In the Matter of Disciplinary Proceedings Against Sergio Magaña, Attorney at Law:
Sergio Magaña, Respondent. Office of Lawyer Regulation, Complainant,
disciplinary proceeding. Attorney's license revoked.
We review Referee Jonathan V. Goodman's recommendation
that the court declare Attorney Sergio Magaha in default and
revoke his Wisconsin law license in connection with his work
in 22 client matters, his non-cooperation with the Office of
Lawyer Regulation's (OLR) investigation into his conduct,
his conviction for misdemeanor operating while intoxicated
(second offense), and his failure to report that conviction
to the OLR and the clerk of this court. The referee also
recommended that Attorney Magana be ordered to pay
restitution and the costs of this proceeding.
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
Magana's failure to answer the amended complaint filed
and served by the OLR, the OLR is entitled to a default
judgment. We also agree with the referee that Attorney
Magana's professional misconduct warrants the revocation
of his law license. We further agree that Attorney Magana
should pay restitution in the amounts described below, and
that he should pay the full costs of this proceeding.
Attorney Magana was admitted to practice law in Wisconsin in
September 2012. According to the OLR's amended complaint
and the referee's report, Attorney Magana's law
license has been suspended for nonpayment of bar dues and for
failing to comply with the trust account certification
In July 2016, the OLR filed a complaint against Attorney
Magaha that raised 27 counts of misconduct committed in eight
client matters: E.S. (Counts 1-4); M.M.-M. (Counts 5-8);
G.A.H. (Counts 9-12); A.G. (Counts 13-15); O.M.G. (Counts
16-19); A.L. (Counts 20-22); M.S. (Counts 23-24); and M.R.
(Counts 25-27). In August 2016, Attorney Magaha filed an
answer to the complaint in which he admitted some counts of
misconduct and denied the remainder.
In mid-October and mid-December 2016, the referee sent
correspondence to Attorney Magaha requesting that he contact
the referee to set a date for a scheduling conference.
Attorney Magaha did not respond.
On December 27, 2016, the OLR filed an amended complaint
against Attorney Magaha that raised 74 counts of misconduct.
Seventy-two of these counts concerned misconduct allegedly
committed in 22 client matters: E.S. (Counts 1-4); M.M.-M.
(Counts 5-8); A.H. (Counts 9-12); A.G. (Counts 13-15); O.M.G.
(Counts 16-19); A.L. (Counts 20-22); M.S. (Counts 23-24);
M.R. (Counts 25-27); J.B.G. (Counts 28-29); J.F.C. (Counts
30- 34); R.A. (Counts 35-38); A.A. (Counts 39-41); A.C.C.
(Counts 42-45); A.D. (Counts 46-49); R.G. (Counts 50-51);
F.M. (Counts 52-53); F.R.A. (Counts 54-56); C.R. (Counts
57-60); I.R.M. and I.I. (Counts 61-64); I.M. (Counts 65-66);
M.S. (Counts 67-70); and N.S.M. (Counts 71-72) . Two
additional counts (Counts 73-74) related to Attorney
Magaha's misdemeanor operating while intoxicated (second
offense) conviction, entered in April 2014, and his
subsequent failure to report the same to the OLR and the
clerk of this court. The OLR served the amended complaint on
Attorney Magaha via U.S. Mail.
On February 2, 2017, Attorney Magaha filed a request for
additional time to respond to the OLR's amended
complaint. Attorney Magaha confirmed that he had received the
amended complaint via U.S. Mail, but claimed that his receipt
of the document had been delayed because he had been away on
a "holiday break" at the time the OLR had mailed
it. He further alleged that the breadth of the allegations
necessitated additional time for his response. Although the
OLR agreed in writing to extend the answer deadline to March
15, 2017, Attorney Magaha failed to answer by that date,
prompting the OLR to file a motion for default judgment in
April 2017. The referee set the matter for a telephonic
hearing at which Attorney Magaha failed to appear. On June
26, 2017, the referee filed a report recommending that
Attorney Magaha be declared in default; concluding that
Attorney Magaha engaged in serious professional misconduct
warranting license revocation; and recommending that the
court order Attorney Magana to pay both the full costs of
this proceeding and restitution in certain specified amounts.
Attorney Magana has not filed an appeal from the
referee's report and recommendation. Accordingly, our
review proceeds pursuant to SCR 22.17(2).
A referee's findings of fact are affirmed unless clearly
erroneous. Conclusions of law are reviewed de novo. See
In re Disciplinary Proceedings Against Eisenberg, 2004
WI 14, ¶5, 269 Wis.2d 43, 675 N.W.2d 747. The court may
impose whatever sanction it sees fit, regardless of the
referee's recommendation. See In re Disciplinary
Proceedings Against Widule, 2003 WI 34, ¶44, 261
Wis.2d 45, 660 N.W.2d 686.
We agree with the referee that Attorney Magana should be
declared in default. Attorney Magana undisputedly received a
copy of the amended complaint, but failed to appear or
present a defense despite being given ample opportunity to do
so. He has, therefore, defaulted. We also accept the
referee's findings of fact based on the allegations of
the amended complaint, and agree with the referee that those
findings support a determination of misconduct on the 74
counts alleged in the OLR's complaint.
The scope of Attorney Magana's misconduct-which, again,
is deemed admitted here-is vast and troubling. Given the
volume of uncontested allegations in the OLR's 61-page
amended complaint, we do not repeat them all here. It is
sufficient to provide the following summary.
Attorney Magana practiced immigration law at a law firm in
the Milwaukee area. Time and again, Attorney Magana collected
flat fees and cost advances from his clients and did not
perform the work he committed to do. He would often ignore
his clients' requests for information about their cases.
When he did communicate with his clients, he would supply
them with false information-including fabricated documents
and false case numbers-in order to deceive them into
believing that their cases were progressing on schedule, when
in fact they were languishing due to Attorney Magana's
inactivity. Attorney Magana eventually left his employing law
firm, but did not tell his clients of his departure or take
any steps to protect their interests upon his departure. He
was uncooperative with the OLR's investigation into his
conduct. In April 2014, he pled guilty to a charge of
misdemeanor operating while intoxicated (second offense), and
failed to timely report that conviction to the OLR and the
clerk of this court.
The OLR alleged and the referee concluded that this string of
misdeeds amounted to the following ...