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In re Disciplinary Proceedings Against Creedy

854 N.W.2d 676 (2014)

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In re Disciplinary Proceedings Against Creedy

Wisconsin Supreme Court

854 N.W.2d 676 (2014)

Facts

Attorney Carl Creedy had a business relationship with client Joseph Murphy, a nonlawyer who represented Social Security disability claimants. When Murphy learned that attorneys recover their fees directly from the Social Security Administration out of an award, Murphy asked Creedy to work with him to ensure recovery of fees. Both represented Social Security claimants and verbally agreed how to divide the fees. However, Murphy routinely accepted illegal fee advances. Creedy said he learned about the advances when another attorney told him a claimant had been charged two fees, one paid to Murphy and a second paid to Creedy. Creedy promptly refunded one fee and ended their business relationship. Meanwhile, Creedy gave law enforcement investigating Murphy for fraud information about Murphy’s dealings without his consent, and he was convicted on felony charges. The Wisconsin Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR) charged Murphy with violating the ethics rules but stipulated to dismiss some counts in exchange for Creedy pleading no contest to the remainder. The court appointed a referee to conduct a hearing, and the referee found Creedy both credible and professional and that he did not know about Murphy collecting illegal fee advances beforehand. Creedy did not dispute that he never reduced his agreement with Murphy to writing, did not advise him to seek independent legal counsel, and did not obtain his informed consent to the terms of the transaction and Creedy’s role in it or to disclose information to law enforcement. The OLR originally sought a suspension but after the hearing agreed a public reprimand would suffice. The referee found Creedy’s conduct had not caused anyone harm except perhaps Murphy, and that harm was minimal and Creedy’s violations merely technical. The referee commented that private reprimand might have sufficed but accepted the parties’ stipulation and recommended that the court publicly reprimand Creedy and require him to pay only half the nearly $18,000 costs of the proceeding.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Per curiam)

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