In the Matter of Disciplinary Proceedings Against Linda L. Gray, Attorney at Law:
Linda L. Gray, Respondent. Office of Lawyer Regulation, Complainant,
DISCIPLINARY PROCEEDINGS AGAINST GRAY
disciplinary proceeding. Attorney's license
Pending before the court is the report of referee Jonathan V.
Goodman, following a hearing and the receipt of a stipulation
and supplemental stipulation between the Office of Lawyer
Regulation (OLR) and the respondent, Attorney Linda L. Gray.
Attorney Gray has opted to plead no contest to the sole
misconduct count brought against her: a violation of SCR
20:1.8 (c) related to her drafting of the will of
M.A., who died at age 71 in January 2015. Although Attorney
Gray is not related to M.A., she received a significant
testamentary gift from her: the balance of her estate after
specific bequests to charities were distributed, which
resulted in Attorney Gray receiving $298, 742.12. Consistent
with the parties' stipulation, the referee recommended
that this court suspend Attorney Gray's Wisconsin law
license for 60 days for her professional misconduct. The
referee further recommended that Attorney Gray should be
assessed the full costs of the proceeding, which are $2,
067.67 as of January 17, 2018. The OLR does not seek the
payment of restitution in these proceedings, and the referee
does not recommend it.
No appeal has been filed so we review this matter pursuant to
SCR 22.17(2) . We approve and adopt the referee's
findings and conclusions and we agree that a 60-day
suspension is sufficient discipline for Attorney Gray's
misconduct. We further order that Attorney Gray pay the full
costs of this disciplinary proceeding. We decline to order
Attorney Gray was admitted to the practice of law in
Wisconsin in 1982. She practiced law in East Troy, Wisconsin
at the time of the filing of the complaint. Her disciplinary
history consists of one private reprimand imposed some time
ago, in the 1980s.
Attorney Gray knew M.A. since the mid-1980s. M.A. never
married, had no children, and was estranged from her siblings
and other relatives. Attorney Gray and M.A. became close
friends and remained so for many years preceding M.A.'s
M.A. died in January 2015 at age 71 after a battle with
cancer. During M.A.'s illness, Attorney Gray spent a
great deal of time attending to M.A.'s needs, rendering
what the referee described as "outstanding care and
attention" that went "above and beyond the norm in
her devotion to [M.A.] and her assistance and care in
[M.A.'s] final years, months, and days." The care
rendered by Attorney Gray included, but was not limited to,
spending considerable time taking M.A. to and from her
required medical treatments.
In 2013, M.A. asked Attorney Gray to draft a will to replace
one that Attorney Gray had drafted for her many years
earlier, in 2000. Attorney Gray did so, and M.A signed the
will before witnesses in September 2013. M.A.'s drafting
instructions for the will were clear: no bequests were to be
made to any of her relatives; specific bequests were to be
made to certain charities; and the balance of her estate was
to be distributed to Attorney Gray. Attorney Gray drafted the
will in accordance with these instructions, and M.A. signed
the will in the presence of witnesses. There is no dispute
that M.A. had testamentary capacity at the time she signed
After M.A.'s death, the will went through probate without
contest. Attorney Gray served as the personal representative.
As explained above, under the terms of the will, Attorney
Gray received over $290, 000 from M.A.'s estate. Her
receipt of this money triggered a complaint to the OLR by a
relative of M.A. who had little in the way of a relationship
with M.A. during her lifetime.
The parties stipulated and the referee concluded that
Attorney Gray had violated SCR 20:1.8(c) by drafting
M.A.'s will, given that Attorney Gray was not related to
M.A. and received a significant residuary gift from the will.
On the basis of this professional misconduct, the parties
stipulated to a 60-day suspension of Attorney Gray's
license. The referee adopted that stipulation as his
recommendation to the court. He wrote that, although one
could "easily conclude" that a public reprimand
would be appropriate here, a 60-day suspension is appropriate
given the gravity of the offense and the need to deter other
attorneys from engaging in similar conduct.
The referee held an evidentiary hearing to evaluate whether
this court should order Attorney Gray to reimburse M.A.'s
estate for the nearly $300, 000 residuary gift she received.
After hearing testimony from Attorney Gray and two of
M.A.'s long-time friends, the referee recommended against
a restitution order, citing Attorney Gray's age (70 years
old), the loss of business and income she incurred as a
result of adverse publicity generated by these proceedings,
and "the lack of evidence of any undue influence"
by Attorney Gray on M.A.
After careful review of the matter, we conclude that the
record supports the referee's findings ...