Oregon State Bar Bulletin JANUARY 2014
Note: More than 14,800 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.
Effective Aug. 14, 2014, a trial panel suspended Portland lawyer Thomas Ifversen from the practice of law for one year, to run consecutively with Ifversen’s current one-year suspension imposed in In re Thomas Ifversen, Case No. 12-63, for violating RPC 1.3 (neglect of a legal matter), RPC 8.1(a)(2) (knowingly failing to respond to lawful demand for information from disciplinary authority) and RPC 8.4(a)(3) (conduct involving misrepresentation).
Ifversen represented a client in expunging three criminal convictions in two counties. The client had recently received a job offer from an employer who conducted background checks and knew he would not be hired unless his convictions were expunged. For five months, Ifversen failed to file the motions for expungement. On several occasions during this time, Ifversen misrepresented to the client that he had filed the motions, and on several occasions, misrepresented the status of the expungement matters. The client was unable to accept the job offered to him. When the client complained to the bar, Ifversen failed to respond to the bar’s inquiries.
In determining the appropriate sanction, the trial panel considered Ifversen’s prior disciplinary offenses and that he acted with a selfish motive, engaged in a pattern of misconduct that involved multiple offenses and had substantial experience in the practice of law.
LEODIS C. MATTHEWS
Los Angeles, Calif.
By order dated Oct. 17, 2013, the Oregon Supreme Court reprimanded attorney Leodis C. Matthews in a reciprocal discipline matter arising in California.
In 1999, Matthews represented a corporation in acquiring an option to purchase a building. Matthews had arranged funding for the acquisition through investors and, pursuant to his fee agreement, obtained an interest in the option. Shortly thereafter, the corporation changed management, decided to sell the option and terminated Matthews’ representation. Matthews then formed a new corporation to purchase the option from his former client. Matthews represented the new corporation in negotiations with his former client without obtaining consent after full disclosure from his former client.
In reciprocal discipline matters, the court analyzes the attorney’s conduct under Oregon’s rules and statutes. The bar submitted that Matthews’ conduct violated former DR 5-105(C) (former client conflict of interest) and warranted a public reprimand. The bar argued that the 13-year delay in the California proceedings mitigated against a more serious sanction.
EARLE A. PARTINGTON
Santa Rosa, Calif.
By order dated Oct. 17, 2013, the Oregon Supreme Court suspended attorney Earle A. Partington for 60 days in a reciprocal discipline matter that arose from discipline imposed by the Supreme Court of Hawaii (30-day suspension), the Navy Office of Judge Advocate General (indefinite suspension) and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (one-year suspension).
Partington appeared as civilian defense counsel for a Navy mechanic charged with multiple counts of video voyeurism, possession and manufacture of child pornography and harassment. The client pled guilty to 21 of the charges in a pretrial agreement. Immediately after the guilty pleas were entered and accepted by the military judge, Partington moved to dismiss based on venue. The military judge did not rule on the motion but set aside the guilty pleas and entered “not guilty” pleas for the mechanic. Later in the hearing, Partington’s client agreed to plead guilty to 21 lesser included offenses (disorderly conduct) and the military judge entered findings of guilt on those charges. In a brief subsequently filed with the U.S. Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals, Partington argued that the military judge had erred in accepting the disorderly conduct guilty pleas because the judge had acquitted the mechanic of the 21 original charges.
The Navy JAG found that Partington knowingly made false statements and asserted a frivolous argument in the appellate brief. The Hawaii court concluded that Partington omitted material facts in the appellate brief.
In reciprocal discipline matters, the court analyzes the attorney’s conduct under Oregon’s rules and statutes. The bar submitted that Partington’s conduct violated RPC 3.1 (knowingly asserting a frivolous position), RPC 3.3(a)(1) (knowingly making a misstatement of fact to a tribunal) and RPC 8.4(a)(3) (misrepresentation).
JERRY G. KLEEN
Pursuant to a stipulation for discipline approved by the disciplinary board on Oct. 29, 2013, Salem lawyer Jerry G. Kleen was publicly reprimanded for violating the following: RPC 1.3 (neglect of a legal matter); RPC 1.4(a) (failure to keep a client reasonably informed about the status of a matter); RPC 1.4(b) (failure to explain a matter sufficiently to enable a client to make informed decisions); and RPC 1.16(d) (failure to take reasonable steps upon termination of employment to protect a client’s interests).
Kleen agreed to represent a client on a medical malpractice claim and notified the client’s medical creditors that they should communicate with him regarding any outstanding bills. The client advanced funds to retain an expert to review her medical records. Kleen did not obtain the client’s full medical records. Based on informal discussions with potential experts, he determined the client’s case was not financially viable and decided against hiring an expert or taking other substantive action to advance the case. Kleen failed to promptly inform his client of those determinations and did not respond to the client’s calls and emails until after she contacted the bar for assistance. After the representation was concluded, Kleen failed to refund the costs the client had advanced or notify the client’s medical creditors, who continued to communicate with him, that he no longer represented the client.
In reaching an appropriate sanction, the stipulation recognized that Kleen had no prior record of discipline in his long career.
CARLA A. ANDERSON
Effective Nov. 19, 2013, a disciplinary board trial panel suspended Gresham attorney Carla Anderson for 90 days for violations of the following: RPC 3.1 (pursuing frivolous proceedings); RPC 4.4(a) (employing means to embarrass, delay, harass or burden a third person); and RPC 8.1(a)(2) (failure to respond to a disciplinary authority).
These violations arose when Anderson intentionally filed and prosecuted civil proceedings solely to harass and burden her client’s former spouse and the spouse’s sister.
The opinion specifically found a number of aggravating factors, including that Anderson engaged in a pattern of misconduct, with a dishonest or selfish motive, and refused to acknowledge the wrongful nature of her conduct. Anderson has been a lawyer in Oregon since 1989. She is also admitted in Colorado.
ROY D. LAMBERT
Form B Resignation
On Nov. 7, 2013, the Oregon Supreme Court accepted the Form B resignation of Portland lawyer Roy D. Lambert.
The allegations against Lambert included current and former client conflicts of interest arising out of his simultaneous representation of several individuals, corporations and boards of directors associated with the Sikh community in Oregon. The allegations also included misrepresentations and dishonesty arising out of Lambert’s participation in the transfer of ownership and control of the assets of one of these entities, an Oregon charitable company, to a for-profit entity and its members.
TIMOTHY R. STRADER
Effective Nov. 8, 2013, the disciplinary board approved a stipulation for discipline suspending Portland attorney Timothy Strader for 30 days for violations of the following: RPC 1.15-1(a) (failure to safeguard and account for client property); RPC 1.15-1(c) (failure to deposit and maintain client funds in trust); and RPC 5.3(a) (failure to adequately supervise nonlawyer employees),
Prior to September 2008, Strader represented a family business who, on his recommendation, deposited with his law firm nearly $1.5 million. The funds were to be used to pay annual premiums on insurance policies insuring the life of member(s) of the family. Strader arranged for these funds to be deposited in a private trust account established by the firm at a local bank.
Strader failed to maintain complete records of the private trust account funds between January 2009 and April 2011. During this time, an employee with Strader’s firm, over whom he had direct supervisory authority, withdrew and misappropriated for her own use approximately $489,000 from the private trust account.
Strader’s failure to properly or adequately supervise the employee allowed for the theft of client funds and thereby violated RPC 5.3(a). His failure to create and maintain adequate records violated RPC 1.15-1(a), and his failure to ensure that client funds were maintained in trust and properly accounted for violated RPC 1.15-1(a) and (c).
The stipulation recited that Strader’s conduct was negligent, and based on his years of experience, he should have known that he was dealing improperly with client funds. The injury to the client was mitigated to the extent that Strader ensured that the client was repaid all of the funds taken by his employee. Additional mitigation included that Strader had no prior record of discipline, cooperated fully in the disciplinary proceeding, submitted evidence of good character and fitness and was remorseful for his misconduct.
TIMOTHY J. VANAGAS
Effective Nov. 19, 2013, a trial panel of the disciplinary board publicly reprimanded Portland lawyer Timothy J. Vanagas for violating RPC 1.5(a) (collecting an illegal fee).
In August 2010, Vanagas was retained by an overseas lawyer to establish a conservatorship and to act as a conservator for a client who suffered a brain injury. Vanagas requested a $3,500 retainer, which was paid from the elderly man’s conservatorship account; Vanagas deposited it into trust on Aug. 26, 2010.
Vanagas prepared a conservatorship petition, filed the petition and paid the $622 filing fee from trust in early October 2010. The Multnomah County Circuit Court appointed Vanagas as conservator and declared the client a protected person on Dec. 2, 2010. The limited judgment was entered on Dec. 6, 2010. Vanagas withdrew the remaining $2,778 from trust for his fee on Dec. 6, 2010. Vanagas neither disclosed nor sought the court’s approval of this payment. Vanagas was previously disciplined in three separate matters. In 1994, Vanagas was disciplined for violations of DR 2-108(B) and DR 9-101(A)(1). In 2000, he was disciplined for violating DR 1-102(A)(4), DR 2-110(A)(2), DR 6-101(B) and DR 7-102(A)(2). He was disciplined again in 2009 for violating RPC 1.15-1(a), RPC 1.15-1(c), RPC 1.15-1(d), RPC 1.16(d), and RPC 1.5(a).
2-year Suspension (all but six months stayed), 2-year Probation
Effective Nov. 25, 2013, the Oregon Supreme Court approved a stipulation for discipline suspending Eugene lawyer Howard Hudson for two years, with all but six months stayed pending completion of a two-year term of probation, for violations including: RPC 1.1 (competence); RPC 1.3 (neglect); RCP 1.4(a) & (b) (failure to adequately communicate with a client); RPC 1.5(a) (charging an excessive fee); RPC 3.3(a) (candor with a tribunal); RPC 3.4(b) (creation of false evidence); RPC 8.1(a)(1) (false statement to a disciplinary authority); RPC 8.4(a)(3) (dishonesty or misrepresentation); and RPC 8.4(a)(4) (conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice).
Hudson’s violations arose in connection with two domestic relations matters. The first involved representation of a client in pursuing a divorce from her estranged husband. Hudson and his law partner failed to verify the client’s residency, causing her to file the divorce petition in the wrong county, and failed to take measures that would qualify as service under the requirements of ORCP 7.
Hudson assumed primary responsibility for the client’s case near the end of 2009, after which he failed to take substantive action and the client was unable to reach him prior to intervention from the bar’s Client Assistance Office (CAO).
The second matter involved Hudson’s representation of a father in a custody dispute in which child support was an important issue. At a settlement conference in early June 2010, the parties agreed to a new custody arrangement effective after the mother’s anticipated move to Oregon. Hudson and his client understood there would be two child support calculations: one reflecting the existing 75-25 custody arrangement, and the second reflecting the 50-50 arrangement after the mother returned to Oregon. However, opposing counsel thought that the child support calculation would be based on 50-50 custody, regardless of if or when the mother moved.
Opposing counsel drafted a proposed judgment and parenting plans and sent them to Hudson in two emails. Hudson received these emails but did not review the judgment or forward it to his client. For several months following the settlement conference, Hudson failed to respond to numerous emails and telephone calls from his client and opposing counsel. When Hudson failed to appear for a status conference regarding the form of judgment and parenting plans on Sept. 21, 2010, the court telephoned him. Hudson — who still had not reviewed opposing counsel’s form of judgment — withdrew any objection to it.
Two days later, Hudson’s client learned from the mother that there had been a status conference and that he was required to pay support to mother. On Sept. 28, after reviewing the final judgment emailed to him by opposing counsel, Hudson objected — for the first time — that support was based upon 50-50 calculations prior to the mother’s move to Oregon. Hudson unsuccessfully attempted to convince opposing counsel that she should voluntarily amend the documents. Hudson thereafter failed to respond to his client’s demands for an explanation or take further action on his behalf. However, he did not withdraw from the matter until mid-December 2010.
In response to his client’s subsequent bar complaint, Hudson provided a narrative and supporting documentation to the CAO containing a number of misrepresentations, including that he had withdrawn from his client’s matter immediately after the Sept. 21 status conference, and that any issues his client had with respect to that representation arose “after the termination of the attorney-client relationship.” Hudson repeated these misrepresentations: to the court in a small claim action brought by his client, to the arbitrator in a fee arbitration proceeding and to the bar’s disciplinary counsel’s office during its investigation of the bar complaint.
THEODORE C. CORAN
30-day Suspension (all stayed pending 24 months probation)
On Sept. 6, 2013, the disciplinary board approved a stipulation for discipline suspending Salem lawyer Theodore C. Coran for 30-days, all stayed, pending 24 months of probation.
Coran admitted that in one matter he treated a fee as earned upon receipt without having a written fee agreement, resulting in violations of RPC 1.5(c) (illegal or clearly excessive fee) and RPC 1.15-1(a) and (c) (duty to deposit and maintain client funds in a lawyer trust account).
In a second matter, Coran admitted that he had treated a fee as earned upon receipt when his fee agreement did not include all the language mandated by RPC 1.5(c)(3) (fees denominated as “nonrefundable” or “earned on receipt”). In a third matter, Coran admitted that he failed to promptly deliver upon request a former client’s file to the client’s subsequent attorney, in violation of RPC 1.15-1(d) (duty to promptly account for and deliver property of another).
The terms of probation include review and supervision of Coran’s fee agreements, file procedures and handling of client property. The stipulation recited that Coran was previously reprimanded (in 2010) for violations of RPC 1.15-1(a) and RPC 1.15-1(c).