In the Matter of Disciplinary Proceedings Against Steven Cohen, Attorney at Law:
Steven Cohen, Respondent-Petitioner. Office of Lawyer Regulation, Complainant-Respondent,
SUBMITTED ON BRIEFS ORAL ARGUMENT: June 20, 2017
disciplinary proceeding. Attorney's license suspended.
PROCEEDINGS AGAINST COHEN
the respondent-petitioner, there was a brief filed by Steven
M. Cohen and Cohen Law Office, Madison.
the complainant-respondent there was a brief filed by Denis
R. Vogel and Wheeler, Van Sickle & Anderson, S.C.,
Attorney Steven Cohen has appealed a report filed by Referee
James C. Boll, Jr. concluding that Attorney Cohen committed
four counts of professional misconduct and recommending that
Attorney Cohen's license to practice law in Wisconsin be
suspended for four months. Attorney Cohen entered into a
stipulation whereby he agreed that the facts alleged in the
amended complaint filed by the Office of Lawyer Regulation
(OLR) could be used to form a basis for his admissions to the
first three counts of misconduct alleged in the amended
complaint. In his appeal, Attorney Cohen argues that the
evidence was insufficient to support the referee's
finding of misconduct with respect to count four of the
amended complaint. He also argues that mitigating
circumstances support a lesser sanction than the four-month
suspension recommended by the referee.
Upon careful review of this matter, we uphold all of the
referee's findings of fact and conclusions of law and
conclude that a four-month suspension of Attorney Cohen's
license to practice law is an appropriate sanction for his
misconduct. As is our usual custom, we also find that
Attorney Cohen should be required to pay the full costs of
this proceeding, which are $8, 608.20 as of July 10, 2017.
Attorney Cohen was admitted to practice law in Wisconsin in
1996. He practices in Madison, Wisconsin. In 2007, he
received a private reprimand as the result of a conviction
for one count of misdemeanor disorderly conduct that stemmed
from an altercation involving Attorney Cohen and his wife.
See Private Reprimand No. 2007-28 (electronic copy available
On July 8, 2015, the OLR filed a complaint against Attorney
Cohen. Attorney Cohen filed an answer on August 10, 2015. The
referee was appointed on October 15, 2015. The OLR filed an
amended complaint on March 3, 2016.
Count one of the amended complaint arose out of an incident
that occurred in the course of Attorney Cohen's
representation of R.S., who is serving a life sentence for a
homicide conviction. On October 18, 2013, Attorney Cohen
traveled to the Columbia Correctional Institution to meet
with R.S. Attorney Cohen carried with him a black bag
containing pens, transcripts, and papers. He also brought a
white pastry bag containing two crème-filled donuts
and hard boiled eggs. Attorney Cohen informed correctional
officers that he had brought his lunch with him.
Attorney Cohen met with R.S. for several hours. At some point
correctional officers moved them to a different room. When
leaving the room, R.S. threw Attorney Cohen's white
pastry bag into a trash container. An officer searched the
discarded bag and found a leftover donut and a toothbrush
package with the toothbrushes removed. A subsequent search of
R.S. and his belongings revealed two toothbrushes and a 1.5
ounce container of McCormick brand red pepper. The
toothbrushes and pepper had been secreted by Attorney Cohen
into the prison in a legal folder.
According to prison authorities, the toothbrushes were
heavier than the ones available to inmates at the prison
canteen and could be fashioned into shanks. The authorities
also concluded that the crushed red pepper could be made into
a pepper spray.
When correctional officers interviewed Attorney Cohen about
the items, he denied knowing anything about them. Following
additional investigation, Attorney Cohen was arrested for
delivering contraband into the Columbia Correctional
Institution. In February of 2014, the Columbia County
district attorney filed a complaint charging Attorney Cohen
with one felony count of delivering illegal articles to an
inmate and one misdemeanor count of resisting or obstructing
On November 14, 2014, Attorney Cohen pled no contest and was
found guilty of one felony count of delivery of illegal
articles to an inmate, one count of misdemeanor obstructing
an officer, and one count of misdemeanor disorderly conduct.
The circuit court withheld judgment on the felony count
pursuant to a deferred entry of judgment agreement. It
entered judgment on the two misdemeanor counts. The court
deferred sentencing on those two counts and placed Attorney
Cohen on probation for two years with conditions including
counseling, costs, electronic monitoring, and 60 days of
incarceration in the county jail with Huber privileges.
Count one of the OLR's amended complaint alleged:
Count One: By engaging in acts leading to a
finding of guilt for delivery of illegal articles to an
inmate, and, in addition, for acts leading to convictions for
resisting or obstructing an officer and ...