Oregon State Bar Bulletin AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2014
Bar Actions - Discipline
Note: More than 14,800 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.
JUSTIN E. THRONE
1-year suspension, stayed pending 2-year probation
Effective June 1, 2014, the disciplinary board suspended Klamath Falls lawyer Justin Throne for one year, stayed in its entirety, pending successful completion of a two-year probation. Throne was found to have violated RPC 8.1(a)(2) (failure to respond to the bar); RPC 8.4(a)(2) (criminal conduct reflecting adversely on fitness to practice); and RPC 8.4(a)(3) (misrepresentation reflecting adversely on fitness to practice).
The charges arose primarily in connection with Throne’s tax obligations. He opted not to pay withholding taxes on his employees’ wages to the Oregon Department of Revenue for eight consecutive quarters between mid-2009 and mid-2011. However, he issued paystubs to his employees, which misrepresented that appropriate withholdings had been taken out of their wages to pay their state and federal taxes. During approximately the same time frame, Throne also did not file his federal personal income tax returns.
Throne did not respond to multiple inquiries from disciplinary counsel’s office inquiring about his tax matters. He failed to answer the bar’s complaint and an order of default was entered. Following a sanction hearing, the trial panel concluded that the bar had established the violations. They also found that Throne’s conduct was aggravated by prior discipline, a pattern of misconduct, multiple offenses and substantial experience in the practice of law, having been admitted in 2002. In mitigation, the trial panel found that Throne suffered from medical conditions that likely contributed to his misconduct.
Under the terms of his probation, Throne must provide proof that he has remedied his tax situation and timely file all state and federal tax returns for the duration of his probation. He must also take steps to address his physical and mental health issues, as well as his practice-management issues, and regularly report his progress to the bar.
ROBERT (BOB) BROWNING
Forest Grove Form B resignation
On June 12, 2014, the Oregon Supreme Court accepted the Form B resignation of Forest Grove lawyer Robert Browning.
At the time of his resignation, a number of allegations were pending against Browning, including that he engaged in the following: criminal conduct reflecting adversely on his honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer (RPC 8.4(a)(2)); conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation (RPC 8.4(a)(3)); and that he knowingly failed to respond to the inquiries of a disciplinary authority (RPC 8.1(a)(2)). These charges stemmed from the same conduct leading to Browning’s May 2013 conviction for 13 counts of first degree criminal mistreatment in Washington County. In his representation of his mother-in-law and mother, Browning had moved money from their investment and bank accounts into his own accounts without their permission and for his own purposes.
In addition to his criminal conduct, complaints were also pending related to other client matters, alleging that Browning, among other things, neglected legal matters entrusted to him (RPC 1.3), charged one or more excessive fees (RPC 1.5(a)) and failed to properly handle client funds (RPC 1.15-1).
The resignation indicated that all of Browning’s remaining client files had been turned over to the Professional Liability Fund, which accepted possession and custody of them.
JULIE D. SIONE
Manhattan Beach, Calif.
On June 12, 2014, pursuant to the bar’s BR 3.5 petition for reciprocal discipline, the Oregon Supreme Court publicly reprimanded Manhattan Beach, Calif., lawyer Julie D. Sione for violation of RPC 8.4(a)(4) (conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice) in one client matter and RPR 8.1(a)(2) (failure to respond to requests from the bar) in another.
In the first client matter, Sione failed to appear for trial of a DUII matter, with the result that a bench warrant was issued for her client’s arrest. When the client later appeared voluntarily, the court recalled the warrant and relieved Sione as counsel. In the second matter, Sione repeatedly failed to respond to the California state bar’s requests for information about a complaint filed by a client. In 2011, she signed an agreement in lieu of discipline with the State Bar of California regarding these matters, but failed to abide by the conditions of this agreement.
In arriving at the appropriate sanction, the court considered that Sione had committed multiple offenses. In mitigation, the court considered that Sione did not act with a dishonest or selfish motive, that she had personal or emotional problems associated with providing full-time end-of-life care for her father and that she had been disciplined (a public reproval) in California.
KARL W. KIME
Coeur d’Alene, Idaho
By order dated June 26, 2014, the Oregon Supreme Court suspended Coeur d’Alene attorney Karl W. Kime in a reciprocal discipline matter that arose after Kime was disciplined by the Idaho Supreme Court.
In September 2012, Kime was convicted in Kootenai County, Idaho, of felony driving under the influence (DUI). It was his fourth DUI offense and conviction in a year. The trial court sentenced him to one year in prison but suspended most of that term pending successful completion of a two-year supervised probation. Kime violated the probation in October 2012; in response the trial court revoked the probation and imposed a seven-year sentence. After Kime completed a 90-day treatment program, the trial court again suspended his sentence and placed him on another two-year supervised probation. That probation was revoked in December 2013, when Kime admitted that he had consumed alcohol on multiple occasions in the previous months.
In reciprocal discipline matters, the court analyzes the attorney’s conduct under Oregon’s rules and statutes. Pursuant to ORS 813.010(5)(a)(A)(i), DUII is a Class C felony if the person has been convicted at least three times in the 10 years prior to the current offense. The bar submitted that Kime’s conduct violated ORS 9.527(2) (conviction of an offense that is a misdemeanor involving moral turpitude or a felony under Oregon law) and RPC 8.4(a)(2) (committing a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness in other respects).
MICHAEL L. SPENCER
On June 26, 2014, the Oregon Supreme Court issued a decision suspending Klamath Falls lawyer Michael L. Spencer from the practice of law for 30 days, commencing Aug. 25, 2014, for violating RPC 1.8(a) (business transaction with a client).
After agreeing to represent a client in filing a bankruptcy, Spencer entered into an agreement to also serve as the client’s real estate broker and assisted her in finding and purchasing a home. The court found that by doing so Spencer had engaged in a business transaction with his client. Because he engaged in the transaction without advising his client in writing of the desirability of seeking independent legal advice and obtaining the client’s consent in a signed writing to the transaction’s essential terms and the role that he would play in the transaction, the court found Spencer had violated the advice and consent provisions of RPC 1.8(a). The court dismissed an additional charge that Spencer had engaged in a personal interest conflict of interest in violation of RPC 1.7(a)(2), finding the bar had not shown that the prospect of a real estate commission created a significant risk of materially limiting Spencer’s legal representation.
In imposing a 30-day suspension, the court recognized Spencer’s prior disciplinary history and the actual injury suffered by the client.
PHILIP A. HINGSON
60-day suspension, stayed pending 2-year probation
By order dated July 1, 2014, the disciplinary board approved a stipulation for discipline suspending Portland attorney Philip A. Hingson for 60 days, all of which is stayed pending a two-year probation.
Hingson represented the conservator in a matter pending in Washington County Circuit Court. In April 2013, Hingson filed an annual accounting that included an itemized statement for $8,700 in attorney fees. The next month, Hingson deposited a conservatorship check in that amount into trust, and after the statutory period for objections to the annual accounting had expired, submitted a proposed order to the court approving payment of his fees. Eleven business days later, Hingson disbursed the funds from trust. The court did not grant an order approving payment.
ORS 125.095(2)(c) requires prior court approval before payment of fees from a conservatorship estate to an attorney who has provided services relating to the conservatorship. By collecting a fee from the conservatorship without prior court approval, Hingson violated RPC 1.5(a) (collecting an illegal fee) and RPC 8.4(a)(4) (engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice).
Although Hingson has substantial experience in the practice of law, the stipulation recited that his conduct was mitigated by an absence of prior discipline, timely disclosure to his client and the court, full and free disclosure to the bar, and remorse.