Oregon State Bar Bulletin JULY 2015
Bar Actions - Discipline
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.
DAVID P. MEYER
Effective April 24, 2015, the disciplinary board approved a stipulation for discipline publicly reprimanding Portland attorney David Meyer for violations of RPC 1.5(a) (clearly excessive fee) and RPC 1.16(d) (failure to comply with duties upon termination of representation).
Meyer entered into a contingency fee agreement to represent an injured party against an at-fault driver in a personal injury case. Shortly after hiring Meyer, the client terminated his services and obtained other counsel. Meyer thereafter refused to provide the client’s file to his new attorney, claiming a possessory lien for a few hours of work. Two months and multiple requests later, Meyer finally provided the file.
Meyer then alleged that there had been a $25,000 offer to settle the client’s claim while Meyer was still the attorney of record. He demanded his contingency fee from that amount, unless the client rejected the offer and sued the at-fault driver. If the latter occurred, Meyer asserted he was still owed $1,320 for the 4.4 hours he spent on the case.
Unaware that the client’s new attorney had confirmed that the insurance company had not made a $25,000 settlement offer, Meyer sent a draft complaint to the client’s attorney alleging that the client had breached his contract to pay Meyer $8,332 plus interest (i.e., 33-1/3 percent of the purported $25,000 settlement offer).
The stipulation recited that Meyer’s substantial experience in the practice of law aggravated the misconduct while his absence of a prior disciplinary record and his cooperation with disciplinary proceedings was mitigating.
On May 14, 2015, the Oregon Supreme Court confirmed a trial panel decision disbarring former Portland attorney David Herman, effective July 13, 2015, for dishonesty and misrepresentation reflecting adversely on his fitness to practice law in violation of RPC 8.4(a)(3).
In 2008, Herman and two partners formed a business to develop, manufacture and sell specialized testing containers designed to measure formaldehyde levels in composite wood products. Herman’s role was to incorporate the business, manage its finances, market the product and act as general legal counsel. The three partners agreed to own equal shares in the business.
The company did a brisk business from the beginning. However, as both the trial panel and the court found, when the partner in charge of fabrication was unable to produce sufficient containers to keep up with customer demand, Herman surreptitiously began subcontracting with outside machine shops. Soon he cut both partners out of the business, dissolving the company without their knowledge and instructing clients to pay outstanding invoices to two other entities that Herman owned or controlled. Herman did not account to his partners for the company’s assets or liabilities, and it was not until months later that the partners discovered the company had been dissolved.
The court found that Herman acted dishonestly by diverting corporate assets to himself and dissolving the business without his partners’ knowledge. The court also found that Herman had made affirmative misrepresentations to the Nevada secretary of state about his authority to dissolve the company.
Finding that Herman’s conduct was “comparable to theft in terms of its nature and scale of selfish dishonesty,” and noting lawyers must deal scrupulously with the money or property of others — regardless of whether the lawyers are acting in a professional or nonprofessional role — the court imposed disbarment.
JAMES C. JAGGER
In a decision issued May 14, 2015, the Oregon Supreme Court suspended Eugene attorney James C. Jagger for 90 days, effective July 13, 2015 (60 days after filing of decision).
Jagger represented a criminal defendant who was subject to a Family Abuse Prevention Act (FAPA) restraining order that prohibited him from contacting the FAPA order petitioner. While Jagger’s client was in custody, the petitioner came to Jagger’s office. At the time, Jagger was speaking with his client on the phone. Jagger invited the petitioner to speak with his client on the phone about the FAPA order and then left the room while his client and the petitioner spoke. Jagger’s client was later convicted of contempt for violating the FAPA order contact prohibition.
The court found that Jagger was acting as his client’s agent when he initiated contact between his client and the petitioner in violation of the FAPA order. By doing so, Jagger violated RPC 1.1 by failing to provide competent representation and RPC 1.2(a) by knowingly assisting a client in conduct he knew was illegal.
STEVEN M. CYR
Form B resignation
Effective June 4, 2015, the Oregon Supreme Court accepted the Form B resignation of Beaverton attorney Steven M. Cyr. The court had suspended Cyr in December 2014, pursuant to BR 3.4, following Cyr’s conviction for felony tax fraud.
At the time of his resignation, there was a formal complaint pending against Cyr that alleged criminal and dishonest conduct (RPC 8.4(a)(2) & (3)) for the actions that led to his felony conviction (ORS 9.527(2)). The formal complaint also alleged violations of RPC 3.1 (knowingly asserting a frivolous claim or position) and RPC 8.4(a)(4) (conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice) in an unrelated matter stemming from Cyr’s legal actions against his residential contractor.
The resignation recited that Cyr’s remaining client files were surrendered to the Oregon State Bar and/or the Professional Liability Fund, to be treated in accordance with ORS 9.705 to 9.755.
KELLY E. IRELAND
Effective June 22, 2015, the Oregon Supreme Court approved a stipulation for discipline suspending former Keizer attorney Kelly E. Ireland from the practice of law for eight months for conduct in connection with five separate matters.
In four of the matters (three domestic relations matters and one criminal matter), Ireland failed to respond to client requests for information, return client files or render accountings after termination, in violation of RPC 1.4(a) (failure to keep a client reasonably informed) and RPC 1.16(d) (failure to take steps to protect client interests upon termination).
In one of the domestic relations matters, she also neglected the matter and failed to apprise the client of a trial setting in violation of RPC 1.3, while in another, she failed to file a paternity petition for a prolonged period of time and failed to inform the client that it had not been filed, in violation of RPC 1.4(b) (failure to explain a matter to the extent necessary to permit the client to make informed decisions).
Finally, as to all four complaints and a fifth complaint pertaining to dishonored trust account checks, Ireland failed to respond to disciplinary counsel’s written requests for information, thereby violating RPC 8.1(a)(2) (knowingly fail to respond to a disciplinary authority).
The stipulation recognized Ireland’s absence of a prior disciplinary history, absence of a dishonest motive and remorse with regard to the impact of her behavior on her clients. However, it also took into account her pattern of misconduct and the harm her conduct caused.