Oregon State Bar Bulletin — OCTOBER 2005

Discipline

Note: More than 12,400 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.

STEPHEN E. ANDERSEN
OSB #74013
Phoenix, Ariz.
6-month suspension

Effective July 11, 2005, the disciplinary board approved a stipulation for discipline suspending former Milwaukie lawyer Stephen E. Andersen from the practice of law in Oregon for six months. Andersen admitted violations of DR 9-101(A) (failing to deposit or maintain client funds in trust) and DR 9-101(C)(3) (failing to maintain adequate records to account for client property).

In late 2002, Andersen learned of attempted thefts from his business checking account and lawyer trust account, and thereafter believed that his business and personal bank accounts were vulnerable to fraudulent activities. Accordingly, from March 2003 through February 2004, Andersen deposited both personal and client funds into his lawyer trust account, including the proceeds from the sale of his personal residence. Andersen also used the trust account to pay personal, business and client obligations. Andersen did not make or maintain sufficient records clearly and expressly reflecting the date, amount, source and explanation for all deposits, withdrawals, deliveries and disbursements of client funds in his trust account.

In January 2004, Andersen issued a check from his lawyer trust account when there were insufficient funds in the account. This potentially drew upon client funds. The bank honored the check and after it did so, the account had a negative balance.

In the stipulation, Andersen admitted that running personal and client funds through his trust account, and paying personal and client obligations from his trust account was not the proper method to protect himself from the potential for theft — particularly when he failed to maintain sufficient records to account for the nature of funds deposited in trust. The stipulation specifically recited that there was no contention that Andersen misappropriated or converted client funds to his own use.

Andersen’s sanction was aggravated by prior discipline (4-month suspension in July 2004 for a similar violation (DR 9-101(A)), among others), a pattern of misconduct, multiple offenses and substantial experience in the practice of law. Andersen was admitted to practice in Oregon in1974.

SEAN McCARVER BEERS
Beaverton
Admission allowed

On Aug. 18, 2005, the Oregon Supreme Court issued an opinion allowing Sean McCarver Beers’ application for admission to the Oregon State Bar. The Board of Bar Examiners had opposed the application.

Beers used and sold illegal drugs in high school. Thereafter, his drug-related activities escalated over a period of roughly 10 years until he was convicted of conspiracy to distribute cocaine in California, where he served a prison term for the charge. Beers also had other criminal convictions during this 10-year period.

After his release from prison in 1994, Beers furthered his education, obtained employment, studied for and obtained a CPA license, attended law school and passed the bar exam. Before the Board of Bar Examiners, Beers asserted that he had reformed from his past misconduct. However, the board recommended against his admission.

The Oregon Supreme Court first determined that an admissions rule precluding the admission of applicants who have serious criminal convictions in their background did not apply in this case, because it had been waived earlier by the court upon Beers’ application. On the merits, the court determined that Beers carried his burden to demonstrate that he had reformed. The court cited to the time that had passed since Beers’ criminal conduct, his successful achievements of personal, professional and educational goals, his public service activities and an impressive array of references who spoke in Beers’ favor. Viewing the record as a whole, the court was satisfied that Beers possessed the requisite character and fitness to practice law.

NEIL W. JACKSON
OSB #78256
Portland
60-day suspension

On July 26, 2005, the disciplinary board approved a stipulation for discipline reprimanding attorney Neil W. Jackson for violation of DR 2-110(A)(2) (improper withdrawal), DR 6-101(B) (neglect), DR 9-101(C)(3) (failure to account for client funds) and DR 9-101(C)(4) (failure to promptly deliver client property). The suspension was effective on Aug. 25, 2005.

Jackson was retained to pursue a personal injury claim for a client. About a year and a half later, Jackson filed the law suit. Thereafter, he asked the client to provide funds for payment of costs already incurred and to be incurred. The client promptly provided the funds, which Jackson deposited in his lawyer trust account. Jackson withdrew funds from trust only as they were earned.

About six months later, the court provided Jackson and the defendant’s counsel with notice that the case would be dismissed unless certain actions were taken. Jackson failed to take action to retain the case on the court’s docket, and the case was dismissed. Thereafter, Jackson: failed to respond to and otherwise timely communicate with his client and opposing counsel concerning the case; failed to provide his client with copies of written communications from opposing counsel and the court; failed to take action to reinstate the case and failed to take action to advance and protect the client’s interests and claim. Jackson also failed to notify his client that he was taking no action and was no longer representing or pursuing her interests.

Jackson constructively terminated the lawyer-client relationship with the client without taking reasonable steps to avoid foreseeable prejudice to her, including giving due notice and allowing time for her employment of other counsel. Jackson also failed to deliver the file and the unused balance of funds he held in his lawyer trust account and failed to account for those funds.

Some time later, the client retained another lawyer to represent her interests to pursue the personal injury claim. The new lawyer asked Jackson to provide him with a copy of documents contained in his file. Jackson failed to deliver the documents. The new lawyer made additional requests for documents. After about six months, Jackson delivered a copy of his client’s file to the new lawyer.

Jackson was admitted to practice in 1978. He had previously been reprimanded for violation of DR 6-101(B).

RICHARD F. LANCEFIELD
OSB #71003
Portland
60-day suspension

Effective Oct. 1, 2005, the disciplinary board approved a stipulation for discipline suspending Richard F. Lancefield from the practice of law for 60 days for violations of DR 9-101(A) (failure to deposit and maintain client funds in trust) and DR 9-101(C)(3) (failure to account for client funds or property).

Lancefield used his lawyer trust account to pay personal, business and client obligations. He did not make or maintain records of deposits, withdrawals or disbursements of client funds from his trust account, nor did he keep track of his time for use in charging or accounting to clients except as it may have been reflected in his client files. Accordingly, Lancefield did not know with any precision when he had earned funds in the trust account and how much he had earned. However, he did not intend to draw on any client funds prior to his entitlement to them.

In July 2004, Lancefield issued a check from the trust account when there were insufficient funds in the account. The bank honored the check, thereby drawing on the funds of one or more clients without authorization.

The stipulation reflected that Lancefield’s sanction was aggravated by a prior admonition for the same misconduct, a pattern of misconduct, multiple offenses and substantial experience in the practice of law. Lancefield was admitted to practice in Oregon in 1971 and in Washington in 1969. The sanction was mitigated by Lancefield’s cooperation in the disciplinary proceedings and remorse.

GREGORY P. OLIVEROS
OSB #91083
Clackamas
Reprimand

On Sept. 2, 2005, the disciplinary board approved a stipulation for discipline reprimanding Clackamas lawyer Gregory Oliveros for neglect of a legal matter (DR 6-101(B)).

A client retained Oliveros to pursue a contempt proceeding against a former spouse for denying visitation. On behalf of his client, Oliveros prevailed before the trial court and was directed by the judge to prepare the form of judgment that was to include visitation and attorney fees provisions. Thereafter, despite repeated contacts from the client, Oliveros failed to draft the judgment for several months and, once prepared, did not submit the judgment or a statement of attorney fees to the court timely.

Oliveros had no prior record of discipline and fully disclosed his conduct during the course of the disciplinary investigation.

MICHAEL GRANT DAMIANO
OSB #96186
Portland
Public reprimand

On Aug. 26, 2005, the disciplinary board approved a stipulation for discipline reprimanding Portland lawyer Michael Grant Damiano for violation of DR 2-110(A)(2) (improper withdrawal from employment) and DR 6-101(B) (neglect of a legal matter).

Damiano undertook to represent a client in a personal injury matter. Although Damiano performed some work in the initial four months of the representation, he performed no meaningful work on behalf of his client for the following 19 months. Damiano then abruptly withdrew from representation of the client without taking reasonable steps to avoid foreseeable prejudice to the client, including: failing to file a complaint to protect the client against a defense that the statute of limitations had expired; failing to notify the other parties involved in the matter of his withdrawal from the matter and failing to sufficiently convey the urgent need for the client to take legal action to protect her claim. As a result, Damiano’s client suffered delay in the resolution of her claim and the potential loss of her claim. In arriving at a sanction, the stipulation noted that Damiano had no record of prior discipline.

DANIEL SIMCOE
OSB #81024
Grants Pass
Public reprimand

On Aug. 26, 2005, the disciplinary board approved a stipulation for discipline reprimanding Grants Pass lawyer Daniel Simcoe for violation of DR 6-101(B) (neglect of a legal matter).

Simcoe undertook to represent a client in claiming various benefits due following the death of the client’s husband. The client’s claims included an annuity account and accidental death insurance benefits. An administrator for the annuity account sent Simcoe a letter requesting a signed authorization from the client and a copy of the deceased husband’s death certificate. Simcoe obtained a copy of the death certificate from his client. However, Simcoe negligently confused the annuity claim with a pension claim that had been denied and Simcoe took no further action to collect the benefit before his termination from employment over one year later. Simcoe obtained a claim form for the accidental death benefits and asked his client to complete the form and return the form to Simcoe for further action. The client immediately returned the form to Simcoe’s office with instructions that Simcoe should complete the form on behalf of the client. Simcoe took no further action to assure that the form was completed and submitted to the insurer. Simcoe’s client suffered actual injury caused by a substantial delay in the resolution of the claims and collection of the benefits.

In arriving at a sanction, the stipulation noted that, although Simcoe was previously reprimanded in May 2000, the prior misconduct did not involve a charge of neglect.

DEAN J. GIBBONS
OSB #91283
Portland
Public reprimand

On Sept. 2, 2005, the disciplinary board approved a stipulation for discipline reprimanding Portland lawyer Dean Gibbons for violation of DR 1-102(A)(2) (criminal conduct reflecting adversely on fitness to practice law).

Police discovered the body of Alfred Peano on the floor of his Portland home. Gibbons, who was Peano’s neighbor, assisted the police in forcibly entering the home to recover the body. After personnel from the office of the medical examiner had removed the body, police padlocked the rear door, which had been damaged by the forcible entry. Gibbons expressed to police his concern that the home was not secure, since Peano was believed to have shared the keys to his home with others and Gibbons offered to change all outside door locks. The police told Gibbons that the house was sealed for the medical examiner and explicitly informed Gibbons that he should not enter the premises or change the locks.

Gibbons and a second neighbor were aware that Peano likely had heirs living outside of the United States and Gibbons was concerned that Peano’s estate would escheat to the state. The day Peano’s body was removed, Gibbons drafted a petition for probate naming the second neighbor as personal representative, which Gibbons intended to file the following day. Gibbons also called the office of the medical examiner that same day and left a message expressing his concern about the need to better secure Peano’s house. The medical examiner did not respond to Gibbons before 5 p.m. and, shortly thereafter, Gibbons directed a locksmith to enter the Peano house and change the outside door locks. Gibbons also directed the neighbor to enter the Peano house and conduct a video inventory of the valuables inside. Gibbons thereafter informed the medical examiner that the locks had been changed and Gibbons offered his assistance in entering the house should personnel from the medical examiner need to return to the house. Medical examiner personnel contacted the police and medical examiner personnel and police returned to the scene to re-secure the house and to investigate the unlawful entry into the house. Gibbons was arrested and entered a plea of no contest to a misdemeanor. The criminal case was dismissed after Gibbons completed certain court-mandated conditions.

In arriving at a sanction, the stipulation noted that Gibbons had no prior record of discipline, that Gibbons did not act from a dishonest motive, that Gibbons was cooperative in the investigation of the matter and that Gibbons had suffered other consequences as a result of his conduct.


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