Note: Nearly 12,000 persons are eligible to practice law in Oregon. Some of them share the same name or similar names. All discipline reports should be read carefully for names, addresses and bar numbers.
On April 10, 2003, the Oregon Supreme Court dismissed a disciplinary proceeding in which the bar had alleged misconduct by the accused lawyer in two separate legal matters. In the first matter, the bar alleged that the lawyer violated DR 7-101(A)(2), prohibiting the knowing advancement of an unwarranted claim, when he filed various claims and asserted certain defenses in state and federal court over a period of years to forestall the foreclosure of real property his clients had purchased on contract from the sellers . However, the court concluded that there was a basis under the law for the lawyer’s actions such that the bar did not prove by clear and convincing evidence that the actions were unwarranted.
In the second matter, the bar alleged that the lawyer violated DR 6-101(A) (prohibiting incompetent representation) and DR 6-101(B) (prohibiting neglect of a legal matter) when he represented a client in a domestic relations matter. A trial panel found violations of both rules. However, the court concluded that the lawyer’s preparation for the divorce trial was not incompetent, given the lack of complexity of the legal matter. The court also found that, when the lawyer’s representation was viewed as a whole, he did not neglect the client’s matter.
DOYLE L. SCHIFFMAN
Form B resignation
Effective July 19, 2003, the Oregon Supreme Court accepted the Form B resignation of Roseburg lawyer Doyle L. Schiffman. At the time of resignation, the bar was investigating allegations that Schiffman had failed to timely file personal income tax returns for a number of years. Those allegations, if proven, may implicate DR 1-102(A)(2) of the Code of Professional Responsibility.
Schiffman was admitted to practice in 1964. Schiffman’s resignation recited that client files and records have been or will be placed in the custody of Roseburg lawyer Kenneth J. Dresser.
DAVID R. KLUGE
On April 10, 2003, the Oregon Supreme Court issued an opinion suspending Sheridan lawyer David R. Kluge from the practice of law for two years. The suspension is to run consecutively with a three-year suspension imposed by the court in an earlier disciplinary case, In re Kluge, 332 Or 251, 27 P3d 102 (2001).
Kluge worked both as general manager and legal counsel for a corporate employer. Another employee who had left the company filed employment discrimination litigation against the employer, alleging that Kluge’s action as the employee’s direct supervisor violated state and federal law. Kluge undertook to represent the employer in that litigation. The supreme court determined that Kluge violated DR 5-101(A) (self-interest conflict) and DR 5-102(C) (prohibition on attorney as a witness) when he represented the corporate employer in litigation in which Kluge’s own conduct was at issue.
The court also found that Kluge engaged in misrepresentation in violation of DR 1-102(A)(3) when he presented to one judge a motion to disqualify another judge without informing the motions judge that the judge to be disqualified had already made a substantive ruling in the case. Kluge also failed to inform the disqualified judge or opposing counsel of the motion, a second violation of DR 1-102(A)(3) because he knowingly elected to disregard the rules requiring service on these persons. This same conduct was found to be an improper ex parte contact in violation of DR 7-110(B) and conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice in violation of DR 1-102(A)(4).
Finally, the court found that Kluge failed to cooperate with the bar’s investigation of his conduct in violation of DR 1-103(C).
ROBERT A. GRAHAM
On May 19, 2003, the disciplinary board approved a stipulation for discipline in which Grants Pass attorney Robert Graham was reprimanded for violating DR 9-101(C)(2) (failure to safeguard client property) and DR 9-101(C)(4) (failure to promptly deliver client property).
Graham represented a husband and wife in their civil dispute with a contractor over workmanship concerns related to their custom home. It was agreed that the clients would provide assistance in gathering documents, to attempt to minimize the costs of litigation. The clients gathered the documents Graham requested. However, Graham misplaced or lost at least a portion of these documents.
In addition, Graham failed to provide the clients with a copy of their respective deposition testimonies at any time prior to the scheduled arbitration hearing. One of the depositions was misfiled by Graham and could not be located in his office. Graham was able to obtain that deposition transcript from opposing counsel immediately before the arbitration hearing, but without sufficient time for his clients to review it. Graham was unable to produce the other deposition transcript, despite requests from his clients and the bar.
The stipulation recited that Graham was admonished in 2002 for failing to promptly deliver client property and had substantial experience in the practice of law, having been admitted in California in 1977 and in Oregon in 1998. Graham did not act with a dishonest or selfish motive and fully cooperated in the investigation of his conduct.