|Oregon State Bar Bulletin JUNE 2007|
Note: More than 12,900 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.
Note: More than 13,000 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.
On Dec. 14, 2006, the Oregon Supreme Court issued an opinion suspending Bend lawyer Craig C. Coyner for three months, effective Feb. 12, 2007, for violating DR 1-102(A)(4) (engage in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice), DR 1-103(C) (failure to cooperate in bar investigation), DR 6-101(B) (neglect of a legal matter), DR 7-106(A) (disregard a court order or ruling), DR 9-101(A) (failure to deposit client funds in trust) and DR 9-101(C)(3) (failure to provide appropriate accounting to a client) in three matters. In addition, Coyner will have to apply for formal reinstatement, as provided by Bar Rule 8.1.
In one matter, Coyner undertook to represent a client in an appeal. For nearly one year Coyner did not communicate with his client and took no action with respect to her appeal. During that year, the court of appeals dismissed the appeal because Coyner failed to file a brief on his client’s behalf. Coyner failed to inform his client about the dismissal. Coyner also failed to respond to a show cause order and other inquiries by the court of appeals.
In a second matter, Coyner undertook to represent a client in a proceeding the client had initiated to modify his child support obligation. The client provided Coyner with certain discovery requested by the opposing lawyer, but Coyner failed to produce that discovery to the opposing lawyer. The opposing lawyer filed a motion to dismiss the proceedings. Coyner failed to respond to the motion and failed to inform his client that it had been filed. The court granted the dismissal and ordered Coyner’s client to pay attorney fees incurred by the opposing side. Coyner failed to inform his client about the court’s decision or about the monetary judgment that had been taken against him. In the matter, Coyner prematurely withdrew client funds from his trust account, and failed to respond to his client’s requests for a written accounting. Coyner also failed to provide certain information requested by the bar.
In a third matter, Coyner was conditionally released on pending criminal charges. One condition of the court-ordered release prohibited him from consuming alcohol. On two occasions, Coyner violated that condition. In that matter, Coyner also failed to respond to the bar’s inquiries about his conduct.
The supreme court concluded that a three-month suspension coupled with the requirement that Coyner go through the formal reinstatement process would adequately protect the public and give Coyner a reasonable opportunity to show that he has overcome his alcohol dependency and is fit to practice law.
Form B resignation
Effective Feb. 21, 2007, the Oregon Supreme Court accepted the Form B resignation of former Portland and Wilsonville attorney, Cheryl Chadwick. At the time of the resignation, a formal disciplinary proceeding was pending against Chadwick following her criminal conviction in federal court for money laundering. The disciplinary complaint alleged violations of: DR 1-102(A)(2) (criminal conduct reflecting adversely on fitness to practice law); DR 1-102(A)(3) (conduct involving fraud or dishonesty); DR 7-102(A)(7) (counseling or assisting a client in illegal or fraudulent conduct); DR 7-102(A)(8) (knowingly engaging in illegal conduct) and ORS 9.527(2) (felony conviction).
The formal proceeding also dealt with a separate client matter related to Chadwick’s representation of a criminal defendant and alleged violations of: DR 2-106(A) (charging or collecting an illegal or clearly excessive fee); DR 2-110(A)(3) (withdrawing without taking reasonable steps to protect client interests); DR 9-101(A) (failing to deposit or maintain client funds in trust) and DR 9-101(C)(3) (failing to account for client funds or property).
Chadwick was admitted to practice in 2000. In her resignation, she stated that her client files were delivered to Lynne Morgan in Portland.
On Jan. 2, 2007, the disciplinary board approved a stipulation for discipline suspending Eugene lawyer Patrick T. Hughes for 60 days, effective March 3, 2007, for violating DR 6-101(B) and RPC 1.3 (neglect of a legal matter) and RPC 1.4(a) (failure to promptly comply with client’s reasonable request for information).
Between October 2002 and October 2004, Hughes undertook to represent insurance companies in four subrogation matters. In all four matters, Hughes periodically performed some work but failed to take constructive action to advance the matters, failed to maintain adequate communications with his clients’ representative and failed to promptly comply with reasonable requests for information from his clients’ representative.
Effective Feb. 26, 2007, the disciplinary board approved a stipulation for discipline publicly reprimanding Milwaukie attorney Benjamin Karlin for violations of RPC 1.3 (neglect of a legal matter), RPC 1.4(a) (failure to keep a client reasonably informed about the status of a matter) and RPC 1.4(b) (failure to explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit the client to make informed decisions).
The charges arose in connection with Karlin’s representation of two separate clients. In the first matter, Karlin was retained to file and represent a client in a divorce. Although he timely prepared and filed a petition for dissolution of marriage, thereafter he did not arrange for service of the petition on his client’s wife within a reasonable time or take any substantive action in the case prior to being terminated by his client a number of months later.
In a second matter, Karlin was hired to attempt to eliminate a spousal support obligation. Karlin reviewed the matter and prepared a motion and affidavit for a modification of spousal support. However, the motion was never filed with the court. Karlin had used up the retainer the client had paid, but did not inform the client of this or request any additional funds. Thereafter, Karlin took no action on the case and did not provide substantive responses to his client’s inquiries. Karlin never explained to his client that he had more pressing matters or that there was any reason that the modification of support could not go forward.
Karlin’s conduct was aggravated in part by his substantial experience in the practice of law, having been admitted in 1982. However, the stipulation recited among those factors in mitigation, Karlin’s absence of prior discipline, absence of a dishonest or selfish motive and cooperation with the bar.
Pursuant to a stipulation for discipline approved by the disciplinary board on March 2, 2007, St. Helens lawyer Clayton J. Lance was suspended from the practice of law for six-months, effective April 1, 2007, for violation of DR 6-101(A) (lack of competence), DR 6-101(B) (neglect of a legal matter), RPC 1.15-1(d) (failure to promptly deliver client property) and RPC 8.1(a)(2) (failure to respond to the bar).
The charges arose out of two client matters. In the first client matter, Lance was appointed to represent a client who had been charged in state court with multiple counts of sexual crimes against minors or young men. The client had also been indicted in federal court on three counts of related crimes.
The evidence against Lance’s client was overwhelming, and it was in the client’s best interest to negotiate an agreement that would reduce the length of the client’s incarceration. Nonetheless, Lance did not communicate with his client, respond to the client’s attempts to communicate with him or apply for funds to pay an investigator for several months. The client lost confidence in Lance during this period. Once Lance began to communicate with his client, he failed to take any steps to regain the client’s confidence or explore or discuss with the client his options and their consequences. Lance failed to take steps to assist his client to make an informed decision about the merits of the case or his legal options. Lance also failed adequately to prepare for trial in that he failed to prepare his client to testify and failed to subpoena lay and expert witnesses.
In a second matter, Lance had represented a client in a criminal matter. At the conclusion of the representation, the client retained new counsel to represent him in a post-conviction relief proceeding. Both the client and his new counsel requested that Lance return the client’s file. Lance failed to do so, despite several requests. Thereafter, Lance failed to respond to inquiries by disciplinary counsel’s office.
In arriving at the sanction, the stipulation recited Lance’s substantial experience in the practice of law, his prior disciplinary record, that he had engaged in a pattern of misconduct that involved multiple offenses and that the victims of his conduct were vulnerable because each was incarcerated at the time of the conduct. In mitigation, the stipulation recited that at the time of the conduct, Lance was experiencing fatigue, nausea, dizziness and severe headaches, which, according to later diagnosis, were caused by coronary artery disease.