In the Matter of Disciplinary Proceedings Against James M. Schoenecker, Attorney at Law:
James M. Schoenecker, Respondent-Appellant. Office of Lawyer Regulation, Complainant-Respondent,
PROCEEDINGS AGAINST SCHOENECKER
Reinstatement proceeding. Reinstatement granted.
We review the report and recommendation of Referee James J.
Winiarski recommending that James M. Schoenecker's
license to practice law in Wisconsin be reinstated. After
careful review of the matter, we agree that Attorney
Schoenecker's license should be reinstated with certain
conditions recommended by the referee. We further agree with
the referee that, consistent with our general practice,
Attorney Schoenecker should be required to pay the full costs
of this reinstatement proceeding, which are $14, 754.78 as of
October 7, 2019.
Attorney Schoenecker was admitted to practice law in
Wisconsin in 2004. He is a graduate of Boston College and
Columbia University Law School. He practiced briefly in New
York, then practiced at Quarles and Brady in Milwaukee for a
time, and finally practiced at the Clair Law Offices, a small
law firm in Delevan.
In 2011, Attorney Schoenecker's license was suspended for
three years. See In re Disciplinary Proceedings Against
Schoenecker (Schoenecker I), 2011 WI 76, 336
Wis.2d 253, 804 N.W.2d 686. Much of the misconduct in that
case arose out of Attorney Schoenecker's personal and
professional relationship with his former fiancee. In late
2007, Attorney Schoenecker and his fiancee opened a joint
checking account and the fiancee obtained a home equity line
of credit and loaned Attorney Schoenecker $48, 500. Attorney
Schoenecker executed a promissory note whereby he promised to
repay the loan with interest. Two days later, the fiancee
learned Attorney Schoenecker had made cash withdrawals from
her checking account at a casino, resulting in a $1, 500
negative balance in her account. She closed the joint
checking account and ended her engagement to Attorney
Attorney Schoenecker repaid part of the loan balance. At some
point the former fiancee filed a collection action against
him. The parties reached a settlement, and Attorney
Schoenecker paid the former fiancee over $32, 000 as part of
a full resolution of their financial issues.
In December 2008, Attorney Schoenecker used the former
fiancee's personal information to enter her business
account without her permission and made checks payable to
himself. As a result of these actions, he was charged in two
separate criminal proceedings, one in Walworth County where
he pled guilty to one felony count of identity theft and was
placed on two years of probation and ordered to make
restitution and pay court costs, and one in Waukesha County
where he pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge of
Theft-Moveable Property. The Waukesha County circuit court
imposed and stayed a four-month jail sentence and placed
Attorney Schoenecker on probation for one year. In addition,
Attorney Schoenecker was required to pay restitution to the
former fiancee and pay court costs.
In 2008, Attorney Schoenecker became an associate at the
Clair Law Offices. He told the law firm he was representing
his former fiancee, so she was considered a firm client. He
sent invoices to the former fiancee in the fall of 2008
showing that she owed over $13, 000. A substantial number of
the entries on the invoices were fraudulent.
Attorney Schoenecker also set up his own separate law firm on
the side while he was working as an associate at the Clair
Law Offices. He did not inform the law firm of this fact. In
addition to the incidents involving the former fiancee and
the Clair Law Office, Attorney Schoenecker's 2011
suspension also arose out of his making fraudulent statements
in his own personal bankruptcy proceeding.
In 2016, Attorney Schoenecker received an additional one-year
license suspension. See In re Disciplinary Proceedings
Against Schoenecker (Schoenecker II), 2016 WI
27, 368 Wis.2d 57, 878 N.W.2d 163. The misconduct at issue in
that case arose out of Attorney Schoenecker's involvement
in a business partnership he entered into in 2012 with two
other men. The men established a limited liability company.
One man gave Attorney Schoenecker $25, 000 in cash as his
capital contribution, and the other man contributed $20, 000.
Instead of immediately depositing the $25, 000 capital
contribution into a business account, Attorney Schoenecker
deposited the bulk of that money into his own personal
checking account. He also used company funds to pay personal
credit card bills without preapproval from his partners, and
he withdrew funds from company accounts in order to gamble at
Potawatomi Casino in Milwaukee.
Attorney Schoenecker filed his first petition for
reinstatement of his law license in early 2017. In 2018, this
court denied the petition, agreeing with the referee that
Attorney Schoenecker had failed to meet his burden of proof
to establish the requirements of reinstatement at that time.
In re Disciplinary Proceedings Against Schoenecker,
2018 WI 58, 381 Wis.2d 644, 912 N.W.2d 847. This court stated
that Attorney Schoenecker could again file a petition for
reinstatement six months after the date of its decision.
In November 2018, Attorney Schoenecker filed a second
petition for reinstatement. A public hearing was held before
the referee on June 18 and 19, 2019. Numerous witnesses
testified at the hearing in favor of Attorney
Schoenecker's reinstatement petition.
One of the witnesses who testified on Attorney
Schoenecker's behalf was James Harrison, a clinical
substance abuse counselor, licensed professional counselor,
international certified gambling addiction counselor, and
board-approved clinical consultant. Mr. Harrison testified
that he began seeing Attorney Schoenecker in April of 2015.
Mr. Harrison said Attorney Schoenecker has gone above and
beyond what many people do in outpatient treatment and has
voluntarily continued his counseling sessions for over four
years, whereas Mr. Harrison normally sees clients for only
two to four months in counseling sessions. Mr. Harrison
testified that Attorney Schoenecker's willingness to
continue the counseling sessions was indicative of ...