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Referee recommends 60-day suspension for Milwaukee attorney.

Byline: Erika Strebel,

A referee is recommending that a Milwaukee lawyer be suspended for 60 days over misconduct in two divorce cases.

The Office of Lawyer Regulation in June charged the Milwaukee attorney Richard Reilly of Gimbel, Reilly, Guerin & Brown with five allegations of misconduct stemming from his representation of two clients in divorce cases in Ozaukee and Waukesha counties.

The allegations included that Reilly disobeyed a court order by failing to turn over retirement money and the proceeds from the sale of a vehicle belonging to a client from Ozaukee County to the accounting firm managing his client's finances. He also continued representing the client even though a conflict developed when the client's husband brought a contempt motion against him over the use of the retirement money.

In the Waukesha County case, when the client decided to get a new lawyer, Reilly allegedly failed to deliver her case file to successor counsel and billed the client more than $23,000 for his own defense in a bankruptcy-related lawsuit filed by her husband.

The OLR had asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court to suspend Reilly's license for 60 days.

Reilly initially admitted to some of the facts in the OLR's complaint but denied that he had committed any misconduct. However, he reached a stipulation with the OLR on Jan. 3, admitting to the misconduct and leaving only the issue of appropriate disciplinary measures contested.

The day after the stipulation was filed, Reilly also appeared at an evidentiary hearing before the court-appointed referee John Murphy.

Murphy, in a report filed April 27, recommended that Reilly's license be suspended for 60 days and that Reilly follow the trial court's order in the Ozaukee County case.

Murphy noted that he found it troubling that Reilly had continued arguing that the court was wrong for finding that he had improperly spent the proceeds from the Land Rover's sale in the Ozaukee County case.

"Zealousness is not the same as obstinance," Murphy wrote. "Members of the legal profession must know when the fight is over and that the court's order must be accepted and obeyed."

Murphy also wrote that Reilly's behavior toward his Waukesha County client's successor counsel was "reprehensible."

"An attorney of Reilly's stature in the community is obligated to serve as a professional example to his fellow attorneys," Murphy wrote. "In his dealings with Williams, Reilly certainly failed in that obligation."

Reilly may choose to appeal the report. Regardless of what he does, the Wisconsin Supreme Court will review Murphy's recommendation and issue a final decision in the matter.

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Publication:Wisconsin Law Journal
Geographic Code:1U3WI
Date:May 13, 2019
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