A Wisconsin lawyer who lost his license in the wake of an opiate addiction and earned little income afterward won’t be readmitted to practice because he made no effort to repay any of his nearly $250,000 debt to former clients, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled.
The difference between paying less than full restitution and paying none of it matters here, the court said.
Christopher A. Mutschler worked as a criminal traffic defense attorney. Mutschler would obtain payment up front and “would frequently advise the client to enter a no contest plea and promise that he would win the case on appeal” in intoxication and other traffic cases, the court said.
He would often fail to communicate with clients, fail to notify them of court dates, fail to appear in court himself, and fail to file appeals, according to the court.
Mutschler agreed to the revocation of his license in 2011 after accumulating 59 grievances and becoming sober, according to the court.
He then worked as a minimum-wage night clerk at a hotel for a year, left to take care of his sick grandmother, held a job in human resources until the company closed, and performed odd jobs, according to the court. He testified he applied for numerous jobs.
Finally, with an offer for a position at a traffic-offense law firm in hand, Mutschler applied for reinstatement. The key issue before the discipline referee was his failure to pay $246,723 in restitution.
“Mr. Mutschler has made no attempt to make arrangements to pay $1.00 to his restitution,” the referee said. The referee wasn’t confident Mutschler would start repayments if he were reinstated and began the position at the firm.
Mutschler disagreed, but the court deferred to the referee’s credibility determination. The opinion was per curiam.
The case is Office of Lawyer Regulation v. Mutschler, 2019 BL 359988, Wis., No. 2010AP1939-D, 9/25/19.