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Hepatitis C no excuse for misconduct unless proven link to behavior

An accountant's shortcomings and a Hepatitis C infection were not reliable mitigating factors in disciplinary recommendations of an attorney who committed nearly two dozen counts of misconduct, the Supreme Court of Wisconsin held August 1 (In re Disciplinary Proceedings Against Mandelman).

Attorney Michel D. Mandelman entered into a stipulation, pleading no contest to 22 remaining counts of misconduct. The referee of the court recommended revocation of Mandelman’s law license for the misconduct which included “reckless” accounting and making “false or misleading communications regarding the name and organizational status of his law firm.” Mandelman contested the referee’s recommendation as a disproportionate sanction.

The attorney claimed that his accountant failed to make a proper evaluation of records and that it was not his responsibility to ensure the records were accurate. However, the court noted that Mandelman had not mentioned the alleged incompetency of his accountant to the referee, and thus it could not be considered. Further, the court ruled, Mandelman did not show that his reliance on his accountant was reasonable.

Mandelman also claimed that a Hepatitus C infection caused chronic fatigue symptoms during the time that the majority of his misconduct took place. But the court found that Mandelman failed to demonstrate that the infection directly caused his misconduct. “A medical condition will not be considered in mitigation of discipline unless that condition is explicitly found to have caused the misconduct.”

Mandelman has an extensive history of misconduct dating back to 1990—including seven disciplinary episodes, five of which were serious enough to merit license suspension— and the court noted that this background was a major factor in its decision to revoke his license.