|Oregon State Bar Bulletin FEBRUARY/MARCH 2011|
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.
LYNN M. MURPHY
On Dec. 9, 2010, the Oregon Supreme Court issued an opinion suspending Portland lawyer Lynn Murphy for 120 days, effective Feb. 7, 2011, for violating RPC 1.3 (neglecting a legal matter), RPC 1.4(a) (failing to communicate) and RPC 8.1(a)(2) (knowingly failing to respond in a bar investigation).
In one matter, in June 2007, Murphy undertook to represent a client and his family members in a pending lawsuit. Beginning in December 2007, Murphy failed to pursue the matter such that it was dismissed by the trial court and failed to adequately communicate with her client regarding the status of the matter, despite multiple inquiries from the client. When the client complained to the bar, Murphy knowingly failed to respond to multiple inquiries from the bar.
In two other matters, Murphy knowingly failed to respond to multiple inquiries from the bar regarding her conduct.
The court found that the sanction imposed by the trial panel, a suspension of 120 days, was a permissible one and adopted it.
KEITH G. JORDAN
Effective Oct. 21, 2010, the Oregon Supreme Court suspended Keith Jordan for two years on a reciprocal basis. The underlying California discipline, effective Feb. 13, 2010, was for misconduct committed between 2003 and 2007, in nine separate immigration matters. Although the California Supreme Court imposed a three-year suspension, the suspension was stayed subject to Jordan’s serving a two-year actual suspension and paying restitution of $14,650 (plus interest) to four former clients. In accepting this discipline, Jordan stipulated that he had failed to: counsel his clients, properly supervise a nonlawyer assistant, properly perform services as an attorney, appear at hearings, properly withdraw from his clients’ representations, refund unearned retainers and return original paperwork. This misconduct violated California rules equivalent to the following Oregon rules of professional conduct: DR 6-101(B) (neglect, pre-2005); RPC 1.3 (neglect, post-2005); RPC 1.16(d) (withdrawal without taking steps to avoid prejudice to client); RPC 1.4(a) (failure to respond to client inquiry); RPC 1.5(a) (excessive fee); RPC 1.15-1(d) (duty to return client property); and RPC 8.4(a)(4) (conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice).
An aggravating factor considered by both the California and Oregon Supreme Courts was Jordan’s previous discipline in California and reciprocal discipline in Oregon in 2007. That discipline (a nine-month actual suspension in both states) was imposed for misconduct similar to the conduct involved in the present case.
SUSAN FORD BURNS
Effective Dec. 7, 2010, a trial panel of the disciplinary board suspended Portland lawyer Susan Ford Burns for one year for violations of: RPC 1.3 (neglect of a legal matter); RPC 1.4(a) (failure to communicate with client); RPC 1.5(a)/DR 2-106(A) (excessive fees); RPC 1.7(a) (current client conflict of interest); RPC 1.15-1(c)/DR 9-101(C)(3) (failure to maintain client funds in a trust account); RPC 1.15-1(d) (failure to promptly account for and deliver property of another); RPC 1.15-1(e) (failure to maintain disputed funds in trust); RPC 1.16(d) (failure to take reasonable steps to protect client upon termination of employment); RPC 8.1(a)(2) (failure to respond to disciplinary inquiries); and RPC 8.4(a)(4) (conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice).
Burns was charged with ethics violations in six client matters. In one matter, Burns received a retainer that she did not properly account for and her office thereafter pursued the client for a period of several years for funds he did not owe. In another matter, Burns undertook to represent a client regarding the estate of his father. She thereafter failed to either respond to the client’s requests for information or, after she was fired, promptly refund the unearned portion of the retainer. In three probate matters in which Burns represented the personal representative, she was found to have committed violations such as: charging twice for costs or fees, even after the double charges were pointed out to her; collecting fees without prior court approval; failing to promptly account for and deliver the funds of another; and failing to take reasonable steps to protect her clients upon the termination of her employment. In a fourth probate matter, Burns failed to respond to court notices regarding the need to file an additional bond and she was eventually cited for contempt. In many of the matters, Burns also failed to respond to disciplinary inquiries. Although she eventually made some response to the bar in most matters, she did so only after a long period of delay.
Burns was publicly reprimanded in 2008 for violations of RPC 1.3, RPC 1.4(a) and RPC 1.16(d) in a single client matter.
SHANNON K. CONNALL
Form B resignation
Effective Dec. 23, 2010, the Oregon Supreme Court accepted the Form B resignation of Portland attorney Shannon Connall. At the time of her resignation, Connall was involved in formal proceedings brought by the bar alleging that she violated RPC 1.15-1(a), (c) & (d) and other trust account rules in multiple respects, such as by failing to deposit client funds into trust and subsequently failing to account for them. The formal complaint also alleged that Connall engaged in dishonest conduct (RPC 8.4(a)(3)) by improperly withdrawing a client’s retirement funds from her firm’s lawyer trust account and using them for personal and business expenses. Finally, the complaint alleged that Connall made false or misleading representations to the bar and submitted false documents during the bar’s investigation, in violation of RPC 8.1(a)(1) and RPC 8.4(a)(3).
Also at the time of Connall’s resignation, the bar was investigating four complaints by former clients alleging concerns including neglect (RPC 1.3), failures to adequately communicate with clients (RPC 1.4), excessive fees (RPC 1.5(a)), failures to return monies in trust (RPC 1.15-1(d)) and possible improper transfers of client funds from trust (RPC 8.4(a)(3)).
Connall’s resignation recited that all client files have or will be transferred to attorney Des Connall.
THEODORE C. CORAN
Effective Dec. 7, 2010, the disciplinary board approved a stipulation for discipline publicly reprimanding Salem lawyer Theodore C. Coran, for violations of RPC 1.5(c)(2) (prohibiting contingent fee in a criminal case), RPC 1.15-1(a) (duty to keep client property separate) and RPC 1.15-1(c) (duty to maintain client funds in a trust account).
Pursuant to a written agreement drafted by the client, Coran represented for a flat fee a client appealing criminal convictions. Coran collected the flat fee prior to completing the representation for which it was paid and did not deposit it into a trust account, without any provision in the fee agreement that provided he could do so. At the time Coran collected the flat fee, although he had not completed the representation, he had filed the opening brief and Coran subsequently completed the representation. While the representation was ongoing, Coran also accepted the client’s offer to pay a bonus for every month the client’s sentence was reduced on appeal. In the end, Coran did not collect any bonus.
The stipulation noted that, although Coran had a prior disciplinary history, it involved dissimilar conduct and was not recent. The stipulation also noted that Coran had cooperated in the bar’s investigation and that several members of the legal community attested to Coran’s good character and reputation.
GINO G. PIERETTI
On December 9, 2010, the disciplinary board approved a stipulation for discipline publicly reprimanding Portland attorney Gino Pieretti for violations of RPC 1.3 (neglect) and RPC 1.4(a) (failing to adequately communicate with clients).
Pieretti was retained in September 2001 to represent a client in an action against the city of Portland. Pieretti and the city’s attorney agreed to remove the case from the trial docket and submit it to binding arbitration; they thereafter conducted discovery and made some efforts to find an arbitrator. After February 2002, however, the case “fell off (Pieretti’s) radar screen” and in June 2005, the court dismissed the case. Pieretti was unaware of the dismissal until the client contacted him in 2009 to request his assistance on another matter.
During the seven year period between 2002 and 2009, the client claims to have asked Pieretti several times about the status of the case, without receiving any response. Pieretti denies that he knowingly failed to respond to any inquiries.
The client suffered actual injury in that his case was dismissed for lack of prosecution. Pieretti had a record of prior discipline consisting of a public reprimand in 1994; however, mitigating circumstances included personal and family health issues, an absence of dishonest or selfish motive and a cooperative attitude toward disciplinary proceedings.
Applicant info is available here.