In Re Complaint as to the Conduct of SAMUEL A. RAMIREZ, OSB Bar No. 910883, Accused .
and submitted on the record on November 13, 2017.
review of the decision of a trial panel of the Disciplinary
Board No. OSB 14116.
A. Ramirez fled the brief on his own behalf.
Roedl Cournoyer, Assistant Disciplinary Counsel, Tigard,
argued the cause and fled the brief on behalf of the Oregon
Balmer, Chief Justice, and Kistler, Walters, Nakamoto, and
Flynn, and Duncan, Justices. [*]
Summary: The Oregon State Bar brought a disciplinary action
against the accused lawyer, alleging several violations of
the Rules of Professional Conduct. A trial panel of the
Disciplinary Board found that the accused had committed four
of the charged violations and concluded that the accused
should be suspended from the practice of law for one year.
The accused lawyer sought review in the Supreme Court,
arguing that the trial panel erred in rejecting his argument
that the disciplinary proceeding was barred by the statute of
limitations set out in ORS 12.110, and in assessing the
aggravating and mitigating factors and imposing the one-year
suspension. Held: Reviewing de novo, the
Court concluded that the disciplinary proceeding was not
barred by the statute of limitations, the accused violated
the disciplinary rules as the trial panel found, and the
one-year suspension was appropriate.
accused is suspended from the practice of law for a period of
one year, commencing 60 days from the date of this decision.
Or. 371] PER CURIAM.
lawyer disciplinary proceeding, the Oregon State Bar (the
Bar) charged Samuel A. Ramirez (the accused) with violating
several Oregon Rules of Professional Conduct (RPC). A trial
panel concluded that the accused had failed to provide
competent representation, neglected a legal matter,
represented a client when the representation involved a
personal conflict of interest, and improperly settled a
potential malpractice claim with an unrepresented party, in
violation of RPC 1.1 (competence), RPC 1.3 (diligence), RPC
1.7 (a)(2) and RPC 1.7(b) (current client conflict of
interest), and RPC 1.8(h) (current client conflict of
interest, special rule), respectively. Based on those
violations and an assessment of aggravating and mitigating
factors, the trial panel suspended the accused from the
practice of law for one year. The accused petitioned this
court for review of the trial panel's decision. On
review, the accused concedes that he committed the violations
found by the trial panel, but asserts that the trial panel
erred in (1) rejecting his argument that the disciplinary
proceeding was barred by the statute of limitations set out
in ORS 12.110, and (2) assessing the aggravating and
mitigating factors and imposing the one-year suspension.
Reviewing de novo, we conclude that the disciplinary
proceeding was not barred by the statute of limitations, the
accused violated the disciplinary rules as the trial panel
found, and the appropriate sanction is a one-year suspension.
HISTORICAL AND PROCEDURAL FACTS
the accused concedes that he violated the Rules of
Professional Conduct as the trial panel found, he disputes
the sanction. Because the appropriate sanction depends on the
nature of the violations, as well as the accused's
conduct during the disciplinary proceedings, we begin with a
statement of the historical and procedural facts. We take the
facts primarily from the trial panel's findings, which
the accused does not dispute.
accused was admitted to the Oregon State Bar in 1991. His
primary practice areas have been criminal defense and family
law. This disciplinary proceeding was based on the
accused's representation of a client, Carson [362 Or.
372] Culp. The accused obtained a money judgment for Culp,
but then, over a period of years, failed to take the actions
necessary to collect the unsatisfied judgment, and, when Culp
complained about the accused's representation, the
accused entered into an agreement with Culp to settle
Culp's potential malpractice claims, without advising
Culp of the desirability of seeking independent counsel.
The Culp v. Dunn and Dunn Litigation
2006, the accused filed a civil action on behalf of Culp
against Christine Dunn (Christine) and her mother, Elizabeth
Dunn (Elizabeth), claiming that Culp had an interest in real
property owned by the Dunns in Klamath County (the
"Split Rail property"). The claim was based on
improvements to the property for which Culp had paid.
April 2008, the accused obtained a general judgment in favor
of Culp against Christine, which included a money award of
$97, 552.92 and created a judgment lien. Pursuant to ORS
18.150(2)(a), the lien attached to all real property the
Dunns owned in Klamath County, including the Split Rail
property and a second property, the "Ranger Court
property." Culp instructed the accused to collect the
money award as soon as possible.
appealed the judgment, and the accused represented Culp in an
appellate settlement conference in August 2008. At the
conference, Culp agreed to a settlement, the terms of which
required Christine and Elizabeth to sign a promissory note to
Culp for $80, 000, payable on September 1, 2009, and to
secure the note with a trust deed on the Ranger Court
the Ranger Court property was already encumbered. In 2006,
while Culp's action concerning the Split Rail property
was pending, the Dunns borrowed $65, 000 from Washington
Mutual Bank and secured the loan with a trust deed on the
Ranger Court property. Christine executed the promissory note
for the loan on behalf of herself and Elizabeth, using a
power of attorney.
April 2009, eight months after the appellate settlement
conference, Christine's lawyer, David Brown [362 Or. 373]
(Brown), sent the accused a proposed form of mutual release
and settlement agreement, a proposed note, and a proposed
trust deed on the Ranger Court property for the accused and
Culp to review. The accused did not respond to Brown or
forward the documents to Culp. When Culp inquired about the
documents, the accused told him that Brown had not provided
did not pay the $80, 000 due on September 1, 2009. Prompted
by Culp, the accused wrote to Brown, asking why Christine had
not executed the trust deed on the Ranger Court property.
Brown replied that he was waiting for the accused to have
Culp complete and return the settlement documents.
the accused returned the settlement documents to Brown, and
Christine signed the promissory note and executed the trust
deed on the Ranger Court property. Elizabeth did not sign the
trust deed, and Christine did not sign it on Elizabeth's
behalf. The accused recorded the trust deed in June 2010.
accused did not inform Culp of the problems with a
foreclosure that could arise because of Washington
Mutual's superior interest in the Ranger Court property
or because of Christine's failure to obtain
Elizabeth's signature on the trust deed. Nor did he
explore any other options for collecting Culp's money
August 2010, the accused initiated a nonjudicial foreclosure
on Culp's trust deed on the Ranger Court property; he
recorded a notice of default and scheduled a sale for January
2011. Although the accused had never successfully completed a
nonjudicial foreclosure, he did not review any Continuing
Legal Education (CLE) materials or take any other steps to
familiarize himself with the requirements for a foreclosure.
He did not review the title history of the Ranger Court
property or calculate the amount owed on the property. The
accused failed to take the steps required by statute to
complete the foreclosure; among other things, he failed to
publish notice of the sale. When Culp contacted the accused
to learn the outcome of the sale, the accused told him that
he had forgotten to file required paperwork and the sale had
not occurred. Although Culp had already paid the [362 Or.
374] accused $1, 500 to conduct the sale, the accused offered
to conduct another sale for an additional $1, 600. Culp
agreed and paid the accused.
accused initiated the second nonjudicial foreclosure in
January 2011 and scheduled a sale for May 2011. He believed
he had taken the steps required by statute, but when no one
appeared for the sale, he realized that, once again, he had
failed to publish notice of the sale.
the accused's attempts to foreclose on the Ranger Court
property were unsuccessful, he wrote a letter to Christine in
June 2011 asserting that Culp owned the property and
requiring that Christine surrender the property and that she
and Elizabeth sign quitclaim deeds to Culp. At the
disciplinary trial, one of the Bar's witnesses testified
that the accused's demands of the ...