Oregon State Bar Bulletin OCTOBER 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.
ROBERT A. BROWNING
Effective July 17, 2012, a trial panel suspended Forest Grove lawyer Robert A. Browning from the practice of law for 120 days for violating the following: RPC 1.3 (neglect of a legal matter); RPC 1.4(a) (failure to keep client reasonably informed about the status of a matter); RPC 1.4(b) (failure to explain a matter so as to permit the client to make informed decisions); RPC 1.7(a)(2) (current client conflict of interest); and RPC 8.1(a)(2) (failure to comply with a lawful demand for information from a disciplinary authority) in connection with two client matters.
The first clients retained Browning to help preserve their failing business while they tried to sell it. At the time of the contact, the landlord had repossessed the premises. For approximately 15 months, Browning did nothing to protect his clients’ interest or inform them of the status of their legal matter, despite their repeated requests for information.
Browning undertook to represent a second client in the administration of a small estate and the purchase of real property. He attended to the small estate matter only sporadically for the next six months. Thereafter, Browning took no further action for a period of time until he prepared and filed an affidavit of claiming successor. Browning took no action on the real property purchase matter.
Prior to, and during the time he represented the small estate client, Browning also represented the client’s creditor on her home loan, collecting payments for the creditor client made by the small estate client. Although Browning was aware he was representing both debtor and creditor, he failed to disclose the conflict of interest.
The trial panel found that Browning failed to timely respond to requests by the bar for information regarding the small estate matter in violation of RPC 8.1(a)(2). Browning was admitted to practice in Oregon in 1979. He has no prior record of discipline.
Rehoboth Beach, Del.
Reciprocal discipline: disbarment
On July 19, 2012, the Oregon Supreme Court disbarred Marlee Buckson based on discipline imposed in the state of Delaware.
The Delaware Supreme Court disbarred Buckson on Nov. 29, 2011, based on a stipulation of disbarment by consent (“stipulation”) between her and the Delaware’s Office of Disciplinary Counsel.
The stipulation recited that Buckson had pled guilty, on June 21, 2011, to a felony (theft of over $1,500) and two misdemeanors (endangering the welfare of a minor and resisting arrest) under Delaware law. For these crimes, Buckson was placed into the custody of Delaware’s Department of Corrections for two years (one year suspended) and ordered to comply with substance abuse treatment recommendations and make restitution to her former employer, a law firm.
The felony conviction arose from Buckson’s theft from her employer law firm of $3,293 from the firm’s general and trust accounts. Buckson’s conviction and conduct violated Delaware’s Rules of Professional Conduct as well as Oregon’s RPC 8.4(a)(2) (criminal conduct reflecting adversely on lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness to practice), RPC 8.4(a)(3) (conduct involving dishonesty, deceit, fraud or misrepresentation) and ORS 9.527(2) (conviction of felony or misdemeanor involving moral turpitude).
STEPHEN D. PETERSEN
On July 23, 2012, the disciplinary board approved a stipulation reprimanding Rainier lawyer Stephen Petersen for violating RPC 1.15-1(e) (failing to maintain disputed funds in trust).
Petersen represented plaintiff in a dispute regarding payment for cabinets he had fabricated for defendants. The defendants had refused to pay the plaintiff because they were dissatisfied with his work. The parties agreed to settle the matter. According to terms of the written settlement agreement, the defendants agreed to, and did, remit to Petersen a sum certain. Petersen was to, and did, deposit those funds into his lawyer trust account and was authorized to disburse the funds to plaintiff only after the defendants’ lawyer informed Petersen that cabinets plaintiff was to deliver were accepted by the defendants.
Plaintiff subsequently delivered cabinets to the defendants. On that same day, the plaintiff asked Peterson to disburse the funds to him. Plaintiff informed Petersen that when he delivered the cabinets, the defendants had not objected to them. Petersen disbursed the funds to plaintiff even though the defendants’ lawyer had not informed Petersen that the cabinets had been accepted.
On that same day, the defendants inspected the delivered cabinets, decided that they were not acceptable and informed their lawyer. The defendants’ lawyer immediately informed Petersen that the cabinets had not been accepted. By then, however, Petersen had already disbursed the funds to his client. The stipulation recited that there was no actual injury to the defendants because they eventually agreed to accept the cabinets delivered by plaintiff.
WILLIAM R. GOODE
Effective August 29, 2012, the disciplinary board suspended former Portland lawyer William Goode for 120 days for violations of Pennsylvania RPC 1.8(j) (sexual relations with a client) and RPC 4.2 (communication with a represented party).
While separated from his wife, Goode was contacted via the Internet by a woman in Pennsylvania seeking help with a potential federal discrimination lawsuit. Goode subsequently was admitted pro hac vice in Pennsylvania to handle the woman’s case. Early in their communications, Goode agreed to represent the woman and she believed herself to be Goode’s client from that point forward. Several months thereafter, the two began a sexual relationship. This conduct violated Pennsylvania RPC 1.8(j).
Shortly after the entry of judgment in Goode’s dissolution from his wife, Goode became frustrated that his wife was not timely paying an obligation assigned to her under the terms of the stipulated judgment. Although he was represented by counsel in the divorce, Goode communicated directly with his wife’s attorney about his concerns. The wife’s attorney objected and told Goode he would not respond to any further direct communication from Goode. When Goode later received no response to another communication he sent to his wife’s attorney, Goode wrote directly to his wife on his attorney letterhead and demanded that she pay her obligation or face a contempt action. This communication violated RPC 4.2.
The trial panel found that Goode caused actual injury to his client by engaging in a sexual relationship with her, and that he acted with a dishonest or selfish motive in committing both violations. Although Goode had no prior record of discipline and was cooperative with the bar, his sanction was aggravated by a pattern of misconduct, multiple offenses, his refusal to acknowledge the wrongful nature of his misconduct, the vulnerability of his victims, and substantial experience in the practice of law — Goode was admitted in Oregon in 1984.
L. ROSS BROWN
Form B resignation
Effective Aug. 16, 2012, the Oregon Supreme Court accepted the Form B resignation of inactive Bend lawyer L. Ross Brown.
Prior to his resignation, a trial panel disbarred Brown for the knowing conversion of funds reserved to pay a client’s medical creditors and related violations. Brown had requested review of the trial panel decision. His Form B resignation rendered that request moot.
Brown was admitted to practice in 1970. His resignation recited that he had not been actively engaged in the practice of law in the sate of Oregon at the time of his resignation and had no active clients, cases or files in his possession.
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: Christopher Neal Behre; Benjamin Robert Couture; Neil Gerald Dorfman; Ryan Hoopes Holden; Ryan Cresswell Kaiser; Amy Marie Lammers; Patrick Leo McGuigan; Rodney Richard Patula; Bruce Allen Pearson; Michele Leslie Power; Sonal Mahendrasinh Rana; and Matthew Jode Segal.
In-House Counsel: Elizabeth Ann Fouts.
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:
Jennifer M. Gleason of Eugene, #935198. Jennifer M. Gleason has been working for Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide since 1993. She also is an adjunct professor at the University of Oregon School of Law. Because neither position involves the active practice of law, Gleason transferred to inactive status on Feb. 1, 1994. She will continue in her present employment following reinstatement.
Kimberly M. Pfefer of Portland, #053471 . Kimberly M. Pfefer seeks reinstatement after transferring to inactive status on Jan. 30, 2007. While inactive, she primarily focused on family obligations but did work briefly in the real estate field. She has no specific plans after reinstatement, but may provide consulting services in the administrative appeals process within insurance companies.
Emily R. Swensen of Portland, #971759 . Emily R. Swensen has been administratively suspended since 2006 for nonpayment of membership fees. She has been employed as a paralegal with the Portland Development Commission for the past six years and will remain in that position following her reinstatement.
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.