Note: More than 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 Nov. 26, 2003, the disciplinary board approved a stipulation for discipline publicly reprimanding Eugene attorney Will Childs for violating DR 6-101(B) (neglect of a legal matter), DR 9-101(C)(3) (failure to account for client funds), DR 9-101(C)(4) (failure to promptly provide client property) and DR 1-103(C) (failure to respond to bar inquiries).
In October 2001, Childs was hired to represent a client as the plaintiff in a civil matter. For the next year, Child’s communication with his client was sporadic, but Childs was tending to the legal matter. However, following an exchange of communications in October 2002, Childs understood that time was not of the essence and put the matter aside. Childs subsequently failed to respond to his client’s attempts to communicate with him. Included in his client’s messages were requests for an update on the status of his case, requests for an accounting of the retainer and requests for a refund of the unearned balance of the retainer.
Following initiation of the bar’s investigation, Childs failed to provide a written response to the bar’s inquiry, but thereafter cooperated with the LPRC investigation.
The bar stipulated that Childs was remorseful, there was no evidence of a dishonest or selfish motive, and that, during the period when Childs failed to respond to the bar’s inquiries, he was undergoing treatments for a serious medical condition. It was further recognized that Childs is a relatively inexperienced lawyer, having been admitted to the bar in 1999.
MICHAEL L. McDONOUGH
Effective Dec. 1, 2003, the Oregon Supreme Court suspended Salem lawyer Michael L. McDonough for 18 months for violation of DR 1-102(A)(2) (criminal conduct reflecting adversely on honesty, trustworthiness or fitness to practice law) and ORS 9.527(1) (a course of conduct of such nature that if a member were applying for admission to the bar, the application should be denied).
The court found that between 1983 and 1999, McDonough was convicted of 14 misdemeanors, mostly traffic crimes, including driving under the influence of intoxicants, driving while suspended, reckless driving, Assault IV and recklessly endangering another. The court also found that McDonough violated the terms of a formal probation imposed by the circuit court.
In determining the appropriate sanction, the court found that McDonough acted intentionally and with a selfish motive to serve his own personal convenience. The court further considered that McDonough repeatedly committed multiple criminal offenses, had substantial experience in the practice of law and failed to appreciate the seriousness of his misconduct. In mitigation, the court found that McDonough had no prior disciplinary record, had a reputation for honesty in the legal community, was cooperative in the disciplinary proceeding and received other penalties in the form of criminal sanctions.
Effective Dec. 4, 2003, Salem lawyer Catherine Dixon was suspended from the practice of law for 90 days, pursuant to a stipulation for discipline approved by the disciplinary board.
Two separate clients filed complaints against Dixon, and she was asked to respond. Despite repeated requests, Dixon did not respond, and the matters were referred to a local professional responsibility committee (LPRC) for investigation. Dixon cooperated with the LPRC, which determined that the client complaints should be dismissed. However, Dixon’s failure to respond resulted in violations of DR 1-103(C), which requires a lawyer to fully respond to an ethics inquiry.
Concerning sanction, the stipulation noted that Dixon has a prior disciplinary record including a reprimand for another violation of DR 1-103(C) in 2001, and a reprimand in 2003 for an unrelated offense. The stipulation also recited that Dixon was cooperative toward the proceedings, was remorseful and fully acknowledged the need to respond timely to inquiries from the bar.
JAMES L. GRESS
Effective Dec. 16, 2003, the Oregon Supreme Court reprimanded Portland lawyer James L. Gress, pursuant to BR 3.5 (reciprocal discipline). The state of Washington had previously imposed the same sanction for Gress’ violation of Washington RPC 8.4(d) (conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice). The violation arose from Gress’ defense of a workers’ compensation claim. Gress conducted a discovery deposition during which he questioned the claimant about his income and learned that the claimant had received income that had not been declared on a federal income tax return. Following the deposition, Gress told the claimant’s counsel that if the claimant refused to settle, Gress would notify the IRS of the claimant’s failure to report earned income. The claimant refused to settle and Gress reported the claimant to the IRS.