In re the Reciprocal Discipline of JULIE D. SIONE, Accused
OSB 13-117. On a B.R. 3.5 notice of discipline in another jurisdiction and recommendation filed October 30, 2013.
Martha M. Hicks, Assistant Disciplinary Counsel, Oregon State Bar, filed the notice of discipline in another jurisdiction and recommendation and reply.
Julie D. Sione, Pro se, Manhattan Beach, California, filed the answer to B.R. 3.5 notice of discipline in another jurisdiction and recommendation.
[355 Or. 601] PER CURIAM
This is a reciprocal discipline proceeding pursuant to Oregon State Bar Rules of Procedure (BR) 3.5. The accused is licensed to practice law in Oregon and in California. She entered into a stipulation for discipline with the State Bar Court of California, arising out of three separate matters. The stipulated sanction was public reproval. The Oregon State Bar (the Bar), on receipt of notice of that action, notified this court and now recommends a public reprimand as reciprocal discipline. For the reasons stated below, we agree that the accused should be publicly reprimanded.
A. Regulatory Context: Reciprocal Discipline
We begin with a brief description of the applicable rules to provide context. Under B.R. 3.5, Oregon State Bar Disciplinary Counsel is required to notify this court and the State Professional Responsibility Board (SPRB) when it has received notice from another jurisdiction that an Oregon attorney practicing in that jurisdiction has been disciplined for misconduct. B.R. 3.5(a). The SPRB is required to recommend to the court any discipline in Oregon based on the discipline imposed by the other jurisdiction. Id. The order imposing discipline from the other jurisdiction is sufficient evidence that the accused lawyer committed the misconduct described therein. B.R. 3.5(b). The attorney is given the opportunity to respond, and the Bar is allowed a reply. B.R. 3.5(c), (d). The court is then required to determine " whether the attorney should be disciplined in Oregon for misconduct in another jurisdiction and if so, in what manner." B.R. 3.5(e). In reciprocal discipline cases, this court has an independent obligation to determine the appropriate sanction warranted by the accused's violation of this state's rules. In re Lopez, 350 Or. 192, 198, 252 P.3d 312 (2011).
This court's decision whether to impose discipline turns on its answer to two questions. First, " [w]as the procedure in the jurisdiction which disciplined the attorney lacking in notice or opportunity to be heard?" Second, " [s]hould the attorney be disciplined by the court?" B.R. 3.5(c). The court may refer the matter to the Disciplinary Board for [355 Or. 602] the purposes of taking testimony on those two questions. B.R. 3.5(e). Or, the court may determine the matter on the basis of the order imposing discipline from the other jurisdiction, along with any submissions of the parties. Id. In all events, the accused may not challenge in Oregon the underlying factual findings of the other jurisdiction. In re Devers, 317 Or. 261, 264-65, 855 P.2d 617 (1993).
The accused was admitted to practice in California in 2004. In June 2013, the accused entered into a stipulation for discipline with the Office of the Chief Trial Counsel, later approved by a judge of the California Bar Court, that involved three separate matters--the Biggs matter, the Wilcox matter, and a matter relating to an Agreement in Lieu of Discipline (ALD). We take the following from that stipulation.
1. Biggs Matter
Biggs employed the accused to represent him in a matter involving a charge of driving under the influence. Trial was set for October 28, 2009. The accused did not appear in court on that date. Biggs did not appear either, although he was aware of the trial date. The court issued a bench warrant for his arrest. About a month later, Biggs voluntarily appeared in court without the accused. The court ordered the accused relieved as counsel and recalled the bench warrant.
Based on those events, the accused stipulated that, by failing to appear on the date
scheduled for Biggs' trial, she intentionally, recklessly, or repeatedly failed to perform legal services with competence, in willful violation of California RPC § 3-110(A).
2. Wilcox Matter
Wilcox, a former client of the accused, submitted a complaint to the State Bar of California Bar. In February 2010, an investigator for the California Bar sent the accused two letters regarding the complaint, requesting that the accused respond in writing to the allegations of professional misconduct raised by Wilcox's complaint. The accused [355 Or. 603] received the letters, but did not respond. On March 2, 2010, the investigator called the accused, and the accused told the investigator that she would fax her response that day. She failed to do so. On April 20, 2010, the investigator sent the accused a follow-up letter, again requesting a response. The accused received the letter, but did not provide a response to the allegations until July 21, 2010.
Based on those events, the stipulation concludes that the accused failed to cooperate and participate in a disciplinary investigation pending against the accused, in willful violation of California ...