In the Matter of Disciplinary Proceedings Against Robert J. Baratki, Attorney at Law: Office of Lawyer Regulation, Complainant,
Robert J. Baratki, Respondent.
PROCEEDINGS AGAINST BARATKI
disciplinary proceeding. Attorney's license
We review Referee James J. Winiarski's recommendation
that the court declare Attorney Robert J. Baratki in default
and suspend his Wisconsin law license for a period of 60 days
for his misconduct in two client matters, his appearance in
numerous client matters while his license to practice law was
suspended, and his non-cooperation with the Office of Lawyer
Regulation's (OLR) investigation into his conduct. The
referee also recommended that Attorney Baratki be required to
make restitution to a former client in the amount of $487.50,
and to pay the full costs of this proceeding, which total $1,
428.93 as of June 13, 2017.
Because no appeal has been filed, we review the referee's
report pursuant to Supreme Court Rule (SCR) 22.17(2) . After
conducting our independent review of the matter, we agree
with the referee that, based on Attorney Baratki's
failure to answer the complaint filed by the OLR, the OLR is
entitled to a default judgment. However, we disagree with the
referee that Attorney Baratki's professional misconduct
warrants only a 60-day suspension. We conclude, instead, that
a six-month suspension is warranted. We agree with the
referee that Attorney Baratki should be ordered to pay the
full costs of the proceeding, as well $487.50 in restitution.
Attorney Baratki was admitted to practice law in Wisconsin in
1990. He has twice been privately reprimanded. In 2006, he
was privately reprimanded for engaging in a consensual sexual
relationship with his client when he did not have such a
relationship with the client prior to the establishment of
their attorney-client relationship, in violation of former
SCR 20:1.8(k) (2) . See Private Reprimand No.
2006-20 (electronic copy available at
2014, he was privately reprimanded for: (1) transmitting a
letter to opposing counsel at a time his license was
suspended for noncompliance with mandatory continuing legal
education (CLE) requirements, in violation of SCR 20:8.4(f);
and (2) acting on behalf of clients, including appearances in
court, during a period when his license was suspended for
noncompliance with CLE requirements, in violation of SCR
31.10(1), enforced via SCR 20:8.4(f). See Private
Reprimand No. 2014-4 (electronic copy available at
Attorney Baratki's law license is currently subject to
administrative and temporary suspensions. It is
administratively suspended for failure to comply with
mandatory CLE reporting requirements. It is temporarily
suspended due to his willful failure to cooperate with OLR
investigations into his conduct. See Office of Lawyer
Regulation v. Baratki, 2016XX1482-D and 2016XX1830-D,
unpublished orders ( S.Ct. December 14, 2016 and February 13,
On September 28, 2016, the OLR filed the current complaint
against Attorney Baratki. The complaint alleges nine counts
of professional wrongdoing, divided into three categories of
misconduct. The following facts are taken from the OLR's
K.D. (Counts 1-4)
In February 2014, K.D. retained Attorney Baratki to represent
her in a divorce proceeding.
Beginning in April 2014, Attorney Baratki began sending
flirtatious, and sometimes sexual, text messages to K.D. In
April 2014, Attorney Baratki sent K.D. a text message that
read, "I forgot to tell you yesterday your top was
really pretty, " and, "You are so bad." When
K.D. responded, "I think it is your imagination, "
Attorney Baratki replied, "Nope, it was you and your
abs." In May 2014, Attorney Baratki texted K.D. to
suggest that she "could stop over for a 10 or 15 minute
pawing before [K.D.'s daughter] stops over."
Attorney Baratki later texted such appeals as, "Are you
ignoring me?" and, "You don't love me
anymore." Attorney Baratki also bragged to K.D. about
how many women he had been with, suggested that she should
"date, " and forecasted her sexual predilections.
In one of his meetings with K.D., Attorney Baratki lifted her
shirt and kissed her abdominal area.
In December 2014, K.D. retained new counsel and Attorney
Baratki's flirtatious communications ended.
In July 2015, the OLR sent Attorney Baratki notice of a
formal investigation asking him to respond to a grievance
filed by K.D. The OLR requested copies of all of his
communications with K.D., as well as a complete copy of his
file. Although Attorney Baratki provided a response to the
OLR's investigative request, he did not provide the OLR
with copies of his communications with K.D., or a complete
copy of his file. After another written request from the OLR
for a copy of these documents, Attorney Baratki provided what
he claimed was a copy of all text messages pertaining to
K.D.'s grievance. This claim was not true; Attorney
Baratki omitted several text exchanges. When the OLR wrote to
Attorney Baratki requesting copies of the omitted text
messages, he failed to respond. When the OLR wrote to
Attorney Baratki requesting a response to K.D.'s
allegation that he had lifted her shirt and kissed her
abdominal area, he failed to respond.
Based on the course of conduct described above, the OLR
alleged in its complaint that Attorney Baratki represented
K.D. despite a significant risk that his representation would
be materially limited by his personal interest, in violation
of SCR 20:1.7 (a) (2) (Count 1); engaged in harassment on the
basis of sex, in violation of SCR 20:8.4 (i) (Count 2);
violated that portion of the attorney's oath which
requires abstention from all offensive personality, in
violation of SCR 20:8.4(g) and SCR 40.15 (Count 3); and failed to
timely provide relevant information during the course of the
OLR's investigation, in violation of SCR 22.03(2) and SCR
22.03(6),  enforced through SCR
20:8.4(h) (Count 4).
T.T. (Counts 5-6)
In June 2013, T.T. retained Attorney Baratki to represent her
in a divorce proceeding. Attorney Baratki failed to appear at
a March 17, 2015 scheduling conference. On March 31, 2015,
Attorney Baratki informed the circuit court that he no longer
represented T.T. Attorney Baratki did not file a notice of
withdrawal, did not request permission from the court to
withdraw, and did not give T.T. reasonable notice or the
opportunity to obtain substitute counsel. Following his
withdrawal, Attorney Baratki did not provide T.T. with an
accounting of his time or the services provided.
After T.T. filed a grievance with the OLR, Attorney Baratki
provided the OLR with an accounting showing a balance due to
T.T. in the amount of $487.50, which remains unpaid.
Based on the course of conduct described above, the OLR
alleged in its complaint that Attorney Baratki failed to act
with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing
T.T., in violation of SCR 20:1.3 (Count 5); and failed to
take proper steps upon termination of the representation to
protect T.T.'s interests, in violation of SCR
20:1.16(d) (Count 6).
While Suspended (Counts 7-9)
On September 30, 2015, the State Bar of Wisconsin sent
Attorney Baratki a certified letter advising him that if he
failed to pay his fiscal 2016 State Bar dues, as well as sign
a trust account certification, by 5:00 p.m. on October 31,
2015, he would be suspended from the practice of law.
Attorney Baratki personally signed the receipt for the
certified letter. Attorney Baratki failed to pay his bar dues
or sign the trust account certification by the October 31,
On November 2, 2015, Attorney Baratki sent the State Bar a
check for the dues owed, as well as for a late fee and a
reinstatement fee. The State Bar received the check on
November 5, 2015. However, Attorney Baratki ...