At least 135 attorneys with criminal convictions are practicing law today in Wisconsin, including some who kept their licenses while serving time and others who got them back before they were off probation, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The roster includes lawyers with felony or misdemeanor convictions for fraud, theft, battery and repeat drunken driving, as well as offenses involving political corruption, drugs and sex.
Another 70 lawyers were charged with crimes but succeeded in having the charges reduced or avoided conviction by completing a deferred prosecution plan. All were given the green light to practice law. The newspaper’s review, which ran nearly 24,000 Wisconsin lawyers against state and federal court records, found that lawyers who are convicted of crimes are then subjected to a slow-moving disciplinary system that operates largely behind closed doors. Unlike many other states, where the licenses of lawyers convicted of serious crimes such as fraud are immediately suspended to give regulators time to determine the proper sanction, Wisconsin sometimes allows criminals to keep their law licenses even while they are behind bars.