation. Accordingly, this court reviews the matter
pursuant to SCR 22.17(2), which provides that if no appeal is
timely filed, the court shall review the referee's
report; adopt, reject or modify the referee's findings
and conclusions or remand the matter to the referee for
additional findings; and determine and impose appropriate
Upon careful review of the matter, we adopt the referee's
findings of fact and conclusions of law. We agree with the
referee that Attorney Peiss failed to demonstrate that he was
denied due process in the Illinois proceeding. Accordingly,
we approve the referee's recommendation and impose the
identical discipline imposed by the Supreme Court of
Illinois, namely the revocation of Attorney Peiss's
license to practice law in Wisconsin. We also assess the full
costs of the proceeding against Attorney Peiss.
IT IS ORDERED that the license of John H. Peiss to practice
law in Wisconsin is revoked, effective the date of this
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that, to the extent he has not already
done so, John H. Peiss shall comply with the provisions of
SCR 22.26 concerning the duties of a person whose license to
practice law in Wisconsin has been revoked.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that within 60 days of the date of this
order, John H. Peiss shall pay to the Office of Lawyer
Regulation the costs of this proceeding.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that compliance with all conditions of
this order is required for reinstatement. See SCR 22.28(3).
SHIRLEY S. ABRAHAMSON, J. (concurring) This is a
reciprocal discipline case. It raises the question of what is
"identical discipline" in a reciprocal discipline
The Office of Lawyer Regulation seeks revocation of Attorney
Peiss's Wisconsin license in the instant case, while the
Illinois discipline was "disbarment." The documents
filed by the OLR in the instant case, like the documents
filed in other reciprocal discipline cases, do not explain
the extent to which the other state's discipline (here
disbarment) is or is not identical to the Wisconsin
discipline of revocation.
This failure on the part of the OLR hampers the work of this
court. The per curiam opinion is defective in not equating
disbarment and revocation.
I conclude that the OLR should improve its presentation in
reciprocal discipline cases by comparing the Wisconsin
discipline to be imposed with the discipline imposed in the
For example, my research of Illinois law indicates that
disbarment in Illinois amounts to a five-year revocation of
the license before the attorney may seek reinstatement. See
Illinois Rule 767. Thus, disbarment in Illinois appears to be
identical to license revocation in Wisconsin. SCR 22.29(2).
The OLR has an advantage over a justice or a Supreme Court
commissioner in determining Illinois law. In contrast with a
justice or court staff--who may not engage in ex parte
communications--the OLR may do its own research on other
states' laws, may seek assistance from officials in other
states, and may submit proof regarding the nature of the
other state's discipline. A lawyer challenging the
proposed Wisconsin discipline may submit his or her own
documentation regarding the imposition of identical
If this case were initially a Wisconsin matter, the court in
all probability would order restitution to the attorney's
victims. The Illinois proceeding did not order restitution.
Should Wisconsin nevertheless seek restitution before the
Wisconsin license is reinstated?
The instant case, as well as other reciprocal discipline
cases, raise the question of what is identical discipline. I
suggest that the OLR Procedure Review Committee (Professor
Marsha Mansfield, University of Wisconsin Law School,
Reporter), appointed by the court in June 2016, should
consider reviewing and revising the Supreme Court Rules
governing reciprocal discipline when a lawyer licensed in
Wisconsin is disciplined in another state.
For the reasons set forth, I write separately.
SHIRLEY S. ABRAHAMSON, J. (dissenting) (separate writing
appended on May 11, 2017, to order filed April 10, 2017). On.
April 10, 2017, the court issued the dismissal order in the
instant case without awaiting my writing. The order stated
that my separate writing would follow. ...