Lawyer suspended in Beaverton office shooting
A Vancouver, Washington, lawyer who fired shots into a Beaverton law office has been suspended for five years, the maximum that the Oregon Supreme Court can impose short of disbarment.
The court announced its decision in an unsigned opinion, as is the usual practice, released on Thursday, April 22. Justice Thomas Balmer did not take part.
The penalty against Erik Graeff, who was admitted to the Oregon State Bar in 2010, resulted from three incidents a few years ago, one of them criminal.
Graeff fired six rounds into the office of Beaverton lawyer Terrance Hogan in December 2017 after they exchanged heated emails about Graeff's responsibilities in a case that Hogan hired him to perform.
Graeff had been drinking when he showed up at the office that night. Three shots hit the brick exterior, one hit a door, and two went through the lighted windows. A police reconstruction of the trajectories found that one of the bullets passed seven inches left of the head of the law firm's office manager, who was inside, before it struck a computer.
Graeff negotiated a guilty plea in 2018 to one count of unlawful use of a weapon and one count of reckless endangerment. He was sentenced in Washington County Circuit Court to 18 months in prison and served 10 months.
Graeff also was accused by the Oregon State Bar of two disciplinary violations based on a failure to communicate with clients in 2017.
A disciplinary panel recommended a three-year suspension for Graeff based on the shooting incident, but concluded that the Oregon State Bar failed to meet its burden on the other charges.
Both sides asked the Oregon Supreme Court, which is the final arbiter of lawyer discipline, to review the panel's decision. The State Bar sought Graeff's disbarment. Graeff, representing himself, sought a one-year suspension.
"In some sense, we agree with respondent (Graeff) that his alcohol dependency was a cause of his misconduct," the Supreme Court decision said.
"We have no doubt that respondent's judgment was impaired by his mental disability and chemical dependency; as noted, we conclude that respondent's post-traumatic stress disorder and the exacerbation of his alcoholism after his father's death are personal and emotional problems that are mitigating factors in our sanction determination.
"However, as we will explain, those conditions cannot excuse respondent's intentional acts."
The court went on to say that Graeff demonstrated little remorse, or minimized the seriousness of his misconduct, for both his failure to communicate with clients and his shooting at the law office.
The court concluded:
"An aggravating factor in this case is that respondent still does not acknowledge the wrongful nature of his conduct in failing to communicate with his clients, and, more importantly, although respondent acknowledges that his criminal conduct was wrongful, he minimizes it…
"To recognize the gravity of respondent's criminal conduct and ensure that respondent and other members of the Bar recognize the significance of the ethical standards to which they must adhere, we conclude that the lengthiest of permissible sanctions short of disbarment is warranted."
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