In the Matter of Disciplinary Proceedings Against Sarah Clemment, Attorney at Law:
Sarah Clemment, Respondent. Office of Lawyer Regulation, Complainant,
disciplinary proceeding. Attorney publicly reprimanded.
PROCEEDINGS AGAINST CLEMMENT
We review the report of Referee John Nicholas Schweitzer
recommending that Attorney Sarah Clemment be declared in
default, concluding that Attorney Clemment engaged in
professional misconduct, and recommending that she be
publicly reprimanded. Attorney Clemment failed to present a
defense despite being given the opportunity to do so, and she
did not oppose the Office of Lawyer Regulation's (OLR)
motion for default. Accordingly, we declare her to be in
default. We also conclude that a public reprimand is an
appropriate sanction for her misconduct. We further agree
with the referee that Attorney Clemment should be required to
make restitution in the amount of $5, 000, and the full costs
of the proceeding, which are $802.19 as of April 12, 2018,
should be assessed against her.
Attorney Clemment was admitted to practice law in Wisconsin
in 2000 and practices in Madison. In 2011 she received a
consensual public reprimand for failing to provide competent
representation to a client, failing to act with reasonable
diligence and promptness in representing a client, failing to
keep the client reasonably informed about the status of the
matter, and engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud,
deceit or misrepresentation. Public Reprimand of Sarah
Clemment, No. 2011-6 (electronic copy available at
On October 3, 2017, the OLR filed a complaint against
Attorney Clemment alleging six counts of misconduct arising
out of her representation of D.H. In November 2015, D.H. had
been charged with first-degree murder in Dane County. In
January of 2016, D.H. hired Attorney Clemment to represent
him. Attorney Clemment had never handled a homicide case and
had never tried a case to a jury. D.H.'s sister, B.H.,
paid Attorney Clemment $5, 000 to represent D.H. Attorney
Clemment deposited the $5, 000 into her business account and
prepared a written flat fee agreement outlining the scope of
The circuit court held a preliminary hearing on January 28,
2016, found probable cause, and bound D.H. over for trial.
There was DNA and GPS evidence implicating D.H.
Prior to arraignment, Attorney Clemment visited D.H. four
times while he was incarcerated at the Dane County jail. D.H.
was arraigned on March 8, 2016. Attorney Clemment moved for a
speedy trial even though discovery was ongoing. Attorney
Clemment subsequently filed requests for discovery, a motion
to sequester the jury, and a number of motions in limine
seeking to exclude certain evidence, including evidence of
prior convictions, DNA evidence, and GPS evidence.
The circuit court held a hearing on Attorney Clemment's
motions on May 3, 2016. Attorney Clemment failed to submit
any case law or evidence to support her motion to sequester
the jury and for that reason the circuit court denied the
motion. Attorney Clemment withdrew her motion in limine to
exclude evidence of prior convictions after an exchange with
the circuit court showed she had misunderstood the
appropriate legal standard for the motion.
As to the speedy trial motion, the circuit court noted that
Attorney Clemment had not hired an investigator, had not
retained any DNA, GPS, or pathology experts, had not filed a
witness list that identified any witnesses other than those
identified by the state, and had not received additional
discovery forthcoming from the state. In addition, D.H. was
then serving time for other crimes and thus would not be
prejudiced by having a speedy trial request denied. The
circuit court continued D.H.'s case and strongly urged
Attorney Clemment to associate more experienced trial counsel
to assist her in the case.
By this point, Attorney Clemment had visited D.H. four more
times, including two visits to the Dodge County Correctional
Institution in Waupun. In September of 2016, D.H. was
transferred to the Green Bay Correctional Institution. After
April 5, 2016, Attorney Clemment made no additional personal
visits to D.H. but rather communicated with him by telephone
and letter. Attorney Clemment never associated any
experienced counsel on the case.
On August 29, 2016, the circuit court held a hearing on
Attorney Clemment's motion to suppress DNA evidence. The
motion alleged that a search warrant to obtain D.H.'s DNA
was not signed by a judge and was thus invalid. Testimony and
evidence introduced during the hearing showed that a judge
had signed the search warrant and it was legally valid.
Moreover, even if D.H.'s motion had been granted, the
state would have simply gotten another search warrant to
obtain the DNA samples, which would defeat the purpose of the
motion. Accordingly, the circuit court denied the motion.
During the August 29, 2016 motion hearing, the circuit court
noted that Attorney Clemment had not filed a witness list but
had simply reserved the right to call witnesses identified by
the state. The circuit court reminded Attorney Clemment that
she had no right to call the state's witnesses without
specifically referencing each witness on her own list. The
circuit court scheduled a hearing on the pending state's
motions, and it admonished both parties to be prepared to
talk about the evidentiary issues. At that time Attorney
Clemment had not filed any non-evidentiary motions.
Another motion hearing took place on September 28, 2016, less
than two weeks before the scheduled trial date. At this
hearing the state noted that Attorney Clemment had not
reviewed any of the physical evidence in the case despite
numerous offers by the state to schedule a review of the
evidence. Attorney Clemment said she had been ill.
During the September 28, 2016 hearing, the circuit court
considered the state's motion in limine regarding a
variety of standard pre-trial evidentiary issues, such as
exclusion of witnesses, exclusion of evidence not shown,
character evidence, other acts evidence, impeachment by prior
conviction, and alibi evidence. Attorney Clemment raised no
objection to any of the state's individual requests.
At one point, after Attorney Clemment did not object to the
exclusion of "golden rule" comments, the circuit
court asked her if she knew what the "golden rule"
was. Attorney Clemment did not know. The circuit court asked
Attorney Clemment if she knew what exclusion of witnesses
meant, and she could not adequately answer the question
correctly. Attorney Clemment was also unable to answer
questions from the circuit court about what "impeachment
by prior conviction" meant, and she was unable to recite
the specific statutory procedures for addressing when a
witness could be impeached based on a prior conviction.
The circuit court asked Attorney Clemment why she did not
object to the exclusion of alibi evidence when it appeared
that she had planned to introduce evidence at trial showing
that D.H. was not at the scene of the crime. Attorney
Clemment could not adequately answer the circuit court's
questions about the meaning of "effect of arrest and
conviction" or "known or unknown third party acts
evidence." Attorney Clemment was also unable to explain
the difference between testimonial and non-testimonial
evidence in the context of the confrontation clause or recall
the key United States Supreme Court case discussing these
At this point the circuit court determined that Attorney
Clemment was not competent to represent D.H., that she had
not acted diligently in representing him, that she had not
communicated appropriately with him, and that overall she was
not providing effective legal representation to her client.
The circuit court noted that Attorney Clemment had not
provided all of the police reports to D.H., she had not
reviewed all of the physical evidence in the case, she had
not hired an investigator to interview any witnesses, she had
not hired any experts, and she had ...