In Re: Complaint as to the Conduct of PETER CARINI, Accused.
On review from a decision of a trial panel of the Disciplinary Board, OSB 10125.
Argued and submitted April 30, 2013
Lee S. Werdell, Bend, argued the cause and filed the briefs for the accused.
Stacy J. Hankin, Assistant Disciplinary Counsel, Tigard, argued the cause and filed the brief for the Oregon State Bar.
The accused is suspended from the practice of law for 30 days, commencing 60 days from the date of filing of this decision.
In this attorney discipline proceeding, the Bar charged the accused with violating Rule of Professional Conduct (RPC) 8.4(a)(4), which prohibits engaging in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice. The trial panel determined that the accused had violated that rule, and it recommended his suspension from the practice of law for 30 days. On review, the accused challenges the trial panel's determinations regarding the rule violation and sanction. On de novo review, we find that the accused violated RPC 8.4(a)(4), and we further conclude that a 30-day suspension is the appropriate sanction.
I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND
This proceeding arose out of the accused's failures to appear in court for scheduled hearings in the course of representing four different clients. The accused is a criminal defense attorney, and all four of his clients in the proceedings at issue here were defendants facing pending criminal charges before the Josephine County Circuit Court. We find the following facts by clear and convincing evidence.
A. The Gales and Lockwood Matters
The accused represented Gales in a criminal proceeding; the case was set for a docket call on April 21, 2010. The accused also represented Lockwood in a criminal proceeding that was set for docket call the same day. The accused had received notice of the docket calls in each case in February 2010, and the appearances were entered on his calendar.
At docket call, which occurs on the Wednesday before the week that a case is scheduled for trial, the parties report whether they are ready for trial the following week. Information obtained at docket call allows the court to efficiently and accurately determine which of the trials that are scheduled for the following week will actually be tried and which will be reset, either on motion or because there are insufficient judges available. Pursuant to a Josephine County Circuit Court local rule, attorneys are required to appear for a docket call either in person or, if prior arrangements are made, by telephone. The mandatory appearance rule allows the court to simultaneously obtain all the information that it needs from the parties and communicate the trial schedule to the parties in an orderly and efficient manner.
The accused did not appear for docket call on April 21 in either the Gales or Lockwood cases. His clients did not appear either. As a consequence, the court issued arrest warrants for both Gales and Lockwood. The court telephoned the accused later in the day on April 21 to inquire why he had not appeared. The accused replied that he had had a trial in another county, that he had forgotten to call the court, and that he had forgotten to give the court a call back number.
Presiding Judge Wolke instructed the accused to send a letter to the court explaining why he had not been present at the docket call. The accused did so, stating that it was his office policy for a staff member to arrange for a telephone appearance for docket calls and that he thought that such an arrangement had been made for the April 21 docket calls. However, an employee of the accused, Byrnes, testified before the trial panel that the court's "general policy" was for the accused to appear in person unless specific arrangements had been made for a telephone appearance. According to Byrnes, if a telephone appearance had been arranged, a notation to that effect would have been placed on the accused's office calendar. No such notation had been made for the April 21 docket call appearances.
B. The Burton Matter
The accused represented Burton in a criminal proceeding that was set for a docket call on June 9, 2010, with trial to follow on June 17. Pursuant to the court's local rules, the accused made prior arrangements to appear by telephone at the docket call. At the appointed time, the court called the accused at the number that he had provided. However, the accused did not answer; instead, the voicemail message gave another number to call. The court called that second number, and no one answered. The accused had begun having trouble with his office phone system in March 2010. The accused knew of the problems with the phone system, but he failed to take steps to ensure that the court could reach him for the docket call on June 9.
Burton did not appear at the docket call, nor did either the accused or Burton appear for trial on June 17. At that point, the court issued a warrant for Burton's arrest. On August 5, the court held a further hearing at the accused's request to resolve the outstanding arrest warrant. Both the accused and ...