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WI Supreme Court revokes Dunn County attorney’s license

By LeAnn R. Ralph

MADISON  —  The Wisconsin Supreme Court has revoked the license to practice law for a Dunn County attorney and ordered him to pay nearly $30,000 in restitution and costs for the disciplinary proceeding.

According to a decision issued by the Supreme Court June 9, the license to practice law has been revoked for 54-year-old William R. Lamb of Menomonie.

The Supreme Court ordered Lamb to pay $21,580 in restitution as well as the full cost of the disciplinary proceeding, which was $8,875.90 as of September 16, 2014.

Lamb was charged with 75 counts of misconduct.

“We further conclude that the referee’s factual findings support his conclusions of misconduct on the 75 counts alleged against Attorney Lamb. Given Attorney Lamb’s  pervasive pattern of misconduct, including forging his client’s name in order to convert the client’s settlement funds, we determine it is necessary to revoke Attorney Lamb’s license to practice law in this state,” according to the decision.

Forgery

Lamb has been formally charged in Dunn County with three felony counts of theft in a business setting, forgery and cashing a forged check.

Assistant Attorney General Annie Jay, a special prosecutor from the state attorney general’s office, is representing the state in the Dunn County complaint.

Jay filed a criminal complaint in Dunn County on March 5, 2014.

According to the complaint, in April of 2008, Lamb is accused of receiving a check from Bristol West Insurance for $10,500, forging the signature of his client, Randy Miller, and depositing the check into his own account.

Miller contacted the Menomonie Police Department in January of 2013 to file a complaint and said he had retained Lamb to represent him in a personal injury case.

A trial is scheduled in Dunn County July 16 and July 17 for the theft and forgery case.

During a court hearing June 8, Lamb’s attorney, Aaron Nelson, filed a motion regarding the subpoena Jay issued.

According to online court records, Judge Michael Bitney asked Jay to present a clean copy of the documents for the court to decide if there was probable cause to issue the subpoena.

Reprimands

According to the Supreme  Court decision, Lamb was admitted to the practice of law in Wisconsin in April of 1989 and maintained a solo legal practice in Menomonie.

The most recent decision by the court is the fourth time that Lamb has been the subject of professional discipline.

The first two incidents resulted in a “consensual private reprimands.” The third disciplinary matter resulted in a 60-day suspension of Lamb’s license in 2012 after he stipulated that he had committed 21 counts of professional misconduct resulting from four client representations.

According to the court’s written decision, “Attorney Lamb’s actions tended to follow a general pattern. He often accepted advanced fees, which he failed to hold in trust or for which he failed to provide the notices required for the alternative advanced fee procedure … He then refused to or failed to keep his clients reasonably informed about the status of their legal matters, often ignoring multiple requests for information from the clients. When the clients attempted to obtain a refund of fees and a return of their files, Attorney Lamb either failed to respond or failed to comply with their requests. When the Office of Lawyer Regulation asked for information regarding the clients’ grievances, Attorney Lamb failed to cooperate properly with the OLR’s investigation.”

Sheriff’s sale

One case included in the Supreme Court’s decision was that of a client who had retained Lamb as an attorney in November of 2010 to represent him in attempting to set aside a sheriff’s sale of the client’s property following the entry of a judgment against the client.

As part of their agreement, Lamb requested an advance of $1,000. The client paid $500 in cash, and three days later, gave Lamb a check for $500.

Lamb did not deposit the advance into his client trust account and did not provide the notices required by the alternative advanced fee procedure.

Several weeks later, Lamb entered an appearance in the foreclosure action but did not take any further action.

The client’s numerous attempts to reach Lamb failed, and the client then began leaving messages requesting a refund of the advance.

Because Lamb did not provide a refund, the client filed a claim with the Client Protection Fund, which subsequently reimbursed the client.

The client also filed a grievance with the OLR. The Office of Lawyer Regulation asked for a response but did not get one. The OLR e-mailed a second letter and personally served a third letter, each time asking for a response, but Lamb still did not respond.

Appeal

Lamb asked to appeal the decision by the referee, Attorney Erickson, on the basis that the factual record on which Erickson relied is erroneous and incomplete, in spite of the fact that Lamb stipulated the referee could rely on those facts, according to the Supreme Court decision.

Lamb said he was told that once the formal complaint was filed, he could only admit or deny the entire allegations.

The decision from the Supreme Court states that at any time during the proceeding, Lamb could have filed additional information to clarify and correct the records.

Lamb contends that during the time of the OLR’s investigation and the determination by the Preliminary Review Committee as to whether there was cause to proceed, he was impaired by alcoholism, which prevented him from submitting additional evidence.

The decision notes that Lamb filed information indicating he had received treatment for his alcoholism in 2012. Lamb did not enter into the stipulation about the factual record until November of 2013.

“Although Attorney Lamb asserts that he was impaired by his alcoholism during the time that the OLR was conducting its investigation and presenting the results of that investigation to the PRC, he does not claim that his subsequent entry into the stipulation was unknowing or involuntary due to his alcoholism,” the Supreme Court decision states.

The decision goes on to say, “Although Attorney Lamb claims there are factual inaccuracies in the record, he does not identify the alleged inaccuracies with specificity or provide evidence to demonstrate the inaccuracies. He simply asks this court to take him at his word that if the court were to remand the matter back to the referee, he would now produce evidence that would refute some of the allegations in the amended complaint.”

In addition to revoking Lamb’s license to practice law, the Supreme Court decision ordered Lamb to pay restitution within 60 days to the Wisconsin Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection in the amounts of $17,500, $2,730, $850 and $500 for a total of $21,580.

Lamb also was ordered to, within 60 days, pay the Office of Lawyer Regulation the costs of the proceeding.