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In re Disciplinary Proceedings against Sweeney

Supreme Court of Wisconsin

February 19, 2019

In the Matter of Disciplinary Proceedings Against Patrick S. Sweeney, Attorney at Law:
Patrick S. Sweeney, Respondent-Appellant. Office of Lawyer Regulation, Complainant-Respondent,


         ATTORNEY disciplinary proceeding. Attorney's license revoked.

          PER CURIAM.

         ¶1 We review the recommendation of the referee, James C. Boll, that Attorney Patrick S. Sweeney's license to practice law should be revoked due to his professional misconduct. The referee also recommended that Attorney Sweeney be ordered to pay restitution consistent with the terms of an order imposed in a related criminal matter, and pay the costs of this proceeding which are $10, 338.75 as of August 17, 2018. Attorney Sweeney opted not to pursue an appeal of the referee's report and recommendation.[1]

         ¶2 We adopt the referee's findings of fact and conclusions of law and agree that the seriousness of Attorney Sweeney's professional misconduct warrants the revocation of his law license. We further agree that he should pay restitution, as recommended by the referee, and that he should pay the costs of this proceeding.

         ¶3 Attorney Sweeney was admitted to practice law in Wisconsin in 1992. He practiced in the Madison area. He has not previously been subject to professional discipline but his law license is presently administratively suspended for failing to pay state bar dues and failing to certify his compliance with trust account record keeping requirements.

         ¶4 On July 10, 2015, the Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR) filed a disciplinary complaint alleging that Attorney Sweeney committed five counts of professional misconduct and seeking revocation of his law license. Attorney Sweeney filed an answer and this court appointed Referee James C. Boll.

         ¶5 The disciplinary proceeding was adjourned several times. On January 6, 2017, after Attorney Sweeney was indicted on related criminal charges, the referee determined there was cause to defer the matter pending resolution of the related federal criminal prosecution. See United States v. Sweeney, No. 16-CR-103 (W.D. Wis. 2017); SCR 22.41.

         ¶6 The federal indictment alleged that from March 2007 until March 2011, Attorney Sweeney devised a scheme to defraud three limited liability companies in which he held a member's ownership interest. Attorney Sweeney approached the co-members of the companies and proposed that the companies loan $105, 000 to $115, 000 to a friend of Attorney Sweeney. The loan was purportedly secured by a home mortgage. Attorney Sweeney did not loan the money to his friend, but instead converted the funds to his own use.

         ¶7 The indictment alleged that Attorney Sweeney drew checks totaling approximately $420, 000 on the companies' checking accounts. When asked for the original promissory note, Attorney Sweeney provided a false document bearing the forged signature of his friend. The indictment also alleged that on February 14, 2013, Sweeney made a false declaration in a bankruptcy matter when he submitted a sworn "List of Creditors" that falsely listed the embezzled funds as "loans to debtor" in an effort to obtain a discharge in bankruptcy of his obligation to repay the funds he had embezzled. Finally, the indictment alleged that in March 2011, Attorney Sweeney committed identity theft during and in relation to the alleged scheme to defraud.

         ¶8 Attorney Sweeney ultimately entered a guilty plea to Count Two, the bankruptcy charge. On November 17, 2017, the federal court sentenced Attorney Sweeney to five years of probation, with the first year on home confinement, and ordered him to pay restitution of $481, 970. See Sweeney, 16-CR-103 (W.D. Wis. 2017).

         ¶9 Shortly after Attorney Sweeney's federal sentencing hearing, Referee Boll scheduled a status conference in this disciplinary proceeding. On January 22, 2018, the parties advised the referee that Attorney Sweeney had agreed to stipulate to the underlying counts of the disciplinary complaint and that both parties would submit briefs on the question of the appropriate sanction.

         ¶10 On January 31, 2018, the parties executed a stipulation in which Attorney Sweeney withdrew his answer and pled no contest to each of the five allegations of misconduct alleged in the OLR's disciplinary complaint. The parties agreed that the disciplinary complaint, the record in the federal criminal prosecution, and the terms of the stipulation could serve as the factual basis for the referee's factual findings and determination of misconduct.

         ¶11 In the stipulation, Attorney Sweeney stated that he understood the misconduct allegations, his rights to contest the misconduct allegations and the factual basis for them, that his entry into this stipulation was made knowingly, voluntarily, without coercion, and without the benefit of any negotiations for a reduction in either charges or sanctions in this matter. He stipulated that his ...

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