Remember the Queen song from the early 80’s, “another one bites the dust?” That is the headline for my blog today, which deals with lawyer misconduct, once again. Too often, I am picking up my morning newspaper and wind up reading an article about another local lawyer who has been disbarred or is facing criminal charges for stealing client money.
In the present case, a lawyer by the name of Thad Jelinske from the law firm of Mawicke & Goisman, has been charged with client theft, being accused of stealing from an estate of a Brookfield man for which the attorney was serving as the personal representative of the estate and as a successor trustee. The attorney is facing three misdemeanor charges of theft in a business setting in according to a criminal complaint filed by the District Attorney in Waukesha County.
Per the criminal complaint, the lawyer is accused of cashing an insurance check intended for the estate, but keeping the money without providing and writing himself a check out for $834.65 from an estate related account. In a third count, the lawyer is accused of depositing a check for $1,565.52 for payment on a life insurance policy for his former client directly into the attorney’s personal account and failed to include the payment when preparing and filing a general inventory of the estate in probate court in Waukesha County.
The judge overseeing the probate proceedings in Waukesha, Judge Michael Bohren, removed the attorney as personal representative of the estate in 2015 and named a successor to take his place. The judge concluded that the lawyer “engaged in shocking bad faith conduct including obstruction of discover, deliberate misrepresentation, self dealing, unethical conduct, conversion, false statements and less than truthful statements to the Court.”
I do not personally know this lawyer. I have some limited familiarity with the law firm. No lawyer should take money from their client. Stealing is stealing. I have preached that many times before. Most lawyers who steal from clients usually say the say same thing, “I was intended to pay it all back,” or “I was only borrowing it.” However, when you don’t tell your client what you are doing with “their money,” and you don’t have “their permission” to use “their money” for the lawyer’s own purposes, it is conversion of client’s funds to one’s own personal money and that is theft, stealing, lying, cheating, deceiving and any other name you want to call it. There is no excuse for it, there is no explaining it away and it means the only is going to be disbarred and probably wind up doing jail time. And all for what? I remember a law professor at Marquette Law school once said, “I am the only person who put my law diploma up and I am the only one who is going to take it down.” All lawyers who are in the public trust, should adhere to that principle.
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