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In the Matter of Disciplinary Proceedings Against Nikola P. Kostich

330 Wis. 2d 378 (2010)

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In the Matter of Disciplinary Proceedings Against Nikola P. Kostich

Supreme Court of Wisconsin

330 Wis. 2d 378 (2010)

Facts

In 1965, Sister Norma Giannini repeatedly molested G. K. Giannini was a friend of G. K.’s family and was G. K.’s principal and teacher at a Catholic school in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. G. K. met with attorney Nikola Kostich (defendant) twice in 1996 or 1997 to discuss a possible civil lawsuit against Giannini. G. K. shared highly confidential information with Kostich and authorized Kostich to view G. K.’s therapy records. Kostich agreed to research whether a statute of limitations barred the lawsuit. G. K. and Kostich discussed attorney fees but did not sign a retainer agreement. Kostich then declined G. K.’s case, informing G. K. that he believed the statute of limitations barred G. K.’s civil suit. In 2006, Giannini was criminally charged with two counts of indecent behavior with a child based on G. K.’s and another former student’s allegations. The criminal complaint identified G. K. as a victim, and police reports reflected that G. K referred to Kostich as G. K.’s attorney. Kostich and another attorney represented Giannini at her pretrial hearing. After learning that Kostich was representing Giannini, G. K. called Kostich and then filed a grievance against Kostich with the Office of Lawyer Regulation (plaintiff). Kostich continued to represent Giannini, and Giannini ultimately pleaded no contest to the charges. Kostich argued that representing Giannini was not a conflict of interest because Kostich had never represented G. K. A referee found that G. K. was Kostich’s former client and concluded that Kostich’s representation of Giannini clearly conflicted with G. K.’s interests. The Wisconsin Supreme Court reviewed the referee’s report.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Per curiam)

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