By Nicole Montesano • Staff Writer • 

Counsel Rick Sanai facing possible disbarment

In March 2011, the complaint led the bar in Washington to recommend he be disbarred for “blatant misconduct.” That could lead to his disbarment in Oregon as well, preventing his continued service as county counsel, but he has staved it off for now by filing an appeal with the Washington Supreme Court.

The appeal is scheduled for airing by the high court on March 21, but it could be months before it renders a final decision. In the meantime, Sanai said he had no comment.

While the original complaint was filed with the Washington State Bar in 2004, some eight years ago, the Oregon State Bar didn’t learn of it until July 2012. That triggered a separate Oregon investigation, which remains ongoing, as holders of Oregon licenses are required to notify the Oregon bar of disciplinary actions brought in other states.

Craig Beles, a hearings officer with the Washington State Bar, found Sanai guilty of nine counts of misconduct. And all nine carry a penalty of disbarment.

Beles called it “the worst case of continuing lawyer misconduct, short of felonious activity, that I have witnessed in my 36 years as a member of the Washington State Bar.”

Yamhill County Commissioner Kathy George said “the board is aware there has been a complaint against him in Washington, but that is not an unusual thing for attorneys to have. At this point, all I can say is that the board will take appropriate action if it receives official notification.”

Although Oregon attorneys are required to report to the state bar association if they face sanctions in other states, spokeswoman Kateri Walsh told the News-Register it has no record of Sanai doing so.

In response, Sanai notified OSBA investigator Kellie Johnson that he had, in fact, notified the Oregon State Bar by letter. And he provided a copy that the bar is evaluating.

Sanai received his license to practice law in Oregon in 1998.

He was hired by Yamhill County in 1999 as assistant county counsel. In 2010, he succeeded John Gray as county counsel.

In 2001, Sanai’s mother filed for divorce from his father in the state of Washington, and a trial was held.

In 2002, Sanai obtained his license to practice law in Washington. According to the Washington State Bar, he did so for the sole purpose of representing his mother in post-divorce proceedings, and immediately began filing a flurry of lawsuits and motions in various courts, many of them duplicative and a number of them in direct violation of court orders.

The various cases dragged on for 10 years, and resulted in multiple state and federal court sanctions against both and his mother. He responded by filing lawsuits against judges who ruled against him, against his parents’ former accountant and against associates of his father.

Sanai is accused of enticing a Yamhill County sheriff’s deputy to aid in his quest at one point, by secretly taping phone calls his sister made to his father, using tapes and a recorder supplied by Sanai.

Ironically, he is now being accused in a federal lawsuit in Oregon of lying in court to shield another deputy in an unrelated matter.

In 2005, a federal judge in Washington termed Sanai’s extended litigation against his father “an indescribable abuse of the legal process, unlike anything this judge has experienced in more than 17 years on the bench and 26 years in private practice: outrageous, disrespectful, and in bad faith. Plaintiffs have employed the most abusive and obstructive litigation tactics this court has ever encountered.”

Six years later, similar sentiments were voiced by Beles, who wrote that Sanai’s “pervasive pattern of misconduct demonstrates an inability or unwillingness to comply with the law and demonstrates his unfitness to practice.”

In a 93-page letter to the Oregon State Bar Association, Sanai contended that all of the various judicial rulings against him over the past 10 years were wrong. He accused those judges of failing to explain their reasoning.

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