|Oregon State Bar Bulletin FEBRUARY/MARCH 2012|
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.
ROBERT E. HILL
Effective Jan. 4, 2012, the disciplinary board suspended Pendleton lawyer, Robert E. Hill for eight months for violations of: RPC 3.4(c) (knowingly disobeying an obligation under the rules of a tribunal); RPC 3.5(d) (engaging in conduct intended to disrupt a tribunal); RPC 4.2 (communication with a represented party); RPC 5.5(a) and ORS 9.160 (unlawful practice of law); and RPC 8.4(a)(4) (conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice).
While his bar membership status was inactive, Hill represented a neighbor and the neighbor’s daughter as objectors in a conservatorship and guardianship proceeding. Using his bar number, Hill filed multiple motions and pleadings on his own and his clients’ behalf and negotiated with attorneys for the petitioner and the protected person on his clients’ behalf. Hill also supplied his clients with a form of objection for them to present to the protected person at a time when he knew that the protected person was represented by counsel. After his clients returned the completed objection to him, Hill filed it with the court.
After being directed by the court that he did not have standing to object on his own behalf (and after being reminded that he was not authorized to practice law on behalf of others), Hill appeared at the objection hearing with his clients and attempted to make arguments and represent their interests. The judge denied Hill’s request to appear and instructed him to leave the court as an excluded witness. Hill rebuked the judge and the proceedings and refused to leave the courtroom. He was held in contempt.
When he was brought to testify, Hill was argumentative and refused to answer the questions put to him. He was discourteous to the judge and counsel and purposefully attempted to hinder the progression of the hearing.
Hill had been admonished previously for the unlawful practice of law for his representation of a close friend in a civil proceeding when he was a deputy district attorney and not authorized to engage in the private practice of law. Hill’s sanction was aggravated by this and other factors including refusal to acknowledge the wrongful nature of his conduct.
MARY J. GRIMES
On Dec. 14, 2011, the disciplinary board approved a stipulation for discipline reprimanding Redmond lawyer Mary J. Grimes for violations of RPC 1.5(a) (excessive fee), RPC 1.15-1(a) and RPC 1.15 1(c) (trust accounting deficiencies).
Grimes represented a client in a domestic relations matter. She deposited payments from the client into an account other than a trust account, without a written fee agreement that would have permitted such a deposit. Subsequently, Grimes charged and sought to collect from the client an additional amount for attorney fees that the client had not agreed to pay. The stipulation recited that Grimes committed the violations negligently; she believed the payments made by the client were paid on a flat-fee basis that did not require deposit into trust. She also intended to discuss and reach agreement with her client regarding the basis for the additional attorney fee, but overlooked doing so. The client was not injured because she did not pay the additional fee and Grimes thereafter waived it.
The stipulation further recited that Grimes had a prior disciplinary history, but the mitigating factors outweighed the aggravating factors for the purposes of sanction in this case.
On Jan. 4, 2012, the disciplinary board approved a stipulation suspending Portland lawyer Milo Petranovich from the practice of law for 60 days, effective March 1, 2012, for violating the following: 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 a reasonable requests for information); RPC 8.1(a)(2) (knowingly failing to respond in a bar investigation); and RPC 8.4(a)(3) (conduct involving misrepresentation).
The U.S. District Court appointed Petranovich, who had volunteered to be on a pro bono panel, to represent a client in a federal district court civil case. At the time of the appointment, the defendants had recently filed motions for summary judgment. The court gave Petranovich time in which to file responses to the pending motions. Petranovich met with the client and shortly thereafter concluded that the case had no merit, that there was nothing he could file with the court that would help his client and that it would be best for the client if no further filing were made. Petranovich knowingly failed to communicate his conclusions or his decision not to file responses to the pending motions to his client.
Thereafter, the court issued an opinion and order granting the defendants’ motions for summary judgment and a judgment dismissing the client’s claims. Petranovich failed to inform his client about the opinion, order and the judgment.
The defendants then filed a motion to impose sanctions on Petranovich’s client. Petranovich did not inform his client that the motion had been filed, did not file a response to it and did not inform his client that the court subsequently denied the motion. Petranovich also did not respond to efforts by one of the defendant’s lawyers to confer about the motion.
During the course of the representation, the client periodically inquired about the status of his legal matter. Petranovich failed to respond to those inquiries. Ultimately, the client discovered that there had been a decision in his case and asked Petranovich for a copy of the opinion. Petranovich failed to provide a copy of the opinion to his client, but recommended that he retain another lawyer.
When the client complained to the bar, Petranovich knowingly failed to respond to the bar’s inquiries.
JUSTIN E. THRONE
Pursuant to a stipulation for discipline effective Dec. 29, 2011, the disciplinary board suspended Klamath Falls lawyer Justin E. Throne for 30 days for violations of RPC 1.4(a) (failure to promptly comply with reasonable requests for information) and RPC 1.15-1(d) (failure to promptly deliver client funds or property). Throne was retained by a client to effect a forfeiture under a sales contract for real property. Throne understood that the client considered the matter urgent. After he deposited the client’s $1,000 retainer into his trust account, Throne did not substantively respond to the client’s multiple requests for a projected completion date over the next several months. As a result, the client requested that Throne refund his retainer and provide a statement of the legal work performed. Throne did not provide an accounting of the client’s funds until 3 months later, and only after the bar requested it. Throne did not refund the unearned portion of the client’s retainer for 13 months, nearly one year after he had ceased working on the matter.
The stipulation noted that, while Throne acted negligently in failing to respond to his client’s requests for information, his lengthy delay in refunding his client’s money was knowing and caused actual injury to the client.
ROBERT D. DAMES JR.
Form B resignation
Effective Dec. 15, 2011, the Oregon Supreme Court accepted the Form B resignation of Portland lawyer Robert D. Dames, Jr. At the time of the resignation, an amended formal complaint was pending against Dames alleging, among other violations, that between 2005 and 2009, he neglected several legal matters, failed to adequately communicate with clients, made one or more misrepresentations to clients and the court and converted client funds, in violation of RPC 1.3, RPC 1.4, RPC 1.15-1 and RPC 8.4(a)(3). The amended formal complaint also alleged that beginning in 2000, Dames failed to timely file federal personal income tax returns, in violation of RPC 8.4(a)(2) (criminal act reflecting adversely on honesty, trustworthiness or fitness to practice).
The resignation recited that Dames’ files have been or will be transferred to Portland lawyer J. William Savage.
1-year suspension, all but 90 days stayed, plus probation
Effective Jan. 12, 2012, the Oregon Supreme Court approved a stipulation for discipline suspending Portland attorney Ann Highet for one year, all but 90 days of which will be stayed pending successful completion of a three-year probation, for violations of RPC 8.4(a)(2) (criminal conduct reflecting adversely on lawyer’s fitness) and ORS 9.527(2) (criminal conviction).
In May 2010, Highet was arrested for DUII. Highet resisted arrest and when searched was found to possess cocaine. In July 2010, Highet was charged with several crimes in Washington County Circuit Court. She entered into a DUII diversion and pled guilty to one Class C felony (unlawful possession of cocaine) and two Class A misdemeanors (resisting arrest and attempted assault of a public safety officer). A judgment of conviction was entered, placing Highet on a three-year formal probation and requiring her to undergo drug evaluation and treatment.
Highet entered and successfully completed inpatient treatment and then began outpatient treatment, completing all program requirements in January 2011.
Highet’s three-year discipline probation requires her to maintain sobriety, submit to monitoring by the State Lawyer’s Assistance Committee (SLAC), attend weekly meetings of A.A, or an equivalent group approved by her SLAC supervisor and comply with the terms of her criminal probation.
Highet, who was admitted to practice in Oregon in 1990, had no prior record of discipline.
MICHAEL M. PACHECO
Form B resignation
On Jan. 12, 2012, the Oregon Supreme Court accepted the Form B resignation of former Salem lawyer Michael M. Pacheco. At the time of the resignation, formal disciplinary charges were authorized against Pacheco alleging that he falsely represented to others that he was an active, practicing lawyer when in fact he has been suspended from bar membership since 2006 for disciplinary reasons. RPC 8.4(a)(3). The bar also alleged that Pacheco made false statements to the bar in a response to a complaint about his conduct. RPC 8.1(a)(1). Pacheco’s resignation was effective immediately.
GARY B. BERTONI
On Jan. 27, 2012, the disciplinary board approved a stipulation suspending Portland lawyer Gary Bertoni from the practice of law for 150 days, effective March 27, 2012, for violating RPC 1.15-1(a) (failing to maintain client funds in trust and failing to maintain complete records), RPC 1.15-1(b) (improperly depositing personal funds into trust) and RPC 1.15-1(c) (failing to maintain client funds in trust until earned).
Bertoni was the managing partner of his law firm and, among other things, managed the firm’s bank accounts and financial affairs. Over a period of roughly 21 months, Bertoni deposited his own funds into the firm’s lawyer trust account. He also ran his personal credit card through the firm’s credit card machine, resulting in charges against the personal credit card and deposits into the lawyer trust account, which he then withdrew. On a number of occasions, Bertoni negligently withdrew funds from the lawyer trust account resulting in the balance of the account dropping below the amount the firm should have been holding in trust for clients. He also failed to keep complete trust account records. No actual injury or loss resulted to clients or others from Bertoni’s actions.
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: Toni Yvette Anders; Daniel John Buri; Clark J. Davis; Judy Ann Heit; Pamela Jeanne Helling; Elizabeth Ashley Cranford Marshall; Jeffrey Craig Miller; Matthew Allen Miller; Karleen Frances Murphy; Virginia Rosalie Nicholson; Randy Scott Perlman; Michael Nello Poli; Brandon Francis Renken; Terry Allen Roberts; Melissa Jane Rogers; Daniel Ruttenberg; Lynn Edwin Sanders; Kelley June Sweeney; David Laurence Tarbet; Stephanie J Vardavas; and Jeffrey Scott Wilson.