Minn. Lawyer Must Face Separate Wisconsin Suspension

Wisconsin case law summary by Attorney Richard Clem: WI attorney discipline, reciprocity.

Office of Lawyer Regulation v. Peter James Nickitas. WI attorney discipline, reciprocity

Minneapolis attorney Peter Nickitas is licensed in both Minnesota and Wisconsin. In 2013, he got himself into some trouble for taking a case despite a conflict of interest, engaging in inappropriate conduct toward opposing counsel, and bringing a claim in bad faith and for an improper purpose. He admitted to the misconduct, and entered into an agreement with the Minnesota Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility. Under that agreement, he and the Minnesota board agreed to a 30-day suspension. On May 7, 2013, the Minnesota Supreme Court accepted that agreement and suspended him for 30 days, starting on May 27. In re Nickitas, 830 N.W.2d 162 (Minn. 2013).

Nickitas reported the details to the Wisconsin Office of Lawyer Regulation, and agreed that he should also undergo a 30 day suspension in Wisconsin. He was also suspended from the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin from May 24 through June 30, 2013. He was reinstated by the Minnesota Supreme Court on June 20, 2013, having paid his debt to Minnesota society.

During his Minnesota suspension, he had one case pending in a Circuit Court in Wisconsin. He found a substitute attorney to handle the case during his Minnesota suspension, and he did not practice law in Wisconsin during his Minnesota suspension.

Nickitas agreed that he should be suspended in Wisconsin for 30 days as reciprocal discipline for his Minnesota violations. But he argued that the Wisconsin 30 days should have run concurrently with his Minnesota suspension, which had already taken place by the time the case was decided by the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

The Wisconsin Office of Lawyer regulation argued that the suspension could not be concurrent, since this would amount to a "backdating" of the suspension based on a voluntary cessation of practice. The Wisconsin Supreme Court agreed. It held that suspensions are not normally imposed retroactively, and that there were no special circumstances that would warrant a retroactive suspension in this case. Therefore, it ordered that the Wisconsin 30-day suspension should commence on April 18, 2014, approximately a month after the date of the order.

No. 2013AP1770-D (Wis. Mar. 14, 2014).

Please see the original opinion for the court's exact language.


Richard P. Clem is an attorney and continuing legal education (CLE) provider in Minnesota. He has been in private practice in the Twin Cities for 25 years. He has a J.D., cum laude, from Hamline University School of Law in St. Paul and a B.A. in History from the University of Minnesota. His reported cases include: Asociacion Nacional de Pescadores a Pequena Escala o Artesanales de Colombia v. Dow Quimica de Colombia, 988 F.2d 559, rehearing denied, 5 F.3d 530 (5th Cir. 1993), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 1041 (1994); LaMott v. Apple Valley Health Care Center, 465 N.W.2d 585 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991); Abo el Ela v. State, 468 N.W.2d 580 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991).

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