|Oregon State Bar Bulletin — DECEMBER 2006|
Note: More than 13,150 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.
DEBRAH D. DAVIDSON
On Nov. 9, 2006, the disciplinary board approved a stipulation for discipline reprimanding Independence lawyer Debrah D. Davidson for violation of ORS 9.160 and RPC 5.5(a) (unauthorized practice of law).
Davidson failed to pay her membership dues in a timely fashion and was automatically suspended from active bar membership beginning July 5, 2006. On July 6, 2006, failing to realize she had been suspended, Davidson sent a letter to a court seeking to set aside a default judgment. Davidson also filed a motion to withdraw from the representation of another client for reasons that were unrelated to her suspension. Upon realizing that she was suspended, Davidson ceased any further practice of law, and she arranged to pay her dues and become reinstated to active bar membership. In her application for reinstatement Davidson disclosed that she had practiced law during the period of her suspension.
DENNIS L. DUNN
On Oct. 31, 2006, the Oregon Supreme Court approved a stipulation for discipline suspending Dennis L. Dunn from the practice of law for one year for violation of DR 1-102(A)(3) (misrepresentation), DR 4-101(B) (using client confidences and secrets) and DR 5-101(A) (lawyer self-interest conflict). The suspension was effective Nov. 30, 2006.
The focus of Dunn’s law practice was estate planning. He also conducted business as a securities salesperson in Oregon. Although Dunn was at times licensed as a securities salesperson, he sold securities to his law practice clients and other persons when he was not licensed to do so. Dunn also sold unregistered securities and engaged in other conduct that violated the securities laws. In conducting his securities activities, Dunn used client confidences or secrets concerning the clients’ financial affairs to his advantage.
Dunn was admitted to practice in Oregon in 1986. He had no prior record of discipline.
LAUREN J. PAULSON
On Oct. 19, 2006, the Oregon Supreme Court issued an opinion suspending Aloha lawyer Lauren J. Paulson from the practice of law for four months for violations of: DR 1-103(C) (failure to cooperate in bar investigation); DR 4-101(B)(1) (knowingly reveal client secrets); DR 4-101(B)(2) (knowingly use client secrets to disadvantage of client) and DR 7-104(A)(1) (knowingly communicate with a represented person).
Paulson was retained to represent a client in a child abuse matter. At that time the state was investigating whether to remove the client’s daughter from the client’s home because the client had allegedly allowed her live-in boyfriend to sexually abuse her daughter. At the time the Paulson was retained, law enforcement officials had been investigating whether to bring criminal charges against the boyfriend. On one occasion thereafter, Paulson discussed the abuse allegations with the boyfriend at a time when Paulson knew that the boyfriend was represented by a lawyer in the criminal matter.
At a hearing regarding the child abuse matter, Paulson knowingly revealed to the court and others information about the boyfriend’s prior criminal conviction and a subsequent expungement proceeding. Paulson had represented the client’s boyfriend in that prior criminal matter and in the subsequent expungement proceeding. The boyfriend had not consented to Paulson’s disclosures.
The four-month period of suspension imposed by the court will run consecutively with the six-month period of suspension imposed by the court in an earlier case (filed on June 8, 2006).
STEVEN ROBERT ZIELINSKI
On Oct. 26, 2006, the Oregon Supreme Court denied Steven Robert Zielinski’s application for admission to practice law in Oregon. The application had been opposed by the Board of Bar Examiners.
Zielinski is a licensed physician in Oregon and an inactive member of the Illinois State Bar Association. He applied for admission to the Oregon State Bar after passing the bar exam in 2005. In determining that Zielinski failed to show that he possesses the requisite character and fitness for admission, the court looked at three incidents.
First, Zielinski filed a defamation lawsuit in Illinois in 1992, without a basis in fact. Second, he was arrested after he became angry at airport security personnel in Pasco, Wash., in 2001, reacting to the situation in a way the court did not deem ordinary or reasonable. Third, Zielinski was involved in an incident in a Umatilla County courtroom in 2003, after which he filed complaints alleging professional misconduct by the trial judge and a deputy district attorney. In reviewing Zielinski’s conduct during and following the courtroom incident, the state supreme court determined that Zielinski displayed a lack of perspective and judgment that reflected poorly on his character and fitness to practice law and that he exhibited a pattern of behavior toward public officials that incorporated irrational insults and accusations of misconduct with little or no evidentiary support. Further, the court found that Zielinski had used threats of violence or harm to intimidate others and then bragged about the threats.
Viewing Zielinski’s conduct as a whole, the court concluded that Zielinski had failed to demonstrate that he is of good moral character and fit to practice law. Accordingly, his application for admission was denied.
THOMAS J. DITTON
Effective Dec. 15, 2006, the disciplinary board approved a stipulation for discipline suspending Hermiston lawyer, Thomas Ditton, from the practice of law for 60 days for violation of DR 9-101(A) (failure to deposit or maintain client funds in trust).
Ditton undertook to represent a client in a domestic relations matter. It was orally agreed that Ditton would be paid a flat fee for the representation, but he did not commemorate this understanding in a written fee agreement. Shortly thereafter, Ditton deposited the first installment of the flat fee received from his client in his general account, having not yet performed sufficient work to have earned the full installment. Ditton thereafter performed sufficient work to earn the first and all subsequent installments.
The stipulation recited that Ditton acted negligently and without a dishonest or selfish motive. The stipulation also noted that his conduct resulted in only potential injury to his client. However, Ditton’s sanction was aggravated by his substantial experience in the practice of law, as well as his prior discipline for the identical misconduct two years before the conduct at issue. In re Ditton, 16 DB Rptr 69 (2002).
JILL R. FOX
Effective Nov. 20, 2006, the disciplinary board approved a stipulation for discipline whereby Jill R. Fox was suspended for 60 days for neglect of a legal matter, in violation of RPC 1.3.
Fox was retained in 2004 to represent a client on a spousal support modification. (In 1996, the client had been awarded spousal support and one-half of her former husband’s retirement benefits, but neither party prepared a QDRO to divide the retirement account. In 1999, the former husband began taking monthly distributions from his retirement account, thus dissipating the principal.) In August 2005, the parties negotiated a settlement whereby a QDRO specialist would be hired to analyze the retirement account and determine the value to which Fox’s client was entitled. In late August 2005, the parties placed their settlement on the record and the court ordered Fox to prepare the supplemental judgment.
Between September 2005 and April 2006, Fox drafted a supplemental judgment but did not finalize it, forward it to opposing counsel or submit it to the court. Fox did not contact a QDRO specialist until March 2006. At the time, Fox was also representing this client on a separate matter, which Fox believed took priority over the support dispute. However, Fox’s client asked her numerous times to prepare the judgment so she could begin receiving her share of the monthly retirement distributions.
The bar and Fox stipulated that Fox knowingly failed to perform services for her client, resulting in injury. Mitigating factors included Fox’s full disclosure to the bar and remorse; aggravating factors included Fox’s prior admonition and prior public reprimand for neglect.