|Oregon State Bar Bulletin JUNE 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.
LAURA J. IRELAND
On Jan. 17, 2012, a trial panel issued an opinion suspending Newport lawyer Laura J. Ireland from the practice of law for 30 days, effective March 24, 2012, for violating RPC 1.15-1(a) (failing to maintain client funds in trust) and RPC 1.15-1(c) (failing to deposit client funds into trust).
Ireland represented a client in a civil matter in which it was alleged that the defendants improperly shot and killed her client’s dog. Pursuant to a written fee agreement, the client paid an initial $2,000 nonrefundable retainer, which was earned upon receipt with the balance of any fees to be earned on a deferred contingent basis from any settlement or judgment.
The matter ultimately went to trial in June 2009. The court directed a verdict in favor of one defendant while the jury found in favor of the other defendant. During a break in the trial, a deputy district attorney told Ireland that in order for his office to pursue criminal abuse charges against the defendants, Ireland would need to convince the sheriff’s office to refer the matter for prosecution. Ireland, knowing that her client and his parents wanted the defendants to be criminally prosecuted, agreed to obtain a copy of the court records, write a letter to the sheriff’s office, and contact a few animal protection groups to see if they would be willing to put pressure on the sheriff’s office.
The following week, the client’s parents sent Ireland a check for $5,000 made payable to her firm. Ireland did not deposit the funds into her lawyer trust account; she asserted that she believed the money was a gift for her work in the civil case. The trial panel found that, while Ireland may have believed the $5,000 was a gift, the circumstances clearly established that at the time those funds were paid, the client and his parents were expecting additional legal services. The trial panel concluded that because Ireland knew that the death of the dog was a significant issue for the client and his parents and because Ireland failed to clarify the purpose of the payment, the $5,000 should have been treated as client funds and deposited into trust. In addition, the trial panel found that Ireland violated RPC 1.15-1(a) and RPC 1.15-1(c) when, after discovering that the $5,000 was not intended to be a gift, but instead a retainer, she did not deposit that amount into her trust account.
JESSICA S. CAIN
On March 28, 2012, the disciplinary board approved a stipulation reprimanding Newberg lawyer Jessica Cain for violating RPC 1.5(a) (charging a clearly excessive fee) and RPC 7.5(d) (using the name of a lawyer in the firm’s professional notices when the lawyer no long is with the firm).
In 2008, Cain represented clients in a bankruptcy matter. The clients agreed to pay certain hourly rates for work performed by lawyers and certain hourly rates for work performed by nonlawyers. In March 2009, Cain filed with the court an application for interim professional compensation in which she claimed a lawyer’s hourly rate for work done by a nonlawyer.
Cain’s firm employed associate lawyers who subsequently left the firm. For a period, the firm’s website continued to list one or more associate lawyers after they had left the firm.
CLAUD A. INGRAM
Pursuant to a stipulation for discipline accepted March 29, 2012, the disciplinary board reprimanded Eugene lawyer Claud A. Ingram for violations of RPC 1.2(a) (failing to consult with client or to abide by client’s decisions regarding objectives) and RPC 1.4(a) (failing to keep a client reasonably informed).
Ingram represented a former employee of a company who contended that she had been wrongfully discharged. Ingram filed an action against the company but during discovery learned information from which he concluded that his client had lied to him about her conduct and other relevant events. When the company moved for summary judgment, Ingram determined there was no meritorious basis on which his client could oppose that motion. Although Ingram announced this conclusion to his client, he did not discuss the direction of the case, determine her position or provide her a copy of the defense motion. When Ingram informed the company’s counsel that he would not oppose the motion for summary judgment, the company’s counsel asked whether Ingram’s client would agree to a stipulated judgment of dismissal without costs. Ingram did not convey this proposal to his client or attempt to determine her position.
Thereafter, Ingram did not notify his client when the court granted summary judgment or when the company’s counsel proposed a judgment of dismissal that provided costs against client. Ingram told the company’s counsel that he did not object to the form of judgment but did not notify his client that the court had dismissed her case. Ingram stipulated that, by failing to tell his client that he had conceded the defense motion, that the court had granted summary judgment and that her case was dismissed, he failed to keep his client reasonably informed about the status of the matter, in violation of RPC 1.4(a). By informing the defense counsel that he would not oppose the summary judgment motion before he consulted with his client and by failing to convey to her the proposed judgment of dismissal, Ingram failed to consult with his client, in violation of RPC 1.2(a).
Aggravating factors included prior discipline and substantial experience in the practice of law. Mitigating circumstances included an absence of a dishonest or selfish motive and the remoteness in time of the prior discipline. The extent of actual injury to the client was limited because the company did not ultimately seek costs against her.
KEVIN J. KINNEY
On March 28, 2012, the disciplinary board approved a stipulation reprimanding Newberg lawyer Kevin J. Kinney for violating RPC 1.5(a) (charging a clearly excessive fee), RPC 7.5(d) (using the name of a lawyer in the firm’s professional notices when the lawyer no longer is with the firm) and RPC 8.4(a)(4) (conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice).
Prior to mid-2008, the written fee agreement between Kinney and his clients specified the hourly rate the client would be charged for work performed by each attorney and staff member who worked on a matter. In mid-2008, Kinney’s billing program and written fee agreement was changed so that certain tasks, although performed by a nonlawyer, were charged at the supervising lawyer’s hourly rate (“minimum billing system”).
Beginning in 2007, Kinney represented a client in a dissolution of marriage proceeding. After mid-2008, Kinney charged the client under the minimum billing system when she had not agreed to those rates.
In 2008 and 2009, Kinney represented four clients in family law matters. In each matter, Kinney filed with the court declarations in support of a statement for attorney fees in which he represented that either he or another attorney had spent a certain amount of time rendering specific legal services in the matter. Because of the minimum billing system, this representation was inaccurate in that a nonlawyer had performed some of the legal services described in the declaration.
Kinney’s firm employed associate lawyers who subsequently left the firm. For a period, the firm’s website continued to list one or more associate lawyers after they had left the firm.
KAREN A. BISHOP
Effective April 2, 2012, the disciplinary board approved a stipulation for discipline reprimanding Karen A. Bishop for violating RPC 1.15-2(m) (failure to comply with annual certification of lawyer trust account) and RPC 8.1(a)(2) (failure to respond to lawful requests for information from a disciplinary authority).
Bishop failed to file the 2011 IOLTA certification of compliance by Jan. 31, 2011, and subsequently did not respond to inquiries from disciplinary counsel’s office. Bishop was admitted to the practice of law in 2000. She had no prior record of discipline.
THERESA I. SOTO
Pursuant to a stipulation for discipline effective April 5, 2012, the disciplinary board suspended Portland lawyer Theresa I. Soto for 7 months for violations of the following: RPC 1.1 (lack of competence); RPC 1.3 (neglect of a legal matter); RPC 1.4(a) and (b) (inadequate communication with a client); RPC 1.15-1(a) and (b) (trust account violations); RPC 1.15-1(d) (failure to promptly deliver client property); RPC 1.15-2(l) (failure to notify bar of trust account overdraft); RPC 1.16(a)(2) and (d) (withdrawal violations); and RPC 8.1(a)(2) (failure to respond in a disciplinary matter).
Soto was charged with ethics violations in six client matters. In three, Soto failed to deposit the client’s retainer into a lawyer trust account. She lacked the knowledge or experience necessary to advance the client’s claims in two matters. In five of the matters, she failed to communicate with or respond to the clients’ reasonable requests for information. Soto also transferred money from her personal bank account to her lawyer trust account in order to pay the monthly bills of a client and various commercial vendors. During this period of time, Soto was suffering from emotional difficulties that materially impaired her ability to represent her clients. Despite her condition, she did not make any effort to withdraw from the representations. In many of the matters, Soto also failed to respond to disciplinary counsel’s inquiries. Although she eventually made some response to the bar in most of the matters, she did so only after a long period of delay.
The stipulation recited that Soto’s conduct was aggravated by a pattern of misconduct, multiple offenses, and the vulnerability of some of her clients. In mitigation, Soto had no prior disciplinary record, was inexperienced in the practice of law, was remorseful, did not act with a selfish motive and suffered from personal problems and a physical disability that impaired her functioning.
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: Michael Bushnell Charlton; Micaela Ashe Guthrie; Timothy Jay Jarvis, Jr.; Taline Manassian; Patricia Carol Shea; Krista Susan Stearns; William Carl Thomas, III; and Kevin Charles Trock.
In-House Counsel: Bonnie Aileen Page and John Philip Weathers.
Notice of Reinstatement Application
The following attorneys have filed an application for reinstatement as an active member of the Oregon State Bar pursuant to Rule of Procedure (BR) 8.1:
Michael R. Blaskowsky of Canby, #841766. Michael Blaskowsky has been working as a legal analyst for the U. S. Bankruptcy Court in Portland since 2005. Because the position did not involve the practice of law, he transferred to inactive membership status on Aug. 22, 2005. Blaskowsky leaves the court at the end of April 2012, and seeks reinstatement to active status.
Ann Highet of Portland, #902999. Ann Highet seeks reinstatement following a disciplinary suspension which was effective Jan. 12, 2012. In re Highet, S Ct No. S059984. She has no current plans to return to the practice of law following her reinstatement.
Randall W. Rosa of California, #825006. Randall Rosa transferred his Oregon membership to inactive status in 1989, having moved to California where he had been admitted to practice law in 1986. Since his admission to the California State Bar, Rosa has been in private practice in Lodi, Calif. After reinstatement, he will provide elder law services in both Oregon and California.
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 whether the resumption of the practice of law in this state by the 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 OSB Regulatory Services Division, P.O. Box 231935, Tigard, OR 97281; phone: (503) 620-0222, or toll-free in Oregon, (800) 452-8260), ext. 343.