Monday, September 16, 2006
Attorney Disbarred in Oregon After California Suspension
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Oregon Supreme Court has disbarred an attorney because of acts which resulted only in a suspension from the State Bar of California.
Santa Ana attorney John Heurlin was suspended in February 2005 from the California bar for five years, stayed, and placed on probation for five years with a two- year actual suspension.
He had stipulated to three acts of misconduct stemming from a fee dispute with former and successor counsel in a dental malpractice case. He admitted that he withheld money from settlement proceeds as “collection costs,” an act the California bar said amounted to charging an unconscionable fee; failed to maintain client funds in trust; and filed an appeal found by the Fourth District Court of Appeal to have been filed for motives that included trying to delay the effects of an adverse judgment and cover up his mishandling of funds he was supposed to hold in trust and dishonesty before a trial court.
Heurlin said he would not endorse any settlement draft until his claim for fees and costs totaling $12,590 was resolved. He also offered to disburse any funds not in dispute and keep the rest in his trust account, but failed to do so, according to the stipulation.
After receiving a $75,000 settlement, he disbursed part and withheld $16,063, representing fees and costs as well as $3,473 he labeled “collection costs.” Demands that he return the collection costs, which he said he would hold in his trust account but which he actually spent, resulted in extensive litigation, lasting more than two years.
In a published opinion, the Fourth District imposed sanctions of $6,000 against Huerlin, on its own motion, for prosecuting a frivolous appeal, finding that he “followed a path of artifice and deceit with respect to his handling of the disputed funds.”
He eventually made restitution, and paid the sanctions.
Huerlin had been privately reproved in 1998 and 2001 for similar misconduct.
After receiving notice of his California suspension, the State Professional Responsibility Board of the Oregon State Bar recommended that Heurlin be disbarred. After Heurlin failed to respond to the bar’s notice of discipline, the Oregon Supreme Court disbarred him.
Heurlin could not be reached for comment, and State Bar officials did not return a MetNews phone call.
Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company