|Oregon State Bar Bulletin DECEMBER 2008|
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.
GREGORY P. BARTON
On Oct. 12, 2008, the disciplinary board approved a stipulation for discipline reprimanding Portland lawyer Gregory P. Barton for violation of DR 1-102(A)(2) (criminal conduct that reflects adversely on fitness to practice law).
Barton maintained a marijuana grow site pursuant to the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act. Law enforcement officers checked the site and discovered an excess of marijuana plants. Barton subsequently pled guilty to felony unlawful possession of marijuana. The conviction was reduced to a misdemeanor after Barton successfully completed a period of probation.
Barton had no prior disciplinary record.
Form B resignation
Effective Oct. 3, 2008, the Oregon Supreme Court accepted the Form B resignation of Corvallis attorney, Steven Black.
At the time of the resignation, a formal disciplinary proceeding was pending in which it was alleged that Black engaged in criminal conduct that reflected adversely on his fitness to practice law in violation of DR 1-102(A)(2) and knowingly made a false statement of material fact in connection with a disciplinary matter in violation of RPC 8.1(a)(1).
Black was admitted to practice in 1978. He received a one year suspension from bar membership in January 2007, and had not applied for reinstatement prior to his resignation.
Pursuant to a stipulation for discipline approved by the disciplinary board on Oct. 12, 2008, Portland lawyer James Dodge was publicly reprimanded for violating RPC 3.4(c) (knowingly disobeying an obligation under the rules of a tribunal) and RPC 8.4(a)(3) (conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice).
The charges arose out of a workers’ compensation mediation in which Dodge represented the claimant. After the parties signed a confidentiality agreement, the employer made an offer to settle all claims against it asserted by Dodge’s client, including an employment discrimination claim. After his client rejected the settlement offer, Dodge filed a discrimination complaint on his client’s behalf with the Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI). During the course of the BOLI investigation, Dodge revealed that the employer had made a settlement offer to his client and the dollar amount of that settlement offer, despite the confidentiality requirements of ORS 36.224(5) and the agreement he and his client had signed in the workers’ compensation mediation.
In arriving at a sanction, the stipulation recited Dodge’s prior disciplinary record and substantial experience in the practice of law. In mitigation, the stipulation provided that Dodge did not act with a dishonest or selfish motive and displayed a cooperative attitude toward the bar proceedings.
MICHAEL E. FARTHING
On Oct. 19, 2008, the disciplinary board approved a stipulation for discipline reprimanding Eugene lawyer Michael E. Farthing for violating RPC 1.4(a) (failing to keep a client reasonably informed about the status of a matter and promptly comply with reasonable request for information).
In 2005, Farthing undertook to represent two clients in a land use matter. Between Aug. 30, 2007, and Dec. 11, 2007, the clients left numerous telephone messages for and sent numerous e-mails to Farthing requesting information about the status of their legal matter. Farthing failed to promptly respond to his clients’ inquiries.
The stipulation noted numerous mitigating circumstances, including a 30-year unblemished disciplinary record, the absence of a dishonest or selfish motive, personal or emotional problems, a cooperative attitude toward the proceedings, and remorse.
ROGER J. LEO
On Oct. 12, 2008, the disciplinary board approved a stipulation for discipline reprimanding Portland lawyer Roger J. Leo for violation of DR 5-105(C) (current client conflict of interest) and DR 5-105(E) (former client conflict of interest).
Leo represented a company in construction lien litigation and credit and collections matters, which supplied contractors with electrical materials. The company referred Leo to a contractor that was having difficulty collecting on construction work. At the time Leo undertook to represent the contractor, the contractor had open credit accounts with and owed money to the electrical supply company. Leo continued to represent the electrical supply company and the contractor after the contractor became delinquent on payments to the electrical supply company. Leo also assisted the contractor in financial planning matters in a manner that was potentially adverse to the electrical supplier.
Leo was subsequently employed by the contractor alone. The electrical supply company filed an action for payment and construction lien foreclosure against the contractor. Leo undertook to defend the contractor in the action, although he knew or should have known that his former representation of the electrical supply company provided him with confidences and secrets that would likely inflict injury upon the electrical supply company. To the extent that the representation of the contractor may have been permitted despite these conflicts, Leo did not have client consent after full disclosure.
In reaching the sanction, the stipulation noted that Leo acted negligently, rather than knowingly, and that the mitigating factors outweighed any aggravating factors. Leo had no prior disciplinary record.
TIMOTHY E. NIELSON
Effective Oct. 19, 2008, the disciplinary board approved a stipulation for discipline reprimanding Portland attorney Timothy Nielson for violations of RPC 1.3 (neglect) and RPC 1.4(a) (failure to adequately communicate with clients) in connection with Nielson’s representation of clients in a bankruptcy proceeding.
Following the initiation of foreclosure proceedings, Nielson advised his husband-and- wife clients to convert their Chapter 13 bankruptcy to a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. His clients agreed, and Nielson filed a motion to convert case to Chapter 7 with the bankruptcy court.
Shortly thereafter the court issued a notice of intent to deny the conversion to a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. His clients immediately discussed this situation with Nielson, who agreed to petition the court to convert their case back to a Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
However, Nielson thereafter failed to act and failed to respond to his clients’ attempts to contact him or substantively communicate with them regarding their bankruptcy for several months.
The stipulation noted that although there were multiple offenses and Nielson has substantial experience in the practice of law, he had no prior discipline, did not act with a dishonest motive, was cooperative and expressed remorse for his handling of his clients’ matter.
CHRISTOPHER K. SKAGEN
Wellington, New Zealand
Effective Oct. 21, 2008, the disciplinary board suspended former Portland lawyer Christopher Skagen for 18 months for violations of RPC 1.15-1(a) & (c). (These rules require lawyers to properly segregate client funds in a lawyer trust account and maintain sufficient records to account for each client’s funds until they are earned or utilized on behalf of the client.) Skagen violated these rules when, over the course of several months in 2005, he failed to deposit numerous clients’ funds earmarked for bankruptcy filing fees into his trust account and/or failed to create or maintain records to track these client funds, ultimately resulting in the overdraft of his lawyer trust account in November 2005.
Skagen had been previously suspended by the Oregon Supreme Court for a year in 2006 for similar violations and other misconduct. Also in aggravation, the trial panel found a pattern of misconduct, multiple offenses and substantial experience in the practice of law. In mitigation, the trial panel found that Skagen did not act with a dishonest or selfish motive.
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: Mila Melissa Chase, Lara Burgel Fowler, Steven Cyril Frol, Thomas Daniel Heffernan, Erik Robert Lied, Stephen Thaxton Parkinson, Melisa Kay Thompson, Kyra Kay Rohner and Sarah Nelson Turner.
Rule 8.10: Danielle Lynn Lordi.
House Counsel: John Gregory Berber.
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:
Alice Peters Diffely, #950319. Diffely of Portland transferred to inactive membership status shortly after her admission in Oregon because she was living and practicing law in San Francisco. She returned to Portland in 2005, where she has been an active community volunteer. She has no specific plans after reinstatement.
Tamara Alison Herdener, #972812. Inactive since 1998, Herdener served in the U.S. Army from 1998 to 2006 in several capacities, most recently as general counsel to the Armed Forces’ Institute of Pathology in Washington, D.C. She is now living on the Oregon coast and will be working as a city attorney following her reinstatement.
Sally Leisure, #830598. Portland resident Leisure was suspended for 18 months for disciplinary reasons effective July 11, 2005. In re Leisure, 338 Or 508, 113 P3d 412(2005). She has been employed in the mortgage business since April of 2006, and plans to remain in the industry following her reinstatement.
Dover A. Norris-York, #965680. Norris-York of Portland transferred to inactive status in 2001, and submitted a voluntary resignation in 2003. She left the practice of law to concentrate on her family, but is now seeking to return to the active practice of law. Norris-York has no specific plans following reinstatement.
Jocelyn M. Soriano, #971361. An active member of the California bar since 1999, Soriano’s practice in the San Francisco area has concentrated on civil litigation and products liability. She will continue to live and practice law in California following her reinstatement, with no plans to return to Oregon.
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 that the resumption of the practice of law in this state by these 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 Regulatory Services Division at the Oregon State Bar, P.O. Box 231935, Tigard, OR 97281-1935, (503) 620-0222, or (800) 452-8260, ext. 343.