The Oregon State Bar is reviewing the competence of lawyer Donald Scott Upham, the former Washington County district attorney who shocked a Bend courtroom last month when he walked out on his client.
That client, Dylan Todd Sullivan, is facing sex-related felony charges in Deschutes County Circuit Court involving his time as a high school basketball coach in La Pine from 2013 to 2014. He was Upham’s only client, and according to the state’s judicial information database, Upham hadn’t represented another client since taking a reckless driving case in 2014.
The Oregon State Bar is reviewing two matters related to Upham. The first is the complaint filed in March that lists the bar as the complainant. It was prompted by media reports of the incident in Judge Randy Miller’s courtroom, according to bar spokeswoman Kateri Walsh. That investigation is in its early stages. Walsh said there are no documents that could be released.
Sullivan, 29, was arrested in May and soon after hired Upham, who doesn’t have an office. Upham filed several motions and records requests on his behalf. He filed lawsuits against Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel and Oregon State Police Superintendent Travis Hampton to compel the release of documents related to the Sullivan case.
In the Hummel suit, Hummel had provided Upham with a list of intended witnesses, but Upham sought to also have their contact information. Hummel refused to provide it.
Both lawsuits have been dismissed.
Upham subpoenaed a number of local law enforcement officials, including Hummel, to testify at Sullivan’s trial. His efforts culminated in an omnibus hearing March 21 that quickly went off the rails. Upham, 72, challenged Miller’s qualifications to hear the case and demanded he step down. When Miller declined, Upham threatened to take the matter to the Oregon Supreme Court.
Miller called a recess. Upham walked out of the courtroom and didn’t return.
Sullivan’s new lawyer, Whitney Boise, has withdrawn all of Upham’s motions.
The other Oregon State Bar complaint against Upham was filed in December 2017 by H. Dick Cook, whom Upham represented in a divorce case.
Cook wrote in his complaint that Upham had tried to bill him more than twice the $7,500 he’d agreed to pay, among other allegations.
“Mr. Upham recused our assigned judge without consulting me. He hired appraisers without consulting me, and then rehired them against my wishes,” Cook wrote. “He also contacted my elderly mother, telling her that I need to pay my attorney’s bill. He also never discussed any of the settlement offers with me that were sent by opposing counsel.”
Upham served two decades as Washington County’s elected district attorney, retiring in 1999. Months later, he was arrested on suspicion of DUII and hit-and-run. He was able to avoid a criminal conviction through diversion treatment. He was able to keep his bar card and continue practicing law in Oregon.
There are no disciplinary actions on his Oregon State Bar record.
— Reporter: 541-383-0325, email@example.com