Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke is pushing back against a lawyer he says broke Wisconsin law. The attorney in question, William F. Sulton, is representing Dan Black, who filed a lawsuit against Clarke.
In early January, Black was detained at General Mitchell International Airport after an exchange with Sheriff Clarke on a flight into Milwaukee. Black claims when he got off the airplane six uniformed officers, Sheriff Clarke and two bomb squad dogs were waiting for him. In response, Black filed a lawsuit against all of the officers as an attempt “to hold him [Clarke] accountable for unlawfully stopping and arresting” him.
After the initial incident, Clarke released a statement saying he doesn’t need to wait for someone to assault him. Next time, he might resort to a preemptive attack.
According to a Facebook post by Clarke, Sulton broke Wisconsin law by leaking the lawsuit to the press:
Wisconsin Supreme Court Rule 20:3.6 (a) A lawyer who is participating or has participated in the investigation or litigation of a matter shall not make an extrajudicial statement that the lawyer knows or reasonably should know will be disseminated by means of public communication and will have a substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing an adjudicative proceeding in the matter.
(b) A statement referred to in par. (a) ordinarily is likely to have such an effect when it refers to a civil matter triable to a jury, a criminal matter, or any other proceeding that could result in deprivation of liberty, and the statement relates to:
(1) the character, credibility, reputation or criminal record of a party, suspect in a criminal investigation or witness, or the identity of a witness, or the expected testimony of a party or witness;
Fox 6, a Milwaukee-based news station, reached out to Sulton for comment. He explained his actions:
“Sheriff David Clarke’s post is yet another effort to intimidate and dissuade Dan Black from pursuing his complaint. SCR 20:3.6 states that “a lawyer may state: (1) the claim, offense or defense involved and, except when prohibited by law, the identity of the persons involved;; (2) information contained in a public record; (3) that an investigation of a matter is in progress; (4) the scheduling or result of any step in litigation; (5) a request for assistance in obtaining evidence and information necessary thereto; [and] (6) a warning of danger concerning the behavior of a person involved, when there is reason to believe that there exists the likelihood of substantial harm to an individual or to the public interest. . . .” The rule also provides that “a lawyer may make a statement that a reasonable lawyer would believe is required to protect a client from the substantial likelihood of undue prejudicial effect of recent publicity not initiated by the lawyer or the lawyer’s client.” My communications were consistent with the rules.”
Now the question is, how will the State Bar of Wisconsin respond?