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In re Disciplinary Proceedings Against Alfredson

Supreme Court of Wisconsin

February 26, 2019

In the Matter of Disciplinary Proceedings Against Melinda Alfredson, Attorney at Law:
v.
Melinda Alfredson, Respondent. Office of Lawyer Regulation, Complainant,

         ATTORNEY disciplinary proceeding. Attorney's license suspended.

          PER CURIAM.

         ¶1We review the report of the referee, Attorney John Nicholas Schweitzer, recommending that the court suspend the Wisconsin law license of Attorney Melinda Alfredson for 90 days and order her to pay the full costs of this disciplinary proceeding. The referee wrote the report after Attorney Alfredson and the Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR) entered into a stipulation concerning Attorney Alfredson's misconduct in two client matters and her failure to cooperate with the OLR's investigation into her misconduct. Neither party has appealed from the referee's report and recommendation, and thus our review proceeds under Supreme Court Rule (SCR) 22.17(2), [1]

         ¶2 We agree that Attorney Alfredson's professional misconduct warrants a 90-day suspension. We further agree that Attorney Alfredson should pay the full costs of this matter, which total $2, 649.59 as of November 15, 2018. No restitution was sought and none is ordered.

         ¶3 Attorney Alfredson obtained her Wisconsin law license in 2009. In 2017, this court suspended her law license for 60 days based on 16 counts of misconduct arising out of her representation of two clients, her various trust account violations, and her failure to cooperate with the OLR's investigation into her misconduct. See In re Disciplinary Proceedings Against Alfredson, 2017 WI 6, 373 Wis.2d 79, 890 N.W.2d 13 ("Alfredson I").

         ¶4 In March 2018, the OLR filed the underlying complaint against Attorney Alfredson. The OLR alleged that Attorney Alfredson had engaged in six counts of misconduct based on her work for clients R.R. and M.T., as well as her failure to cooperate with the OLR's investigation into her misconduct. The OLR sought a four-month suspension of Attorney Alfredson's law license.

         ¶5 In mid-October 2018, following the filing of an answer and the appointment of the referee, the parties executed a stipulation in which Attorney Alfredson withdrew her answer and stipulated to the factual allegations and misconduct charges of the complaint, as amended in the stipulation. Both the OLR and Attorney Alfredson agreed that a 90-day suspension was appropriate. The parties further agreed that the stipulation was not the result of plea bargaining; that Attorney Alfredson's entry into the stipulation was knowing and voluntary; and that she understood the misconduct allegations as amended by the stipulation, her right to contest those allegations, and the ramifications of her entry into the stipulation.

         ¶6 In late October 2018, the referee filed his report and recommendation. The referee accepted the parties' stipulation and found, based on the stipulation, that the following facts were true.

         Representation of R.R. (Counts 1-4)

         ¶7 In February 2015, R.R. and his wife divorced. R.R. was represented by counsel other than Attorney Alfredson at the time.

         ¶8 In approximately September 2015, R.R. hired Attorney Alfredson to represent him after he had fallen behind on certain post-divorce obligations. R.R. owed his ex-wife past-due maintenance and attorney's fees. In addition, R.R. had not yet attempted to sell a boat that he and his ex-wife had owned during their marriage, even though the divorce judgment required that the boat be placed on the market for sale.

         ¶9 In mid-October 2015, a family court commissioner found R.R. in contempt and imposed a $2, 405.95 purge condition.

         ¶10 On October 20, 2015, R.R. informed Attorney Alfredson that he had sold the boat for $7, 500. Attorney Alfredson and R.R. agreed that the proceeds from the sale would be deposited into Attorney Alfredson's trust account; that the proceeds would be used to pay the $2, 405.95 purge amount; and that the remainder of the proceeds ($5, 094.05) would be held in trust pending documentation of receipts for storage and the bank payoff for the boat, for which R.R.'s ex-wife was partially responsible.

         ¶11 Attorney Alfredson never deposited the boat sale proceeds into a trust account. Rather, on October 22, 2015, she deposited the check that R.R. had received for the boat in a non-trust account held by the law firm where she worked at the time. Attorney Alfredson subsequently transferred a portion of the funds to a second non-trust account held by the firm, and transferred another portion of the funds to a third non-trust account held by the firm.

         ¶12 In November 2015, Attorney Alfredson provided R.R.'s ex-wife's lawyer with a check, drawn from one of these non-trust accounts, for the $2, 405.95 purge amount. Attorney Alfredson also used some of R.R.'s funds for her own personal use.

         ¶13 In April 2016, R.R. terminated Attorney Alfredson and retained a new lawyer. In a May 9, 2016 letter to R.R., Attorney Alfredson agreed to forward the remaining proceeds from the boat sale to R.R.'s new lawyer. Later in May 2016, Attorney Alfredson provided the OLR with a carbon copy of a purported check that she allegedly wrote to R.R.'s new lawyer in the amount of the boat sale proceeds left after the $2, 405.95 purge payment; i.e., $5, 094.05.

         ¶14 In early June 2016, the circuit court ordered that $5, 000 of the proceeds from the boat sale were to be paid to R.R.'s ex-wife's lawyer within ten business days. In mid-June 2016, R.R.'s ex-wife's lawyer wrote R.R.'s new lawyer, inquiring about the status of the $5, 000 payment and stating that "Attorney Alfredson advises that she sent the monies from her trust to you." Attorney Alfredson was copied on this letter. In response, R.R.'s new lawyer wrote Attorney Alfredson to say that she had not received any trust funds from Attorney Alfredson. Almost four months after receiving this letter, in October 2016, Attorney Alfredson delivered a $5, 094.95 check made payable to R.R.'s ex-wife's lawyer. The check was drawn from a non-trust account.

         ¶15 In April 2016, R.R. filed a grievance with the OLR against Attorney Alfredson. In mid-July 2016, the OLR notified Attorney Alfredson of the investigation of R.R.'s grievance and requested certain information and records from her. She did not respond.

         ¶16 In August 2016, the OLR sent Attorney Alfredson a second request for information and records via certified mail. Although Attorney Alfredson signed the ...


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