|Oregon State Bar Bulletin NOVEMBER 2009|
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.
MATTHEW P. ZANOTELLI
On Aug. 20, 2009, the disciplinary board approved a stipulation for discipline reprimanding attorney Matthew P. Zanotelli, formerly of Salem, for violations of RPC 1.1 (lack of competence), and RPC 1.7(a) (current client conflict of interest).
Matthew Zanotelli undertook to represent a recently married elderly couple in regaining control of the wife’s finances from others to whom she had earlier granted powers of attorney. At the time, Zanotelli was unaware that the wife suffered from dementia and that the husband was a recently convicted felon. Zanotelli failed to utilize the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation; he failed to adequately inquire of the wife concerning the representation and he failed to recognize that the wife suffered from severe dementia. Zanotelli also failed to recognize a significant risk existed that his representation of the interests of the husband would materially limit his representation of the wife. Upon receiving medical evidence of the wife’s dementia, Zanotelli promptly and voluntarily withdrew from any further representation of the husband and wife.
Zanotelli had no prior disciplinary history and at the time of the violations he had less than two years experience in the practice of law. The stipulation also noted that Zanotelli intended to help the wife, that he did not act with a selfish or dishonest motive and that he made a timely good faith effort to rectify his conduct.
GREGORY W. OLSON
Effective Aug. 24, 2009, the disciplinary board approved a stipulation for discipline suspending Scappoose lawyer Gregory W. Olson for 180-days, for violating: RPC 4.1 (false statement of material fact to third person); RPC 8.1(a)(1) (false statement of material fact in response to inquiry from disciplinary authority); RPC 8.4(a)(3) (conduct involving misrepresentation) and RPC 8.4(a)(4) (conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice).
In 2006, Olson was a senior deputy district attorney and represented the state of Oregon in a criminal matter in which it was alleged that father engaged in inappropriate sexual contact with his minor child. The criminal matter went to trial in July 2006. In the criminal matter, the minor’s grandmother testified on behalf of the father. The jury acquitted the father.
Six weeks after the verdict, the mother, who had custody of the minor, was arrested on drug charges. The Department of Human Services (DHS) learned about the arrest from Olson, removed the minor child from the mother’s custody, and placed her into protective custody. A few days later, in response to a telephone call from DHS concerning placement of the minor child with the grandmother, Olson, believing that DHS should not place the minor with the grandmother, represented to DHS that during father’s trial, the grandmother lied several times while on the stand and was warned by the judge several times about her behavior while on the stand. At the time, or within a few days of making that representation to DHS, Olson knew that at least part of it was false and material. Olson failed to correct the misrepresentation he had made to DHS.
Also, during the bar’s investigation into his conduct, Olson knowingly made false and material misrepresentations to the bar.
L. ROSS BROWN
Effective Sept. 1, 2009, a trial panel of the disciplinary board imposed a 90-daysuspension on Bend lawyer L. Ross Brown for violation of RPC 1.15-1(c) (failure to deposit and maintain client funds in a lawyer trust account).
Brown entered into an oral retainer agreement that called for his client to pay a non-refundable flat fee, deemed earned on receipt, for representation in a criminal law matter. The client paid the flat fee, which Brown deposited into his lawyer trust account. Prior to either reducing the non-refundable fee agreement to writing as required by law or completing the representation for which the flat fee was paid, Brown made a series of withdrawals from the funds in trust for his own use. The panel found that Brown acted negligently and without any dishonest motive in doing so. Brown had no prior disciplinary history.
LAUREN J. PAULSON
On Sept. 3, 2009, the Oregon Supreme Court issued an opinion disbarring Aloha lawyer Lauren J. Paulson for violating: DR 1-102(A)(4) and RPC 8.4(a)(4) (conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice); DR 2-106(A) (charging and collecting a clearly excessive fee); RPC 1.16(a)(1) (mandatory withdrawal); RPC 1.16(d) (failing to properly withdraw); RPC 3.3(a)(1) (false statement of material law or fact to a tribunal); RPC 5.5 (unlawful practice of law); RPC 8.1(a)(2) (failing to respond in a bar investigation) and RPC 8.4(a)(3) (conduct involving misrepresentation). The disbarment is effective Nov. 2, 2009.
In one matter, between October 2001 and May 2004, Paulson represented himself as trustee and claiming successor pursuant to the estate planning documents of a deceased client. The court found that settling the estate and distributing the assets to the beneficiaries, a married couple, should have been a straightforward process, because the estate consisted of few assets and few claims. The court concluded that Paulson took few or no significant steps to facilitate distribution and more often he delayed, frustrated and actively interfered with efforts to settle and resolve claims against the estate and distribute assets to the beneficiaries. Among other things, Paulson improperly commingled his billings and double-charged for certain services.
In a number of matters, Paulson continued to practice law or held himself out as eligible to practice law as of Oct. 15, 2006, the effective date of a six-month suspension imposed on Paulson in an earlier disciplinary proceeding. He also failed to withdraw or otherwise take steps to the extent reasonably practicable to protect his clients’ interests in anticipation of the suspension. Furthermore, in pleadings filed with various courts, Paulson falsely represented that the proceeding resulting in the six-month suspension was on appeal.
In all of the matters described above, and in an additional matter, Paulson knowingly failed to respond to the bar’s investigation into his conduct.
The court considered and rejected numerous procedural challenges and affirmative defenses asserted by Paulson.
LAWRENCE L. TAYLOR
Effective Sept. 28, 2009, the disciplinary board approved a stipulation for discipline publicly reprimanding Portland lawyer Lawrence Taylor for violations of: RPC 5.3(a) (failure to ensure that the conduct of a nonlawyer employee was compatible with the lawyer’s professional obligations); RPC 5.3(b) (ratification of misconduct by a nonlawyer employee) and RPC 8.4(a)(4) (conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice).
Taylor was appointed by the court to advise a pro se criminal defendant charged with the rape of a high school girl. Taylor made a motion to obtain the victim’s DHS records. The judge denied the motion, but agreed to reconsider it if Taylor could provide facts indicating that the DHS records were likely to contain information that could be used as exculpatory evidence.
Taylor instructed his investigator to serve trial subpoenas on several witnesses. Taylor also signed and provided to his investigator one or more blank subpoenas for potential additional witnesses. The investigator thereafter took it upon herself to issue one of these subpoenas to obtain the victim’s high school records, without permission from the victim or the court.
The school complied with the letter and subpoena it received from the investigator and sent the victim’s school records directly to Taylor. The disclosure of the victim’s school records to Taylor violated ORS 336.187(1), which limits to whom a school may disclose records.
When Taylor received the victim’s school records, he did not return them to the school or notify the school that they should not have been disclosed to him. Rather, he reviewed the victim’s school records and forwarded a portion of them to the defendant for his use in preparing cross-examination of the victim. Taylor also drafted and filed a second motion to obtain the victim’s DHS records using information obtained from the victim’s school records to justify disclosure of the DHS records.
Taylor’s second motion for the DHS records was granted. However, when the victim’s attorney learned that Taylor had obtained the school records, both she and the DA moved to suppress both the school records and the DHS records. Following hearing, the judge suppressed all the records, finding that Taylor’s only basis for obtaining the DHS records was information he had gleaned from the improperly obtained school records.
Despite the presence of a vulnerable victim, the sanction reflected mitigation including the absence of prior discipline; the absence of a dishonest or selfish motive, and cooperation in the disciplinary proceedings.
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: Sharon Elizabeth Chirichillo, Andrea Charlene Freimuth, Rebecca Elizabeth Harrison, Brooke Allison Hartmann, Joanne Henry, James Kuan, John Clinton Manly, Terence K. McGee, Robert Wayne Mitchell, Joel Robert Paisner, Patrecia Powell, Cathy Marie Wall-Schindler, and John Thomas Witherspoon.
House Counsel: Alison Denise Marsh and David Jonathan Mlodinoff.
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:
Deborah S. Berg, #771141. Inactive in Oregon since 1996, this Seattle resident was employed from 2003 to 2009 as vice president and underwriting counsel for Lawyers Title Insurance Corp., in Washington. She has been a Washington bar member since 1981. Following her reinstatement, Berg will serve as counsel for a renewable energy firm.
Kathey I. Shaw, #813684. Shaw, currently of Portland, transferred to inactive status in 2003 after moving to the Oregon coast. Following her reinstatement, she will join a law practice focusing on bankruptcy law.
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.