Ethics Dunce: The Ever So Tolerant Wisconsin Bar

Hot on the heels of the story about the New Jersey lawyer who managed to avoid interruption to his legal career after admitting forgery, we have more disturbing evidence that a profession that insists on self-regulation may have a rather different concept than the public about what constitutes “fitness to practice law.”

The professional ethics rules in every state declare that substantial dishonesty and especially failure to obey the law call into question a lawyer’s trustworthiness and are grounds for suspension of disbarment. Many states automatically disbar any lawyer convicted of a felony. But in Wisconsin, a local newspaper investigative report reveals, there are 135 attorneys continuing to practice law despite convictions for battery, theft, fraud and repeat drunken driving. Some even had active licenses even as they served time behind bars, giving a new meaning to the term, “jail house lawyers.” Another 70 of Wisconsin’s  attorneys-in-good-standing managed to avoid discipline by getting charges reduced or entering into deferred prosecution agreements. Continue reading