|Oregon State Bar Bulletin APRIL 2012|
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.
GARY F. DEAL
On Dec. 19, 2011, the disciplinary board approved a stipulation for discipline publicly reprimanding Eugene attorney Gary Deal for violating RPC 1.4(a) (failure to adequately respond to client inquiries).
Deal was appointed to represent a criminal defendant client. At the client’s request, Deal obtained a continuance of the first hearing. However, Deal thereafter failed to notify the client of the rescheduled hearing date. For three months, Deal failed to communicate with the client about the status of the case and failed to respond to inquiries from the client and the client’s relatives and girlfriend.
Deal was previously admonished under former DR 6-101(B) (current RPC 1.4(a)’s predecessor) for similar misconduct.
On Jan. 12, 2012, the Oregon Supreme Court issued an opinion dismissing all charges brought by the bar against a lawyer for conduct related to his efforts to collect on an attorney’s lien. The court’s opinion reversed a trial panel decision that found misconduct and suspended the lawyer for three months.
At the conclusion of a divorce case in which the lawyer represented the husband, the lawyer perfected an attorney’s lien for his unpaid fees. Under the circumstances, the lien should have been paid when the family home was later sold, but a sale occurred without notice or payment to the lawyer. The lawyer then sued all persons connected with the sale, including the husband, the wife, the buyers of the house, the title company that closed the sale and others. The lawyer eventually settled with some, but not all, defendants and he declined to reveal the terms of the settlement to the nonsettling defendants, arguing that a confidentiality provision in the settlement agreement prohibited him from doing so. A substantial amount of litigation ensued before the terms of settlement eventually were disclosed.
The bar alleged, among other things, that the lawyer: misrepresented to opposing parties and to the trial court that he was precluded by the settlement agreement from disclosing the terms of settlement, and attempted to recover, by settling with some defendants and continuing to litigate against others, more than he was entitled to under the law. However, the state supreme court determined that the bar did not establish by clear and convincing evidence that the lawyer made any knowing misrepresentations and that the lawyer had plausible legal arguments for taking the positions that he did during the litigation.
DAVID R. AMBROSE
Effective Jan. 25, 2012, the disciplinary board reprimanded Portland lawyer David R. Ambrose for violations of RPC 1.7(a)(2) (current client conflict) and RPC 1.8(a) (business transaction with a client).
Ambrose undertook to represent a real estate developer in various matters. While that representation was ongoing, commencing in 2006, Ambrose entered into a business venture with the developer without first obtaining the developer’s informed consent to the essential terms of the project, including whether Ambrose represented the developer in the project. In the course of pursuing the project, there was a significant risk that Ambrose’s representation of the entities involved in the venture would be materially limited by his representation of other clients or by Ambrose’s personal interests. Ambrose made some written disclosures concerning potential conflicts of interest in the documentation he created to pursue the venture, but they were insufficient to establish the informed consent of the affected clients.
The developer client also owed money to another of Ambrose’s clients. Ambrose represented the lending client in modifying the loan to the developer client. Although Ambrose obtained the informed consent, confirmed in writing, of the developer client (whom he did not represent in the transaction), he failed to obtain the same from the lending client.
Ambrose was admitted to practice in Oregon in 1979. He has no prior record of discipline.
JASON D. CASTANZA
Form B resignation
Effective Feb. 2, 2012, the Oregon Supreme Court accepted the Form B resignation of Eugene lawyer Jason D. Castanza. At the time of resignation, the bar was pursuing a disciplinary proceeding in which Castanza was alleged to have violated RPC 8.4(a)(3) (conduct involving misrepresentation) and RPC 8.4(a)(4) (conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice) in one matter, and RPC 3.5(b) (improper ex parte communication) and RPC 8.4(a)(4) (conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice) in a second matter.
Castanza was admitted to practice in 1997. His resignation recited that client files and records would be transferred to Francisco C. Segarra.
PAULA M.B. HAMMOND
Form B resignation
By order dated Feb. 16, 2012, the Oregon Supreme Court accepted Paula M.B. Hammond’s Form B resignation.
In submitting her resignation, Hammond acknowledged that she did not desire to contest or defend against several pending bar complaints involving alleged: failures to provide competent representation (RPC 1.1); neglect (RPC 1.3); failures to communicate with clients (RPC 1.4(a)); collecting clearly excessive fees (RPC 1.5(a)); failures to refund unearned fees or to return client property upon request (RPC 1.15-1(d)); knowingly violating a court order (RPC 3.4(c)); dishonesty or misrepresentation (RPC 8.4(a)(3)); and engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice (RPC 8.4(a)(4)).
When Hammond submitted her resignation, the bar was investigating two complaints that she failed to file bankruptcy petitions, failed to respond to clients’ requests for information and converted client funds (advance fees). In addition, the United States Trustee reported Hammond’s conduct in three pending bankruptcy proceedings; her conduct in those cases involved alleged neglect, failing to appear for a hearing, disobeying a court order to refund legal fees and failing to withdraw.
The bar was also investigating allegations that Hammond neglected a QDRO matter and misrepresented its status to her client. Finally, the bar was investigating a complaint that Hammond failed to keep a client informed about the status of his legal matter (applying for a PERS benefits modification) and that, upon termination of representation, she failed to promptly return his papers or to refund or account for unearned advance fees.
RONLON W. SYDOW
Form B resignation
Effective Feb. 16, 2012, the Oregon Supreme Court accepted the Form B resignation of Vancouver lawyer Ronlon W. Sydow. At the time of resignation, the bar was pursuing a disciplinary proceeding in which Sydow was alleged to have violated the following: RPC 1.6(a) and Florida RPC 4-1.6(a) (disclosure of client confidences or secrets); RPC 3.4(c) (knowingly disobey an obligation under the rules of a tribunal); Florida 4-3.5(b) (improper ex parte contact); and RPC 8.4(a)(4) and Florida RPC 4-8.4(d) (conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice).
Sydow was admitted to practice in 2006. His resignation recited that he has not been actively engaged in the practice of law in the state of Oregon for more than one year and therefore has no client files in his possession.