At least 135 attorneys with criminal convictions continue to practice law in Wisconsin, including some who were able to keep licenses while serving time and others who got them back before their probation ended.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Sunday that some lawyers practicing now in the state have felony or misdemeanor convictions for fraud, theft, battery and repeat drunken driving. One child-sex offender got probation for his crime but never lost his license, while a politician convicted in a check-kiting scheme was reprimanded but kept his license.
The newspaper reviewed the licenses of nearly 24,000 Wisconsin lawyers against state and federal court records, and found that lawyers convicted of crimes are then subjected to a slow-moving disciplinary process that operates largely behind closed doors.
Another 70 lawyers were charged with crimes but were able to get the charges reduced or convictions avoided by completing a deferred prosecution plan. All 70 got the green light to practice law again.
The review showed Wisconsin's standards to be comparatively lenient for dealing with lawyers who break the law. Many other states immediately suspend the licenses of lawyers if they are convicted of serious crimes, but Wisconsin in some cases has allowed convicted criminals to keep their law licenses even while behind bars.