|Oregon State Bar Bulletin DECEMBER 2011|
Note: More than 14,000 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.
JUSTIN ROBERT STEFFEN
Eugene Admission denied
On Sept. 22, 2011, the Oregon Supreme Court denied admission to Justin Robert Steffen of Eugene for failing to cooperate and comply with the Board of Bar Examiners’ investigation into the merits of his application to practice law in Oregon. The board requested information from Steffen about certain past-due debts and judgments. Steffen did not comply, asserting that his filing for bankruptcy and the application of federal bankruptcy law precluded any inquiry into his past financial obligations.
Citing established law in Oregon, the court said that the fact an applicant filed for bankruptcy does not, by itself, disqualify the applicant from admission. (The board did not contend otherwise.) However, the circumstances that led to the bankruptcy, particularly whether the bankruptcy was the result of extraordinary hardship, as opposed to selfish or irresponsible conduct, are relevant in determining an applicant’s character and fitness. Accordingly, inquiries about Steffen’s handling of his debts and unpaid judgments were well within the scope of the Board of Bar Examiners’ investigatory mandate. Steffen’s failure to comply with the board’s investigation was grounds for denying his admission under the applicable rules for admission.
THOMAS P. McELROY
Pursuant to a stipulation for discipline approved by the disciplinary board on Oct 18, 2011, Portland lawyer Thomas P. McElroy was publicly reprimanded for violations of RPC 1.15-1(a) and RPC 1.15-1(c).
The charges arose out of McElroy’s management of his lawyer trust account. For approximately one year, McElroy deposited credit card payments for fees and costs paid in advance directly into his office general account and then transferred them into his lawyer trust account. In February 2011, McElroy wrote a nonsufficient funds check against his lawyer trust account. The resulting overdraft of the account was caused by a failure in March 2010 to transfer a client’s credit card payment of advanced fees from his office general account into his lawyer trust account. Thereafter, McElroy made payments on behalf of this client out of his trust account when the client had no money in the account.
In arriving at a sanction, the stipulation recited that McElroy had been previously admonished for violations of RPC 1.15-1(a) and RPC 1.15-1(c), and had substantial experience in the practice of law, but did not act with a dishonest or selfish motive and made full and free disclosures to the bar.
THEODORA HSIA LENIHAN
OSB # 084006
Effective Oct. 25, 2011, the disciplinary board approved a stipulation for discipline suspending Theodora Hisa Lenihan for 60 days for violating RPC 1.15-2(m) (failure to comply with annual certification of lawyer trust account), and RPC 8.1(a)(2) (failure to respond to lawful requests from a disciplinary authority).
Lenihan failed to file the 2010 IOLTA certification of compliance and subsequently did not respond to inquiries from the bar’s disciplinary counsel’s office. Lenihan was admitted to the practice of law in 2008. She had no prior record of discipline.
J. KEVIN HUNT
Effective Nov. 1, 2011, the disciplinary board approved a stipulation for discipline reprimanding Oregon City attorney J. Kevin Hunt for violations of RPC 1.4(a) and (b) (failure to adequately communicate with a client).
Hunt’s violations stem from his representation of a pro bonoout-of-state client in a custody dispute. Following a modification hearing, one or more drafts of the proposed judgment were sent by opposing counsel to Hunt, but he did not provide copies to the client or consult with her about their content.
Thereafter, opposing counsel filed a request for attorney fees, but Hunt did not notify the client of this request, or of his belief that there was no basis to object to it, and took no action to oppose the motion. Once the supplemental judgment for fees was signed and entered, Hunt did not send a copy of it to the client or otherwise notify her that it had been entered.
The stipulation recited that the client suffered no actual injury, and while Hunt was previously reprimanded for failing to adequately communicate with a client in 2007, his conduct in this instance was mitigated by a number of factors including his lack of a dishonest or selfish motive and his cooperation in disciplinary proceedings.
OSB # 830337
Effective Dec. 1, 2011, the disciplinary board suspended James Dodge for 90 days for violations of RPC 1.3 (neglect of a legal matter) and RPC 1.4(a) (failure to keep client reasonably informed about the status of a matter). Dodge undertook to represent the plaintiff in a personal injury claim to recover damages for injuries he sustained in an automobile accident. Dodge entrusted the management and investigation of the claim to his legal assistant. After the litigation was filed, the defendants failed to file an answer to the complaint. Thereafter, Dodge failed to obtain a default or judgment, require the defendants to file an answer or take any other action on the case. Ultimately, with notice to Dodge, the court dismissed the case for lack of prosecution. Dodge failed to take any action to reinstate the case for two months, despite reminders from opposing counsel and his office staff of the need to do so. When he filed a motion to reopen, it was denied by the court. During the representation, Dodge failed to inform his client that the court intended to dismiss his case; was slow to inform his client when the court dismissed the case; and failed to inform his client that the statute of limitations had run on his claim.
In determining an appropriate sanction, the stipulation recited that Dodge had a record of prior discipline which included a reprimand in 1997, a suspension in 2002 and a reprimand in 2008.
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: Louis Benjamin Allen; Steven James Boender; Vito Ray de la Cruz; Ross Norman Driver; Keely Elizabeth Duke; Royce Deryl Edwards, II; Peter Anthony Guerrero; Mikas Kalinauskas; Maria Dawn Keddis; Charles Thomas Meyer; Susan Son Chu Namkung; Craig Arthur Peterson; Anne Mueller Redman; Selena Clare Smith; Robert Charles Torch; and Sara Maurer Vanderhoff.
In- House Counsel: Jordan Sloan Rattray.
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:
Parrish E. Pynn of Arizona, #983277. Parrish Pynn transferred to inactive status in 1998 after joining Intel Corp., as a contracts manager, a position not involving the practice of law. Seven years ago, Pynn registered with the Arizona Bar as an in-house counsel, allowing his move into an in-house counsel position with Intel. He will remain employed by Intel Corp., following his reinstatement.
Eric A. Trice of Portland, #991154. Inactive since 2003, Eric Tice has worked in the fields of sports apparel design and marketing for Adidas and Nike. Presently, he is director of Sport Capitol Northwest, co-owner of a music and entertainment company, and owner of Trice Athletics. Upon reinstatement, Mr. Trice plans to establish a solo law practice focusing on sports and entertainment 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.