MADISON - The state Supreme Court on Thursday reinstated former Senate Majority Leader Chuck Chvala's law license, which had been suspended for two years after he was convicted of misconduct.
Justices said Chvala convinced them he will fulfill his professional obligations as a lawyer, including demonstrating good moral character, despite pleading guilty to misconduct in office and a campaign finance violation in 2005.
Chvala had practiced law in Wisconsin for more than 20 years without any prior discipline, the court noted.
"In addition, although Attorney Chvala's professional misconduct arose in the course of his work as a state senator and was a serious breach of the public trust, it did not directly relate to his work as a practicing lawyer representing clients," five members of the court said in an unsigned opinion.
Two justices - David Prosser and Michael Gableman - did not hear the case.
Chvala, 53, declined comment when reached at his office on Thursday.
His political career was ended by the so-called caucus scandal in which several lawmakers were convicted of misconduct for using state employees to run political campaigns. Five lawmakers - leader of both parties in both houses - were charged in 2002.
Chvala pleaded guilty to hiring a state worker to run Sen. Jon Erpenbach's 1998 campaign and illegally funneling money to former state Sen. Mark Meyer's 2000 campaign. In exchange, prosecutors dropped charges that he used his position as Senate majority leader to shake down lobbyists for campaign donations.
Chvala led Senate Democrats from 1995 to 2002 and unsuccessfully ran for governor in 1994. He did not run for re-election in 2002 after he was charged.
Out of the Capitol, Chvala has worked in commercial real estate and was recently hired to host a Web-only program analyzing the 2008 elections for WISC-TV in Madison.
He applied for reinstatement to practice law in January after he fulfilled the terms of his criminal sentence, which included nine months in jail and home detention with work-release privileges.
State legal regulators supported his petition for reinstatement after he provided several character witnesses who said he would work for the public good. A referee hired to investigate Chvala noted that he was sorry for his conduct and "had made efforts to minimize those traits that had led to his professional misconduct."
The court ordered Chvala to pay more than $2,000, the cost of the reinstatement proceeding.