In the Matter of Disciplinary Proceedings Against Michael D. Petersen, Attorney at Law:
Michael D. Petersen, Respondent. Office of Lawyer Regulation, Complainant,
disciplinary proceeding. Attorney's license suspended.
We review a report and recommendation of Referee William Eich
approving a stipulation filed by the Office of Lawyer
Regulation (OLR) and Attorney Michael D. Petersen. In the
stipulation, Attorney Petersen stipulated to the facts
underlying the nine counts of misconduct alleged in the
OLR's complaint and joined the OLR in jointly
recommending a one-year suspension of Attorney Petersen's
license to practice law in Wisconsin. The referee agreed that
a one-year suspension was an appropriate sanction for
Attorney Petersen's misconduct.
Upon careful review of the matter, we uphold the
referee's findings of fact and conclusions of law and
agree that a one-year suspension is an appropriate sanction.
As is our normal practice, we also find it appropriate to
impose the full costs of this disciplinary proceeding, which
are $2, 110.29 as of May 24, 2017, on Attorney Petersen.
Since Attorney Petersen has already made restitution to his
client, the OLR does not seek a restitution order.
Attorney Petersen was admitted to practice law in Wisconsin
in 2008. He practices in Appleton. He has no prior
On March 21, 2016, the OLR filed a complaint against Attorney
Petersen alleging nine counts of misconduct. Attorney
Petersen filed an answer on May 19, 2016. The referee was
appointed on June 6, 2016. The parties' stipulation was
filed on October 21, 2016.
As part of the stipulation, Attorney Petersen admitted the
facts alleged in the OLR's complaint. All nine counts of
misconduct arose out of Attorney Petersen's
representation of K.F. In November 2012, K.F. retained
Attorney Petersen to represent him in two legal matters.
K.F.'s father, R.F., hired and paid Attorney Petersen and
assisted K.F. in communicating with Attorney Petersen
throughout the representation.
In May 2014, Attorney Petersen reached a plea agreement with
Outagamie County Assistant District Attorney (ADA) Andrew
Maier whereby K.F. would plead to a Class C felony -
attempted armed robbery - and two misdemeanor charges would
be dismissed. Attorney Petersen failed to truthfully inform
K.F. about the terms of the state's plea offer.
K.F. decided he was willing to enter a plea to a Class H
felony - theft from a person. The plea hearing was held on
May 23, 2015. Attorney Petersen misled K.F. by telling him to
plead no contest to the Class C felony and that the charge
would be amended after the hearing to a reduced charge of the
Class H felony. K.F. believed he was entering a plea to the
Class H felony.
Immediately after the plea hearing, when K.F. reviewed the
paperwork provided to him in court, K.F. called R.F., who was
then with Attorney Petersen, to inform them that the charges
and paperwork were incorrect. Attorney Petersen assured K.F.
and R.F. that the charge would be amended within two weeks.
Despite knowing that the charge would not be amended,
Attorney Petersen repeatedly misrepresented to K.F. and R.F.
in the following months that he was working with ADA Maier
and the judge to obtain the paperwork to get the charge
On June 4, 2014, Attorney Petersen told R.F. that the clerk
of court had amended the felony charge. This representation
was untrue. The following day, R.F. emailed Attorney Petersen
asking for an update on the amended charge. Attorney Petersen
responded by email informing R.F. that he had called ADA
Maier and ADA Maier was going to check on the status of the
amendment because that was something only the district
attorney could file. Attorney Petersen's representation
was untrue as he had never called ADA Maier.
Attorney Petersen falsely represented to R.F. that ADA Maier
had agreed in writing to amend the charge. He claimed he had
received an email from ADA Maier and had forwarded it R.F.
R.F. never received any such email.
At a meeting on or about June 11, 2014, R.F. asked Attorney
Petersen for a copy of the email that Attorney Petersen
claimed he had received from ADA Maier saying that ADA Maier
had agreed to amend the charges. Attorney Petersen provided
R.F. with a copy of an email he claimed he received on June
6, 2014, in which ADA Maier purportedly wrote, "After we
talked this morning and I reviewed the defendant's file,
the charge was amended down from a (sic) Armed Robbery to
theft from a Person as PTAC." ADA Maier did not author
this email, nor had he agreed to amend K.F.'s conviction.
Attorney Petersen falsified the ADA Maier email, which he
provided to R.F.
On June 23, 2014, R.F. emailed Attorney Petersen requesting
an update on the amended charges. In response, Attorney
Petersen spoke with R.F. and told him not to be concerned
about the amendment of the charge. He said the district
attorney had processed the paperwork and it was with the
judge for processing. These representations were untrue.
On June 24, 2014, Attorney Petersen filed a motion for
sentence credit. On July 10, 2014, the court signed an order
granting K.F.'s sentence credit.
On July 18, 2014, Attorney Petersen sent R.F. an email saying
he had talked directly with the judge that morning and the
judge had assured Attorney Petersen that the paperwork would
be completed by the next Friday. The email also said that ADA
Maier was available and that both Attorney Petersen and ADA
Maier had explained the situation and lack of objections to
amending the charge to the judge. These representations were
On more than one occasion in August 2014, R.F. sent Attorney
Petersen emails inquiring about the status of the amended
charge. Attorney Petersen did not respond until August 22,
2104, when he emailed R.F. saying he was waiting to hear from
the court about the amendment. Attorney Petersen claimed,
"the judge refuses to talk to me about this case unless
ADA Andrew Maier is present, and he has been out of town
recently and returns tomorrow." These representations
On September 5, 2014, R.F. and Attorney Petersen exchanged
emails about filing an appeal. R.F. asked Attorney Petersen
to call him because he had numerous questions and was not
sure if an appeal should be filed if the amended charges
would soon be recorded. Attorney Petersen spoke with R.F. and
mentioned writing a letter to the judge or the district
attorney about the delay.
On September 22, 2014, R.F. emailed Attorney Petersen about
the continued delays and said he was considering contacting
the Attorney General, the State Bar, or the judge directly.
On September 26, 2014, Attorney Petersen caused the clerk to
schedule a motion hearing on the court's calendar for
October 7, 2014, although no corresponding motion was filed.
Attorney Petersen told R.F. that the purpose for the hearing
was to amend K.F.'s conviction. Attorney Petersen later
cancelled the hearing and told R.F. that the matter could be