Oregon State Bar Bulletin — MAY 2005


Note: More than 12,430 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.

OSB #87319
Oregon City
Form B resignation

Effective March 22, 2005, the Oregon Supreme Court has accepted the Form B resignation of Roderick D. Peters. At the time of the resignation, a formal disciplinary proceeding was pending against Peters in connection with seven separate client matters alleging multiple violations of each of the following disciplinary rules: DR 1-103(C) (failure to cooperate in a disciplinary investigation); DR 2-106(A) (charge or collect an illegal or clearly excessive fee); DR 2-110(A)(2) (improper withdrawal); DR 6-101(B) (neglect of a legal matter); DR 7-101(A)(2) (intentional failure to carry out a contract of employment); DR 9-101(C)(3) (failure to account for client funds) and DR 9-101(C)(4) (failure to provide client property).

The bar was also investigating two other complaints, both alleging that Peters had accepted retainers, failed to perform services and then failed to account or return any portion of the retainers.

Peters was admitted to practice in 1987. The court ordered that Peters’ client files be delivered to the Professional Liability Fund.

OSB #96119
Meridian, Idaho
6-month suspension

Effective April 4, 2005, the Oregon Supreme Court suspended Meridian, Idaho lawyer, D. Scott Summer, for six months for violation of: DR 1-102(A)(2) (criminal conduct reflecting adversely on honesty, trustworthiness or fitness to practice law); DR 1-102(A)(3) (conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation) and DR 7-102(A)(5) (knowingly making a false statement of law or fact). Summer is a member of both the Oregon and Idaho bars, but practices principally in Idaho.

In 1996, one of Summer’s clients was injured in an automobile accident that occurred in Idaho. Eleven days later, the same client was involved in a second automobile accident in Oregon, but was not injured. Summer made a claim to the insurer of the other driver in the first accident for all of his client’s injuries. One week after this claim was settled, Summer filed a claim with the insurer of the other driver in the second accident. This second claim was entirely based upon the injuries, treatment and medical expenses from his client’s first accident.

In each insurance claim, Summer represented that his client had not been injured in the other accident. He also failed to disclose to the insurer in the second accident that his client had already recovered for the injuries that were the subject of the claim. Summer was criminally charged in Idaho and was convicted of attempted theft by deception, a felony.

In determining an appropriate sanction, the court considered that Summer acted with a dishonest motive. In mitigation, the court considered that Summer had no prior disciplinary record, was inexperienced in the practice of law and that there were past and pending criminal penalties and disciplinary sanctions in Idaho.

OSB #87352
180- day suspension

On March 10, 2005, the disciplinary board approved a stipulation for discipline, effective March 13, 2005, suspending Salem lawyer Karen A. Steele for violating DR 1-102(A)(3) (conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation) and DR 7-102(A)(5) (knowingly make a false statement of fact).

A trial court signed an order terminating Steele’s appointment to represent an indigent defendant in a criminal matter. Thereafter, Steele filed a petition for a writ of mandamus challenging the court’s order.

Steele informed an employee at the Public Defense Services Commission that she had filed the mandamus petition. The Public Defense Services Commission was responsible for paying Steele for legal work she performed on behalf of her former client. In response, the employee asked Steele whether she intended to bill the state for her time and expenses in the mandamus proceeding. By e-mail Steele informed the employee that she had not charged and was not charging the state for her work in the mandamus proceeding.

A few months later, Steele submitted to the Public Defense Services Commission a request for reimbursement for her time and expenses in the mandamus proceeding. By letter, Steele was informed that her request was denied because, among other things, she had previously agreed not to seek compensation for that work.

Thereafter, Steele sent a letter to the Public Defense Services Commission falsely representing that she had not waived any right to seek reimbursement and that her prior e-mail communication supported her position. Steele enclosed a copy of her prior e-mail and represented that the enclosure was the full text of the communication she had previously sent. This representation was false because Steele had made material changes to the e-mail and enclosed the altered version with her letter.

In a subsequent telephone conversation and letter, Steele also falsely represented to the Public Defense Services Commission that she did not know why the e-mail she had sent as an enclosure was different from the one in the commission’s file and that she had not altered the e-mail.

OSB #87425
Public reprimand

On April 8, 2005, the disciplinary board approved a stipulation for discipline reprimanding Portland lawyer Bob Casey for violating DR 3-101(B) (practicing law in violation of jurisdiction’s regulations).

Casey was suspended from active bar membership on July 2, 2004, for failing to pay his bar membership fees. He paid the fees and was reinstated on Aug. 11, 2004. Casey continued to practice law between the date of his suspension and the date of his reinstatement even though he was not an active member of the bar during this period. ORS 9.160 prohibits the practice of law in Oregon by persons who are not active bar members.

The stipulation recited that Casey mistakenly thought he had paid his membership fees, and thereafter failed to open and read the written notice from the bar informing him that he had not paid and was suspended. When he learned of his suspension, Casey promptly paid the fees and was reinstated.

Casey had no prior record of discipline.

OSB #68127
36-month suspension

On March 3, 2005, the Oregon Supreme Court issued an opinion suspending Norman A. Phillips for 36 months for violations of: DR 1-102(A)(3) (misrepresentation); DR 4-101(B)(3) (knowingly using client confidences or secrets for lawyer’s own advantage) and DR 5-101(A) (conflict of interest – lawyer self-interest).

Phillips and his law partner, Fred Cornilles, operated the Living Trust Law Center and had between 1500 and 2000 clients. The lawyers entered into a joint venture with the National Services Network (NSN), whereby Phillips and Cornilles provided NSN insurance agents with access to the law firm’s client list for the purpose of the agents contacting the clients and performing a review of the clients’ living trusts. During those reviews, the agents attempted to sell the clients insurance products, specifically annuities. The agents were reimbursed only by commissions from insurance sales, and Phillips and Cornilles received a one-third share of the total commissions.

The trust review plan was in place for approximately seven months. During that time, Phillips and Cornilles’ share of the commissions was approximately $270,000.

Several clients testified at the disciplinary hearing that they were subjected to aggressive and unwanted sales practices by the NSN agents. The court found that by colluding with the insurance agents to sell annuities, and by failing to disclose to the clients in advance the underlying purpose of the contact by these agents, Phillips engaged in misrepresentations by omission. By revealing his client list to insurance agents who he knew would be trying to sell them annuities, Phillips used his clients’ secrets for his own advantage. Finally, by placing his own financial interests over his clients’ interests, Phillips engaged in a conflict of interest.

The court found that Phillips knowingly violated his duty to preserve his clients’ secrets, to be honest with them and to avoid conflicts of interest. Several of the clients suffered actual injury as a result of the violations. Phillips was found to have had a selfish motive, to have engaged in multiple violations and to have taken advantage of vulnerable victims.

Phillips argued that he had obtained advice from a private ethics attorney prior to undertaking the "trust review" arrangement. The court did not find this to be a mitigating factor because Phillips and Cornilles had not provided the ethics counsel with complete and accurate information.

The court characterized Phillips conduct as follows: "He effectively sold his client list to insurance agents for a cut of the commission. He withheld information from potentially vulnerable clients in order to permit those agents to gain access to them in their homes, and he failed to provide timely disclosure of his conflict of interest." Although Phillips had no prior disciplinary record, he was suspended from practicing law for 36 months, effective May 2, 2005. Fred Cornilles resigned from the bar Form B in December 2003.

OSB #95241

Effective May 1, 2005, a trial panel of the disciplinary board disbarred Portland lawyer Richard A. Crews from the practice of law for violating numerous disciplinary rules in five matters.

Crews forged signatures on three occasions, including the signature of a federal judge, in violation of DR 1-102(A)(2) (commit a criminal act that reflects adversely on a lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness or fitness to practice law) and DR 1-102(A)(3) (engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation). In two matters Crews made misrepresentations to his clients about the status of their legal matters in violation of DR 1-102(A)(3). In three matters Crews neglected his client's legal matter in violation of DR 6-101(B) (neglect of a legal matter entrusted to a lawyer).

Crews also violated DR 1-103(C) (failure to cooperate in disciplinary investigation) when he failed to respond to the bar's inquiry in all five matters.

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