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In re Disciplinary Proceedings Against Brandt

Supreme Court of Wisconsin

December 15, 2017

In the Matter of Disciplinary Proceedings Against Ronald L. Brandt, Attorney at Law:
v.
Ronald L. Brandt, Respondent. Office of Lawyer Regulation, Complainant,

         ATTORNEY disciplinary proceeding. Attorney's license revoked.

          PER CURIAM.

         ¶1 In this disciplinary proceeding, we are asked to determine whether Attorney Ronald L. Brandt's license to practice law in Wisconsin should be revoked, as discipline reciprocal to that imposed by the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts.

         ¶2 After considering this matter and in view of Attorney Brandt's failure to respond to our order to show cause, we conclude that Attorney Brandt's license to practice law in Wisconsin should be revoked. Given that this matter has been resolved without a contest or the appointment of a referee, we do not impose any costs on Attorney Brandt.

         ¶3 Attorney Brandt was admitted to the practice of law in this state in June 1972 and in the state of Massachusetts in January 1982. According to information provided to the State Bar of Wisconsin, Attorney Brandt most recently practiced law in Massachusetts.

         ¶4 Attorney Brandt has been the subject of professional discipline in this state on one prior occasion. In 2011 this court publicly reprimanded Attorney Brandt as discipline reciprocal to that also imposed by the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts. See In re Disciplinary Proceedings Against Brandt, 2011 WI 92, 337 Wis.2d 43, 803 N.W.2d 845.

         ¶5 Attorney Brandt's license to practice law in Wisconsin has been administratively suspended since October 2013 due to his failure to pay bar dues and to file a required annual trust account certificate.

         ¶6 The Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR) initiated this disciplinary proceeding by filing a complaint, order to answer, and a motion requesting this court to issue an order directing Attorney Brandt to show cause, in writing, under Supreme Court Rule (SCR) 22.22 (3), [1] why the imposition of discipline identical to that imposed in Massachusetts would be unwarranted. After Attorney Brandt was served with these documents, this court issued such an order to show cause on June 15, 2017. Our order directed Attorney Brandt to file his response by July 5, 2017. Attorney Brandt has not filed a response to the order to show cause, nor has he filed any answer or motion in response to the OLR's complaint.

         ¶7 The OLR's complaint alleges that on January 30, 2017, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts indefinitely suspended Attorney Brandt's license to practice law in that state. The OLR's complaint also alleges that Attorney Brandt failed to notify the OLR of this indefinite suspension, as required under SCR 22.22(1).[2]

         ¶8 According to the underlying Massachusetts disciplinary records attached to the OLR's complaint, the indefinite suspension was the result of Attorney Brandt's misconduct in three client representations, as well as his failure to cooperate with the Massachusetts bar counsel and to comply with an administrative suspension that was imposed due to his lack of cooperation. Because Attorney Brandt did not file an answer or otherwise respond to the bar counsel's complaint, he was found to be in default with respect to the allegations of misconduct in the Massachusetts disciplinary complaint.

         ¶9 In the first client representation, a couple retained Attorney Brandt to represent them in clearing legal title to their residence. Pursuant to a written fee agreement, the couple gave Attorney Brandt an advance fee of $7, 500, which he deposited into his client trust account. Attorney Brandt, however, failed to perform any substantial legal services and to respond to the couple's several requests for information about their matter over the course of approximately seven months. In May 2015, Attorney Brandt closed his client trust account and had the remaining balance in the account ($6, 764.16) disbursed to himself, even though he had not earned any of the remaining funds. Prior to withdrawing the couple's funds, Attorney Brandt did not send them an itemized bill, written notice of the intended withdrawal, or a statement of the balance of their funds. Attorney Brandt converted the couple's funds for his own personal purposes or for purposes in other unrelated representations.

         ¶10 In June 2015 Attorney Brandt vacated his law office. He did not notify the couple. In July 2015, due to their inability to contact Attorney Brandt, the couple terminated his representation and requested a return of their file and the advance fee. Despite several additional attempts to obtain their file and the unearned advance fee, Attorney Brandt never responded to their requests.

         ¶11 Based on these facts, Attorney Brandt was found to have violated the following Massachusetts Rules of Professional Conduct (Mass. R. Prof. C.) in existence at the time of his misconduct: 1.1, 1.2(a), 1.3, 1.4(a) and (b), 1.15(b) and (d), 1.16(d) and (e), and 8.4(c) and (h) .

         ¶12 In the second client representation, Attorney Brandt was retained in June 2013 to represent J.M. in an employment discrimination claim. For the first six months Attorney Brandt failed to respond to at least nine emails sent by J.M., as well as her numerous telephone calls. Attorney Brandt ultimately did file a civil action on J.M.'s behalf in February 2014, but he failed to respond to any of the defendants' discovery requests, to propound discovery requests to the defendants, or to depose the defendants. He also failed to advise J.M. of her scheduled deposition until two days before it was to occur. When she asked to postpone the deposition so she could prepare adequately, Attorney Brandt said that was not possible because the notice had been on his desk for over a week. Attorney Brandt's continuing failure to respond to J.M.'s multiple attempts at communication over the next year ultimately led her to terminate Attorney Brandt's ...


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