Oregon State Bar Bulletin NOVEMBER 2015
Bar Actions - Discipline
Note: More than 15,000 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.
LOIS A. ALBRIGHT
Pursuant to a stipulation for discipline approved by the disciplinary board on July 29, 2015, Lois Albright was publicly reprimanded for violating RPC 1.6(a) (disclosure of client confidences).
Albright represented a client in a dissolution action. Several days before the scheduled trial date, Albright received a settlement offer from opposing counsel. When Albright asked the client to come into her office to discuss it, the client declined saying that she had a doctor’s appointment that day. The client revealed that she had certain physical symptoms that suggested the possible return of a previous health problem. She told Albright that she wanted to keep this information private.
The next day, Albright wrote a letter to opposing counsel explaining why the settlement could not be finalized. Contrary to client’s instructions, Albright revealed client’s health concerns and her desire to keep them confidential.
Albright’s unauthorized disclosures violated RPC 1.6(a), which prohibits lawyers from revealing information relating to the representation of a client without the client’s informed consent.
Suspended 60 days, all stayed; 3-year probation
Effective Aug. 27, 2015, the disciplinary board approved a stipulation for discipline suspending former Portland attorney Siovhan Sheridan for 60 days, all stayed, pending successful completion of a three-year probation for violations of the following: RPC 1.1 (competence); RPC 1.16(a)(2) (failure to withdraw when a mental condition materially impairs a lawyer’s ability to represent a client); RPC 1.16 (d) (failure to take reasonable steps to protect client’s interests on termination); RPC 8.1(c)(3) (failure to cooperate with SLAC or its designees); RPC 8.1(c)(4) (failure to comply with remedial programs established by SLAC); and RPC 8.4(a)(4) (conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice).
Sheridan represented a criminal defendant charged with an aggravated felony, illegal reentry. With limited criminal defense experience, she undertook to defend the client against the federal indictment and pursue a state court petition for post-conviction relief. Thereafter, Sheridan: 1) filed a petition for postconviction relief that was without basis in law or fact; 2) did not timely file her client’s postconviction relief petition; 3) filed one or more motions in the illegal reentry case that were without basis in law or fact; 4) was late to or failed to appear for hearings in the illegal reentry case; 5) failed to acquire the knowledge, skill, thoroughness or preparation reasonably necessary to represent her client in the postconviction matter; 6) failed to acquire the knowledge, skill, thoroughness or preparation reasonably necessary to represent her client in the illegal reentry case; 7) failed to cooperate with co-counsel appointed by the U.S. District Court to assist her in defending the illegal reentry case; 8) rendered legal advice to her client in the course of the illegal reentry case that was without basis in law or fact; and (9) filed an unfounded motion to recuse the U.S. District Court Judge in the illegal reentry case.
Sheridan stipulated that in 2013 she was referred to the State Lawyers Assistance Committee (SLAC), which determined her to be appropriately within its jurisdiction. Thereafter, Sheridan failed to comply with certain treatment and reporting requirements required by SLAC. The stipulation also considered that Sheridan had no prior disciplinary record, did not act with a dishonest or selfish motive and had personal or emotional problems.
By order dated Aug. 31, 2015, the disciplinary board approved a stipulation for discipline and publicly reprimanded Job Valverde for violating RPC 1.6(a) (revealing information relating to the representation of his clients without informed consent).
Valverde was employed as a civil rights investigator with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industry (BOLI). Valverde also operated a private immigration law practice. Although Valverde maintained a separate physical office outside of BOLI to meet with his private clients in the evenings and on weekends, from 2004 through February 2013 he stored documents relating to his clients’ legal matters on the state-owned computer located in his BOLI office. The client information was not adequately password-protected and, when Valverde ended his BOLI employment, his former supervisor accessed all of the client information stored on his BOLI computer. Further, under Oregon law, data stored on state-owned information assets is the property of the state, subject to its sole control.
Valverde did not obtain consent from his clients to store information relating to their legal matters on a state-owned computer or to make that information state property. By doing so, he revealed information relating to the representation of his clients without their informed consent.
Although there was no evidence that any client was actually prejudiced by the unauthorized disclosure of confidential information, Valverde stipulated that his clients were injured in that their information became state property and thus accessible by other state employees.
ANDREW J. LOPATA
90-day suspension, all stayed, 2-year probation
Effective Sept. 1, 2015, the disciplinary board approved a stipulation for discipline suspending Eugene attorney Andrew Lopata for 90 days, all stayed pending his successful completion of a two-year probation for violations of: RPC 1.3 (neglect); RPC 1.4(a) (failure to keep a client reasonably informed or comply with requests for information); RPC 1.5(a) (clearly excessive fee); and RPC 8.1(a)(2) (failure to respond to a disciplinary authority).
Lopata was given a flat fee to file a trademark application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Although Lopata completed the application, he failed to pay the filing fee and submit the application. Believing he had filed the application, he thereafter failed to inquire as to the application’s status.
When the client found, through her own investigation, that the application had not been filed, she tried a number of times to contact Lopata, but he did not return her telephone calls or emails. Lopata did not respond to the bar’s inquiries about the client’s complaint and was administratively suspended due to his lack of cooperation. Lopata later returned the client’s fee in full.
Although aggravated by his multiple offenses and his substantial experience in the practice of law, Lopata’s sanction was mitigated by his lack of prior relevant discipline, absence of a dishonest motive, remorse and the fact that he was experiencing personal and emotional problems during the period in which the conduct in these matters occurred that contributed to or exacerbated his misconduct.
Effective Nov. 1, 2015, the disciplinary board approved a stipulation for discipline suspending Milton-Freewater attorney Andy Millar for six months for violations of DR 1-102(A)(2) and RPC 8.4(a)(2) (criminal conduct reflecting adversely on fitness to practice law) and DR 1-102(A)(3) and RPC 8.4(a)(3) (misrepresentation reflecting adversely on fitness to practice law).
For 27 of 40 quarters in the 10-year period from 2000 through 2009, Millar willfully failed to pay over the amounts deducted and withheld from employee wages at the time said amounts were due, in violation of 26 USC §7202. During these same periods, Millar also willfully failed to file federal Form 941 on a quarterly basis, in violation of 28 USC §7203.
In paystubs, paychecks and year-end wage and tax statements provided to his employees for the relevant tax periods, Millar falsely represented that a portion of their gross wages had been withheld and paid over to the state of Oregon and the Internal Revenue Service on their behalf for income, Social Security and Medicare taxes.
The stipulation recited that Millar’s conduct was aggravated by a selfish motive, a pattern of misconduct, multiple offenses and substantial experience in the practice of law. In mitigation, Millar had no prior relevant discipline, was experiencing personal or emotional problems during portions of the relevant time periods, had other penalties and sanctions imposed upon him and expressed remorse. Millar has been an attorney in Oregon since 1989.