By Nathalie Hardy • Columnist • 

Bar moves to disbar former county counsel

Following two extensions requested by Sanai, the bar concluded the conduct causing Sanai’s disbarment in Washington would also be grounds for his disbarment in Oregon, as the rules of professional conduct in effect in the two states are “substantially similar.” It decided, “The purpose of lawyer discipline is to protect the public,” and that would best be served by reciprocal disbarment.

Although the disciplinary action taken against Sanai in Washington stemmed from his handling of a personal family matter, rather than work undertaken for public or private clients, the bar concluded, “Sanai’s conduct in a neighboring state warranted disbarment in that state and it warrants disbarment in Oregon.”

Sanai was disbarred after the Washington Supreme Court upheld the Washington State Bar on all nine counts of a disciplinary finding alleging “blatant misconduct.” The allegations stemmed from a torrent of litigation he and his brother, a California-based lawyer, initiated on behalf of their mother in an exceptionally hostile divorce proceeding lasting for years.

When an Oregon lawyer is disbarred in another state, the Oregon Bar accepts that state’s factual conclusions. The issue is simply the level of reciprocal sanctions those conclusions warrant under Oregon rules.

In a lengthy argument filed with the bar in July, Sanai registered his objection to any form of Oregon discipline, on grounds Washington violated his constitutional right to due process in rendering its decision. But the bar rejected those claims.

Walsh said the disciplinary case now rests with the Oregon Supreme Court, which has no set timetable. She said it could allow Sanai to respond in writing to the bar’s decision, in person or both, or simply render a decision based on written filings already submitted by the opposing parties.

The bar advanced its disbarment recommendation despite a request from Sanai for yet another postponement, this time to allow for the U.S. Supreme Court to take action in two cases he maintains are germane to his due process arguments.

Repeated delays sought and obtained by Sanai also marked the disciplinary proceedings in Washington, which ultimately stretched out over 10 years. That contributed greatly to the voluminous size of the file.

Sanai is also facing possible disciplinary action in Oregon over his alleged failure to notify the bar of the initiation of disbarment proceedings in Washington in the first place. He contends he provided such notice, but the bar says it has no record.

Walsh said the matter remains under investigation. She said up to a dozen lawyers are disbarred in Oregon in any given year, but reciprocal disbarments are rare.

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