|Oregon State Bar Bulletin JANUARY 2010|
Note: More than 14,000 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.
JACOB S. JOHNSTON
On Sept. 29, 2009, the disciplinary board approved a stipulation for discipline, effective immediately, suspending Gresham lawyer Jacob S. Johnston from the practice of law for 90 days for violating RPC 1.1 (failure to provide competent representation), RPC 1.3 (neglect of a legal matter), RPC 1.4(a) and (b) (failure to communicate), RPC 1.5(a) (collect a clearly excessive fee) and RPC 1.16(d) (failure to properly withdraw).
In February 2006, Johnston undertook to represent a client in probating her father’s estate. After February 2006, Johnston failed to pursue the client’s legal matter and failed to respond to her reasonable requests for information. In August 2007, Johnston advised his client that he was closing his law practice and that she would have to find a new lawyer. When Johnston withdrew from representing the client, he failed to timely return file materials and failed to make a refund of unearned fees.
In another matter, Johnston undertook to represent a client in a pending legal malpractice lawsuit in which it was alleged, among other things, that the client’s prior lawyer had failed to timely file a lawsuit for personal injuries on the client’s behalf. Johnston received information suggesting that one of the client’s claims was without merit. Johnston, without discussing the matter with the client, signed a stipulation dismissing the claim. In preparing for trial, Johnston did not secure expert medical testimony, did not secure the testimony of other witnesses to support his client’s claims, and did not adequately prepare his client to testify at trial. When Johnston ultimately withdrew from the representation, he failed to timely return the file materials to his client.
DALE L. SMITH
On Nov. 3, 2009, the disciplinary board approved a stipulation for discipline reprimanding Hermiston attorney Dale Smith for violations of: RPC 1.3 (neglect); RPC 1.4(a) (failure to communicate) and RPC 1.15-1(a) and (c) (failure to deposit and maintain client funds in trust) of the Rules of Professional Conduct.
Smith was retained to file petitions and obtain name changes of two children. Smith was paid a flat fee in advance for the services. Smith did not deposit and maintain the funds in his lawyer trust account. He did not have a written fee agreement that provided that the fee was earned on receipt.
Smith failed to attend promptly to the legal matter entrusted to him and did not promptly respond to the client’s inquiries concerning the status of the matter. Smith eventually completed the matter. He also voluntarily refunded the entire fee.
Smith was admitted to practice in 1979. He had no prior record of discipline.
T. MICHAEL RYAN
Form B resignation
Effective Nov. 24, 2009, the Oregon Supreme Court accepted the Form B resignation of former Prineville attorney, T. Michael Ryan. At the time of his resignation, Ryan had been charged with multiple violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct in four client matters, including: RPC 1.2(c) (assisting a client in illegal or fraudulent conduct); RPC 8.4(a)(3) (conversion of client and third-party funds) and RPC 8.1(a)(2) (failure to cooperate with a disciplinary authority).
Ryan was suspended in a separate disciplinary matter effective Jan. 1, 2008, at which time he closed his law practice and moved to Arizona.
LAWRENCE P. CULLEN
Effective Dec. 1, 2009, the Oregon Supreme Court approved a stipulation for discipline suspending Portland attorney Lawrence Cullen from the practice of law for nine months in connection with two client matters.
In the first matter, Cullen stipulated to violations of RPC 1.3 (neglect), RPC 1.4(a) (failure to adequately communicate with a client) and RPC 1.15-1(d) (failure to promptly provide client property). Cullen initially undertook to represent a client in a potential injury claim, but took little action on the matter prior to filing a lawsuit on the verge of the expiration of the statute of limitations. Thereafter Cullen took no action on the case resulting in the court dismissing it for lack of prosecution. Although notified, Cullen did not advise his client or defense counsel of the dismissal or otherwise take any action to address the dismissal.
When Cullen did not respond to the client’s ensuing attempts to communicate with him, the client contacted successor counsel, who made multiple requests that Cullen provide him with the client’s complete file for review. Cullen initially provided some documents, but thereafter failed to respond or provide the remaining requested file materials until two months after successor counsel complained to the bar.
In the second matter, Cullen stipulated to violations of RPC 1.3 (neglect), RPC 1.4(a) and (b) (failure to adequately communicate with a client), RPC 8.4(a)(3) (misrepresentation) and RPC 8.1(a)(2) (failure to respond to a disciplinary authority). In this matter, Cullen undertook to represent a client with respect to injuries received in an automobile accident in May 2004. However, Cullen failed to take any action on the claim until May 2006, when he filed a lawsuit without notice to the client. In Oct. 2006, the court dismissed the case for lack of prosecution. Cullen did not take any action to prevent the dismissal, despite having been provided advance notice of it by the court. Cullen did not notify his client of the dismissal or explain its significance.
In April 2007, defense counsel reminded Cullen that the complaint had been dismissed. Nevertheless, in a July 2008 phone call with his client, Cullen falsely told the client that he was trying to determine the status of the case. Cullen took no further action on the matter.
When the client thereafter complained to the bar, Cullen initially responded but failed to timely or fully respond to subsequent inquiries from the bar, or to inquiries from and a subpoena issued by the Local Professional Responsibility Committee.
The stipulation reflected that Cullen has substantial experience in the practice of law and has been previously suspended for similar misconduct.
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, P.O. Box 231935, Tigard, OR 97281.
Reciprocity: Andrea Jean Burkhart, David Zachary Hostetter and Teena Michelle Killian.
House Counsel: Frank Louis Torresy Jr.