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In re Disciplinary Proceedings Against Kitto

Supreme Court of Wisconsin

June 19, 2018

In the Matter of Disciplinary Proceedings Against Suzanne E. Kitto, Attorney at Law:
v.
Suzanne E. Kitto, Respondent. Office of Lawyer Regulation, Complainant,

         ATTORNEY disciplinary proceeding. Attorney's license suspended.

          PER CURIAM.

         ¶1 We review a referee's report and recommendation concluding that Attorney Suzanne E. Kitto violated the rules of professional conduct in connection with her representation of W.C. and C.C. The referee recommended that this court impose a 60-day suspension of Attorney Kitto's law license. We adopt the referee's findings of fact, conclusions of law, and recommendation regarding discipline. We impose the full costs in this matter, which total $1, 310.32 as of April 17, 2018. We do not impose restitution, as the Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR) has confirmed that Attorney Kitto has made full restitution to W.C. and C.C.

         ¶2 Attorney Kitto was admitted to practice law in Wisconsin in 1972. She has no disciplinary history.

         ¶3 On September 27, 2017, the OLR filed a complaint against Attorney Kitto alleging five counts of professional misconduct arising out of her representation of W.C. and C.C. Attorney Kitto filed an answer by which she admitted all but one of the OLR's factual allegations, affirmatively alleged certain additional facts, and admitted all five counts of misconduct. This court appointed William Eich to serve as the referee in the matter.

         ¶4 Attorney Kitto later entered into a stipulation by which she agreed that the referee could use the allegations of the complaint as a factual basis for the referee's determination of misconduct. The parties agreed to brief the issue of the appropriate level of discipline to be imposed for Attorney Kitto's misconduct.

         ¶5 After receiving briefing on the issue of discipline, the referee filed a report recommending a 60-day suspension of Attorney Kitto's law license. In noting that the parties had stipulated that the OLR complaint provided an adequate factual basis for a misconduct determination, the referee implicitly incorporated by reference the undisputed allegations in the OLR's complaint and deemed them established. The facts before us are, then, as follows.

         ¶6 Starting in July 2013, Attorney Kitto represented W.C. and C.C with regard to collection work on a land contract. The other party to the land contract made the land contract payments to W.C. and C.C. through Attorney Kitto's office. W.C. and C.C. agreed that Attorney Kitto would collect ten percent of the land contract payments for her fees, and would apply the remainder of the payments to real estate taxes, the mortgage on the property, and property insurance.

         ¶7 Attorney Kitto erred in her caretaking of W.C. and C.C.'s funds. She failed to hold in trust the land contract payments that she received on W.C. and C.C.'s behalf. She also converted approximately $10, 000 of these payments to her personal use.

         ¶8 Attorney Kitto made other trust fund-related violations. She deposited personal funds into her client trust account, ostensibly for later use in paying her own personal debts. Attorney Kitto also disbursed funds from her trust account when there were insufficient funds in the account to cover the disbursement.

         ¶9 Based on the stipulated facts set forth above, Attorney Kitto conceded the following five counts of misconduct:

• Count 1: By failing to promptly deliver funds, which she collected in connection with her representation of W.C. and C.C, to W.C. and C.C. or to third parties for W.C. and C.C.'s benefit, Attorney Kitto violated former SCR 20:1.15(d) (1)[1]and current SCR 20:1.15(e) (1) .[2]
• Count 2: By failing to hold in trust W.C. and C.C.'s funds that she collected in connection with her representation of W.C. and C.C., Attorney Kitto violated SCR 20:1.15(b)(1).[3]
• Count 3: By converting funds belonging to W.C. and C.C. for her own personal use, Attorney Kitto ...

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