Oregon State Bar Bulletin DECEMBER 2015
Bar Actions - Discipline
Note: More than 15,000 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.
M. CHRISTIAN BOTTOMS
2-year suspension, 1 year stayed, 2 years probation
Effective Oct. 8, 2015, the Oregon Supreme Court approved a stipulation for discipline suspending Portland lawyer M. Christian Bottoms for two years, with one year of the suspension stayed, pending his successful completion of a two-year period of probation for violations of: RPC 1.7(a)(2) (self-interest conflict); RPC 1.5(c)(3) (entering a nonrefundable fee arrangement without proper disclosures); RPC 8.1(c)(3) (failure to cooperate with State Lawyers Assistance Committee); RPC 8.1(c)(4) (failure to participate or comply with remedial programs established by SLAC); and RPC 8.4(a)(2) (criminal conduct reflecting adversely on fitness to practice law).
In early 2012, Bottoms was referred to the State Lawyers Assistance Committee (“SLAC”), who determined that Bottoms was within its jurisdiction. Bottoms entered into a monitoring agreement but failed to cooperate with SLAC.
In a second matter, Bottoms represented an acquaintance in a criminal case where the acquaintance was accused of domestic abuse. Bottoms visited the victim and allegedly subjected her to unwanted touching. The victim called the police. Upon arrest, Bottoms was found in possession of cocaine. In February 2013, Bottoms plead guilty to felony possession of cocaine and the conviction was reduced to a misdemeanor after Bottoms successfully completed a substance abuse treatment program.
In a third matter, about May 2013, Bottoms entered into three separate written fee agreements to represent a client in three separate civil matters. Each fee agreement called for a nonrefundable retainer, but failed to advise the client that the retainer would not be deposited into a lawyer trust account or that he could discharge Bottoms at any time and would be entitled to a refund of all or part of the retainer if the services for which the retainer was paid were not completed.
In a fourth matter, Bottoms carried a loaded concealed weapon in a public place, when he knew that his permit to carry a concealed weapon had been revoked. In April 2015, Bottoms entered a guilty plea and was convicted of one count of carrying a concealed weapon a Class A misdemeanor.
Bottoms’ sanction was aggravated by his pattern of misconduct, multiple disciplinary offenses and his prior disciplinary history.
RAYLYNNA J. PETERSON
60-day suspension, all stayed, 2 years probation
Pursuant to a stipulation for discipline approved by the disciplinary board on Oct. 15, 2015, Portland lawyer Raylynna Peterson was suspended for 60 days, all stayed, pending successful completion of a two-year probation for violating RPC 1.3 (neglect of a legal matter) and RPC 1.4(b) (failure to explain a matter to the extent necessary to permit client to make informed decisions regarding the representation).
Peterson’s violations stem from her representation of a client in an uncontested adoption proceeding. In early 2012, Peterson assured her client that the adoption was a simple process and would take about four months. Thereafter, Peterson failed to advance her client’s adoption, except for instructing her paralegal to find the birth father of the children. In addition, for a number of months, Peterson failed to respond to her client’s reasonable requests for information. Peterson also failed to timely inform her client that DHS had approved the adoption in June 2013, or explain that she would be unable for the next several months to devote the time necessary to finalize the adoption. Finally, in late October 2013, Peterson informed her client that the adoption petition was complete. Thereafter, it took another two and a half months before Peterson submitted the judgment of adoption to the court.
In determining an appropriate sanction, the stipulation recited that Peterson had a record of prior discipline which included an admonition in 2009 for neglect of a legal matter and failure to keep a client reasonably informed of the status of a case. Peterson’s probation requires that she have her office practices reviewed by the PLF and regularly reviewed by a supervising attorney to see that she more timely attends to client matters and provides clients with adequate information.
DIARMUID YAPHET HOUSTON
150-day suspension, formal reinstatement required
Effective Oct. 19, 2015, the disciplinary board suspended Portland lawyer, Diarmuid Yaphet Houston, for 150 days for violations of: RPC 1.4(a) (failure to adequately communicate with a client or promptly respond to requests for information); RPC 1.15-1(d) (failure to account for client property); RPC 1.16(a)(1) (failure to withdraw when continued representation will violate the RPCs); RPC 1.16(d) (failure to take reasonable steps upon withdrawal, including notice to client); and RPC 8.1(a)(2) (failure to respond to a disciplinary authority).
Houston was hired by a client to pursue a potential claim against her former employer. She provided Houston with a number of documents to support her claim and paid him a $2,500 retainer. Thereafter, Houston failed to update her on communications from her former employer and failed to respond to at least nine email inquiries from the client over the next five months.
Shortly after he was hired, Houston was suspended for failing to pay his PLF assessment. He did not notify the client of his suspension or withdraw from her representation. He never cured his PLF obligation and remained suspended.
After five months of unanswered inquiries, the client terminated Houston’s services, demanded an accounting of her retainer and requested the return of her documents. Houston did not respond or provide the requested accounting. He did not refund any portion of the retainer.
Houston did not respond to the bar’s inquiries regarding his conduct and did not participate in the formal proceeding after service.
In addition to his suspension, the trial panel required that Houston seek formal reinstatement pursuant to BR 8.1. The trial panel further conditioned Houston’s reinstatement on his providing the client with an accounting of her retainer, returning her records and returning any unearned portion of her retainer.
Houston was admitted to practice in New York in 2006 and Oregon in 2012. He had no prior discipline.
ROBERT H. SHEASBY
Effective Oct. 20, 2015, a trial panel of the disciplinary board disbarred Bend attorney, Robert H. Sheasby, for violations of the following: RPC 1.3(a) (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 to the extent reasonably necessary to allow client to make informed decisions regarding the representation); RPC 8.1(a)(2) (knowingly failing to respond to a lawful demand for information from a disciplinary authority); RPC 8.1(c) (knowingly failing to cooperate with State Lawyers Assistance Committee); and RPC 8.4(a)(3) (engaging in conduct involving dishonesty or misrepresentation that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s fitness to practice law). Sheasby did not respond to the bar’s formal complaint, and an order of default was entered against him.
Sheasby agreed, in mid-2009, to file patent claims on his client’s inventions. Sheasby prepared a provisional patent application for his client between May and June 2011, but thereafter Sheasby failed to take any further steps to obtain a provisional patent or file his patent application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Sheasby did not communicate with his client or take any substantive action on his legal matters.
In mid-2012 Sheasby was referred to the State Lawyers Assistance Committee (“SLAC”). Around Nov.19, 2012, SLAC notified Sheasby that he was required to schedule an evaluation meeting. Sheasby acknowledged that he received the SLAC referral notice but did not thereafter communicate further with SLAC. On multiple occasions disciplinary counsel’s office requested Sheasby’s response to the allegations from SLAC and his patent client. Sheasby never responded.
In disbarring Sheasby, the trial panel considered in aggravation Sheasby’s prior discipline history, the pattern of misconduct, his multiple offenses and his substantial experience in the practice of law. Sheasby had been a lawyer in Oregon since 1993.