By LeAnn R. Ralph
MENOMONIE — A 55-year-old former Dunn County attorney has been found guilty by a jury of two felony counts of theft and forgery.
William R. Lamb was found guilty following a two-day jury trial in Dunn County July 16 and July 17 of one felony count each of theft and forgery for cashing a forged $10,500 check that was a client’s insurance settlement and keeping the money.
Following two days of testimony, the jurors returned at around 6 p.m. July 17 with a guilty verdict on both counts.
Judge Rod Smeltzer issued an order for a pre-sentence investigation on July 20. A date for a sentencing hearing had not yet been scheduled as of press time.
According to the criminal complaint, Lamb was accused of receiving a check from Bristol West Insurance in April of 2008, 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.
Lamb had told Miller that his contingency fee was ten percent of whatever settlement they received.
Lamb informed Miller he had received a settlement offer in early 2008 from the insurance company of $10,500, and Miller had authorized Lamb to accept the offer, Miller told investigators.
Over the next four years, Miller said, he had tried to get information from Lamb about the settlement. Lamb repeatedly apologized for taking so long to settle the case, Miller said.
In February of 2012, Miller contacted Bristol West directly and received a fax from the company that included a copy of a settlement check for $10,500 made out to Randy Miller, and his attorney of record, William Lamb.
Miller told investigators that the signature on the check was not his and that he had never seen the check.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court revoked Lamb’s license to practice law last month 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, Lamb has been ordered 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.
All together, Lamb was charged with 75 counts of misconduct.
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 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.”
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 Supreme Court decision notes that Lamb filed information indicating he had received treatment for his alcoholism in 2012 but did not enter into the stipulation about the factual record until November of 2013.