(Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly described the outcome of Brian Wanca’s case. He pleaded guilty to the battery charge but was never convicted. We regret the error.)
An Illinois-based plaintiffs lawyer whose firm has become known for its focus on spam fax and text message cases has been publicly reprimanded in his home state after he admitted to a battery charge that stemmed from a domestic violence incident with his wife.
The Illinois Supreme Court’s Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission on Wednesday issued a reprimand against Brian Wanca of the Chicago-area class action firm Anderson + Wanca. The disciplinary commission wrote that the public reprimand came after Wanca’s guilty plea to a misdemeanor battery charge in 2016.
“Although not related to a client matter, lawyers are expected to show respect for the law by following it, and your plea of guilty to the offense of battery was inconsistent with that expectation and could bring the legal profession into disrepute,” the commission wrote in its report.
Wanca did not immediately respond to a request for comment. He was represented in front of the disciplinary commission by Stephanie Stewart of Chicago’s Meyer Law Group.
The lawyer and his firm focus largely on consumer class actions, and have received national media attention for their work on “junk fax” cases, which invoke the Telephone Consumer Protection Act in an effort to put companies on the hook for sending unwanted fax messages. Anderson + Wanca also specializes in cases involving spam text messages and robocalls, according to the firm’s website.
Before the public reprimand, Wanca and the attorney disciplinary commission had stipulated to several facts underlying the lawyer’s battery case. The criminal case stemmed from an incident in late June 2016, in which an argument between Wanca and his wife over light bulbs in their suburban home spiraled into an episode of violence, according to the commission’s report.
On the evening of June 26, 2016, according to the disciplinary commission, Wanca’s wife recalled him yelling as he came down from a stepladder in the couple’s kitchen, where he had been replacing a burnt out light bulb. After coming down from the ladder, Wanca placed his hand on his wife’s neck, and later let go when she complained that she couldn’t breathe, according to the disciplinary commission.
Wanca’s wife filed a police report that night and told officers that she hadn’t lost consciousness during the incident and that she didn’t need medical attention, though when authorities arrived they observed red marks on her neck, according to the disciplinary ruling. The next day, the state’s attorney in Cook County, Illinois, filed a battery charge against Wanca. In October 2016, he entered a guilty plea and was sentenced to 12 months of court supervision, which included a requirement to complete a drug and alcohol evaluation and the completion of a domestic violence program.
Having completed his sentence to the court’s satisfaction, Wanca was released in September 2017 from court supervision. No conviction was entered against him on the battery charge, according to the disciplinary commission.
While the disciplinary body viewed Wanca’s conduct as “inconsistent” with his professional obligations and stressed that the reprimand “is not to be taken lightly,” the commission also cited mitigating evidence. Wanca, the commission wrote, had never been subject to a disciplinary action since his admission to the Illinois bar in 1980 and it noted his cooperation throughout the commission’s proceedings. The lawyer also expressed remorse for his behavior.