The Oregon State Bar’s disciplinary arm considered 234 cases of official misconduct in 2014. Among them were cases that included a defense lawyer who hired a man to kill his wife, the treasurer of the Oregon’s Yale Alumni Fund who wrote himself checks for over $31,000, and a lawyer who resigned after moving money out of his mother’s bank accounts into his own.
See Below: The Five Worst Cases of Attorney Misconduct 2012-2014
While some cases are more egregious than others, the most common reason Oregon attorneys got disbarred between 2012 and 2014 was for taking money from their clients’ escrow, trust or personal accounts without their knowledge.
“Lawyers are well aware that that is a kind of mortal sin,” said veteran Portland litigator Terry Scannell. “Just bounce a check [from a clients account] and the bank is required to notify the bar.”
Scannell and other legal experts say that Oregon’s legal oversight system sets a high standard for legal ethics. That said, the bar association recently came under fire from the national association for being slow, inefficient and not independent enough. The American Bar Association recommended 19 areas where the local system could be improved.
Lawyers In Trouble
The most common misconduct cases seen by the Oregon bar are about small issues like attorneys who fail to adequately communicate with or represent their clients. Simply failing to file paperwork on time can constitute misconduct.
Still, health-related complaints are on the rise, nationwide.
According to a national 2015 American Bar Association report, “disciplinary agencies are seeing a rise in complaints involving lawyers who are struggling with substance abuse issues and mental health problems, as well as age-related mental incapacity.”
Local attorneys are not immune to such issues, said Oregon State Bar spokeswoman Kateri Walsh.
“It’s true that we see cases arise when a lawyer is struggling with mental health, drug or gambling or some other issue,” Walsh said. “I can’t say it’s increasing. But lawyers, like everyone else, suffer from these issues.” (Continue Reading)
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Murder for Hire, Embezzlement and Attorneys Behaving Badly