|Oregon State Bar Bulletin AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2008|
Note: More than 13,000 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.
Effective June 27, 2008, the disciplinary board approved the stipulation for discipline suspending Cottage Grove lawyer, Tracy Trunnell for four months for violations of: DR 6-101(B) & RPC 1.3 (neglect); RPC 1.4(a) & (b) (failure to adequately communicate with a client) and DR 1-102(A)(4) & RPC 8.4(a)(4) (conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice), in connection with her representation of a bankruptcy trustee in numerous contested matters.
Over a three-year period, a bankruptcy trustee retained Trunnell on various occasions to assist him in pursuing potential claims on behalf of the bankruptcy estates. Trunnell often failed to take substantive action on these matters until the eve of the two-year statute of limitations, despite the trustee’s requests that she do so sooner. On a handful of occasions, Trunnell missed the statute of limitations by a day or more, and on at least one occasion, Trunnell failed to follow up with the trustee as promised, or timely respond to inquiries regarding the trustee’s options on a settlement offer. Even after some of the contested proceedings were filed, Trunnell required prompting from the court to accomplish service and/or move for a default.
At the time of some of these delays and inadequate communications, Trunnell was herself a newly-appointed bankruptcy trustee, attempting to cope with the influx of filings that preceded the October 2005 changes in the bankruptcy laws. In light of her high volume of trustee cases, Trunnell found it difficult to incorporate her attorney work on behalf this other trustee with her own cases.
In aggravation, the stipulation cited: a pattern of misconduct; multiple offenses and substantial experience in the practice of law. In mitigation, Trunnell had no prior record of discipline; did not act with a dishonest or selfish motive; was cooperative with the bar; had other penalties and sanctions imposed and was remorseful.
JAMES D. LANG
Effective July 5, 2008, the disciplinary board suspended Portland lawyer, James Lang for 45 days for violations of: RPC 1.3 (neglect); RPC 1.4(a) (failure to keep a client reasonably informed); RPC 1.4(b) (failure to explain a matter to the extent necessary to permit the client to make informed decisions); RPC 1.15-1(d) (failure to account for or return client property); RPC 1.16(d) (failure to take steps upon withdrawal to protect a client’s interests); RPC 8.1(a)(2) (failure to respond to requests from a disciplinary authority) and RPC 8.4(a)(3) (conduct involving misrepresentations).
Lang’s violations came in connection with his representation of two clients in unrelated matters, where he essentially stopped acting on behalf of the clients and stopped responding to their inquiries. When the clients were able to reach Lang, he promised action, but failed to follow through. In one of the cases, Lang also falsely stated that he had filed an appeal on behalf of the client. Lang did not answer questions from the bar and defaulted in the formal proceeding.
The trial panel noted that Lang had never previously been disciplined in his 27 years as a lawyer. Out of concern for the cause of his behavior, the panel ordered that before Lang can be reinstated following his suspension, he must demonstrate that he has obtained a mental health screening for depression and/or substance abuse and has followed any recommended treatment. Lang is also required to explain his efforts to address his office management deficiencies, including his ability to track and complete work he has agreed to perform.
JOSEPH G. WATSON
Formerly of Oregon City
Effective July 14, 2008, the disciplinary board disbarred Joseph G. Watson for violations of: RPC 1.15-1(d) (failure to deliver to a client property the client was entitled to receive); RPC 8.4(a)(2) (criminal conduct reflecting adversely on a lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness to practice law); RPC 8.4(a)(3) (dishonesty) and RPC 8.1(a) (failure to respond to lawful demands for information from the disciplinary authority).
Watson was appointed to represent a client in a criminal proceeding. The client delivered money orders payable to the client to Watson for safekeeping until he was released from custody. Watson forged the client’s name to the money orders, cashed them, and kept the funds for his own use and benefit.
Watson was admitted to practice in Oregon in 1988. He had no prior record of discipline.
MATTHEW W. DERBY
Form B resignation
Effective July 23, 2008, the Oregon Supreme Court accepted the Form B resignation of Roseburg lawyer Matthew W. Derby. At the time of resignation, the bar was pursuing a disciplinary proceeding in which Derby was alleged to have violated RPC 1.3 (neglect of a legal matter) and RPC 1.4(a) (failure to keep a client reasonably informed about the status of a matter and promptly comply with reasonable requests for information) of the Oregon Rules of Professional Conduct.
Derby was admitted to practice in 1994. His resignation recited that client files and records have been or will be placed in the custody of Roseburg lawyer Kenneth J. Dresser.
Effective July 27, 2008, a trial panel suspended Oregon City lawyer David Tombleson for two years for violating: RPC 1.3 (neglect of a legal matter); RPC 1.4(a) (failing to keep a client reasonably informed about the status of a matter and promptly comply with reasonable requests for information); RPC 1.15-1(d) (failing to promptly return client funds and render an accounting); RPC 1.16(d) (failing to refund unearned fees) and RPC 8.1(a)(2) (knowingly failing to cooperate in a bar investigation).
In one matter, Tombleson filed a lawsuit on a client’s behalf, but thereafter failed to pursue it and the lawsuit was dismissed by the court. Tombleson then filed a second lawsuit on the client’s behalf. Tombleson failed to pursue that lawsuit and the court dismissed it. Tombleson also failed to respond to numerous inquiries from his client regarding the status of his legal matter.
In a second matter, Tombleson filed a petition for dissolution of marriage on a client’s behalf, but thereafter failed to pursue it and the court dismissed the petition. A number of months later, the client discovered that the petition had been dismissed and contacted Tombleson about the dismissal. Tombleson informed his client that he would get the matter reinstated, but thereafter failed to do so or otherwise pursue the matter. Tombleson failed to respond to numerous inquiries from his client regarding the status of her legal matter. Tombleson also failed to promptly render an accounting to his client and failed to make a refund of unearned fees when the client discharged him.
In a third matter, Tombleson failed to keep his client reasonably informed about the status of the client’s matter and failed to promptly comply with her reasonable requests for information. Tombleson also knowingly failed to respond to the bar’s investigation into his conduct.
In a fourth matter, Tombleson’s violations were similar to those with respect to the third client. He also failed to make a refund of unearned fees and knowingly failed to respond to the bar’s investigation into his conduct.
The trial panel ordered Tombleson to make restitution to two of his clients.
BENJAMIN E. FREUDENBERG
Effective Aug. 5, 2008, a trial panel reprimanded Grants Pass lawyer Benjamin E. Freudenberg for violating RPC 1.3 (neglect of a legal matter) and RPC 1.4(a) (failing to keep a client reasonably informed about the status of a matter and promptly comply with reasonable requests for information).
In early April 2006, Freudenberg undertook to represent a client with regard to an easement. Beginning in late April 2006, Freudenberg failed to communicate with his client and failed to respond to her reasonable requests for information. Beginning in early June 2006, Freudenberg failed to pursue his client’s legal matter. Freudenberg’s representation was terminated in mid-September 2006.
TODD S. HAMMOND
Effective July 19, 2008, a trial panel of the disciplinary board suspended Salem attorney Todd Hammond for 30 days for violations of RPC 1.5 (charging and collecting an illegal or clearly excessive fee).
Hammond represented an injured worker in the appeal of an adverse decision concerning the worker’s benefits with the Office of Workers Compensation Programs (OWCP). The trial panel found that Hammond charged an illegal fee in taking the client’s payment without seeking OWCP approval for his fees, as required by statute. The panel also found that the $6,000 fee was excessive given that Hammond did not complete all of the services he had agreed to perform.
The trial panel found that Hammond acted knowingly and intentionally in charging and collecting fees without OWCP approval, and that his conduct was aggravated by a pattern of misconduct, disingenuous behavior, and substantial experience in disability law. In mitigation, Hammond had no prior discipline, and was found to have been cooperative in the disciplinary proceeding.
Reciprocity applicants listed
The following have applied for admission under the reciprocity, house counsel or law teacher rules. The Board of Bar Examiners requests that members examine this list and bring to the board’s attention in a signed letter any information that might influence the board in considering the moral character of any applicant for admission. Send correspondence to Admissions Director, Oregon State Board of Bar Examiners, 16037 S.W. Upper Boones Ferry Rd., P.O. Box 231935, Tigard, OR 97281-1935.
Reciprocity: Scott Douglas Crawford, Jeremy Tobin Krauel, Erin Michael McCrum, David John Meyer, Brenna Lynn Nelson, Paul Milton Nordsletten, Michael Alexander Patterson, Gary Lynn Shenkle and Keri Jo Smith.
Notice of reinstatement applications
The following attorneys have filed applications for reinstatement as active members of the Oregon State Bar pursuant to Rule of Procedure (BR) 8.1.
Kathleen Bertero, #942012. In 1996, Bertero of Lake Oswego transferred to inactive membership status. (She was admitted to the California bar in 1979.) Since 2001, she has been employed as a paralegal for the Portland firm of Jordan Schrader, where she plans to be an associate attorney following reinstatement.
Robert H. Foster, #832027. Presently a resident of Colorado, Foster has been employed by the U.S. Department of Justice since 2002. Inactive in Oregon since 2002, he has been active in Colorado since 1990. Foster is in the process of relocating to Portland, where he will continue to work for the DOJ.
Teresa Hogan, #854015. Since 2000, this Medford resident has been employed as an administrative law judge. Because this position does not require active membership, Hogan transferred to inactive status in 2001. She plans to continue in her present position following her reinstatement.
Matthew H. Mattox, #903340. Mattox, currently a resident of Georgia, was suspended for one year for disciplinary reasons effective May 25, 2006. In re Mattox, 20 DB Rptr 87 (2006). He has been employed in the hospitality industry while suspended, with no present plans to return to the practice of law in Oregon.
Grant F. Yoakum, #921600. From 2002 to May of 2008, Yoakum was employed as a vice president and senior trust administrator for Wells Fargo Bank in Santa Rosa, Calif. This position did not require active bar membership. Yoakum is considering a return to Oregon and to the practice of law.
The Rules of Procedure require the Board of Governors to conduct an investigation of BR 8.1 reinstatement applications to determine whether applicants possess the good moral character and general fitness to practice law, and that the resumption of the practice of law in this state by these applicants will not be detrimental to the administration of justice or the public interest. Any person with information relevant to these applications is asked to contact promptly the Regulatory Services Division at the Oregon State Bar, P.O. Box 231935, Tigard, OR 97281-1935, (503) 620-0222, or (800) 452-8260, ext. 343.