February 5, 2009
Bankruptcy Conflict Leads To Suspension
From a discipline case decided by the Oregon Supreme Court:
In this lawyer disciplinary matter, the Bar charged the accused with ethical violations in two separate matters. In the first matter, the Bar charged that the accused violated conflict of interest rules in a bankruptcy case. The trial panel concluded (1) that the accused did not violate DR 5-101(A)(1) when, although he had represented the debtor in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy proceeding, and was therefore an administrative creditor of the estate, he agreed to serve as special counsel to the estate when the bankruptcy was converted to a Chapter 7 proceeding; but (2) that the accused did violate DR 5-105(C) when, after the trustee in the Chapter 7 case reached a settlement that was contrary to the accused's interest in collecting his fees, he resigned as special counsel and represented new clients in an appeal that challenged the settlement. In the second matter, the trial panel concluded that the accused violated DR 2-106(A) when he charged his client, Burch, for late fees in excess of the legal rate of interest, although no written agreement required payment of such fees, and when he charged Burch hourly fees for a trespass case, although a written agreement provided for a contingency fee. In part because the accused had been disciplined previously, the trial panel recommended that he be suspended from the practice of law for 90 days.
The court affirmed the legal conclusions of the trial panel and imposed a 60-day suspension. (Mike Frisch)
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