In the Matter of Craig Wymetalek
Earlier this month, when the Oregon State Bar (OSB) noisily announced that they were seeking the immediate temporary suspension of attorney Craig Wymetalek, for forgery of court documents — and had shared their information with law enforcement — I instantly knew that something was amiss.
That’s because recently, under the leadership of Executive Director Helen Hierschbiel, the OSB has shown a reluctance to discuss or broadcast the misdeeds of their licensees, and an even greater unwillingness to report their crimes to law enforcement.
Unless, of course, it suits their agenda.
For that reason, I instinctively knew that the OSB needed to make a showy example of someone, and that Wymetalek was probably the easiest and quickest attorney for them to grab off their rack.
Typical of their hubris, they made several mistakes in their rush to appear like a functioning regulatory agency. The public records that I received this week did not disappoint.
In mid-2018, Wymetalek created three forgeries to satisfy a client who had grown suspicious at the lack of progress in his case.
The fraudulent court documents, all bearing the signatures of two Clackamas County Circuit Court judges, were passed to the client along with a blame-shifting excuse that the courthouse was failing to timely scan and file them.
Five months later, and only after Wymetalek stop responding to him, the client took the papers to the courthouse for verification. There, court staff quickly recognized them as forgeries and informed him that Wymetalek had never filed anything into his case.
And as if that wasn’t shocking enough, everything that happened after that day has been a complete farce.
At that point, court staff should have reported the three forgeries in the first degree (class B felonies) to law enforcement. Instead, court staff reported the crime to Wymetalek’s licensor, the Oregon State Bar. In layman’s terms, that would be like witnessing a drunk driver plow into a crowd and calling the DMV instead of 911.
At best, this misdirected report revealed the strange confusion that many — even court staff — feel when they hear about an Oregon attorney doing anything criminal: that it’s a ‘bar matter.’
At worst, the email to the OSB seems to reflect a deep understanding that Oregon attorneys are above the law. “I am not sure if this is anything your office wishes to pursue or not,” the email began, and further wondered, almost apologetically, that “I am not sure if anything can be done about this.”
Why yes, there is definitely something that can be done about three forged court orders: it’s called arrest and imprisonment. Disbarment is just a sprig of parsley that comes with it.
At that point, in October 2018, after opening a file based on court staff’s definitive report of forgery, the bar should have moved for the immediate interim suspension of Wymetalek. After all, the Supreme Court of Oregon “has long recognized the threat to the public posed by lawyers who forge or fabricate documents,” and the immediate suspension of those lawyers “is the only remedy sufficient to protect the public” and their clients.
Unfortunately for the public, the OSB wrote those words in their petition for Wymetalek’s interim suspension on October 25, 2019 — over a year too late to protect anyone.
During those 55 long weeks, Wymetalek opened or was involved in five new cases filed in Clackamas, Washington, and Multnomah counties; and possibly others unknown only because they did not involve proceedings in open court. One of his new cases even involved a motion decided by one of the judges whose signature Wymetalek had forged.
During those 55 long weeks, Wymetalek also admitted that he created the forgeries. By way of explanation, he offered many personal details about his and his wife’s health which caused him to make such a “significant lapse in judgment.”
On July 3, 2019, the OSB submitted their summary of the case to the State Professional Responsibility Board (SPRB), so that a formal disciplinary complaint could be authorized.
The OSB sent me a copy of this six-page SPRB summary.
The last three pages are mostly blank save for the OSB’s stamp, “PUBLIC RECORD CONFIDENTIAL MATERIAL DELETED.” The OSB’s spokesperson clarified that those sections are not subject to public records statutes while a disciplinary matter is pending.
Unfortunately for Mr. Wymetalek and his innocent bystander wife, the first three pages were subject to public records statutes, and their sensitive health information was splashed judiciously across them. I redacted them before uploading the SPRB summary to this article.
At that point, after the SPRB authorized formal charges, probably in July or August 2019, the OSB should have reported the crimes to law enforcement, as they were obligated to do by their own rule of procedure BR 3.3(a).
However, they did not do so until October 28, 2019.
That’s when they hastily forwarded the information to the Washington County District Attorney’s office. Diligently, I also checked with the Clackamas and Washington Sheriff’s offices, the Oregon State Police, and other city police departments. All reported back that they received no reports from the OSB or anyone else.
The OSB’s foot-dragging exposed the public and Wymetalek’s clients to possible harm. And as of this publication, Mr. Wymetalek — who has admitted to forging three court orders — has still not been charged with a crime, and is still practicing law.
So what caused the Oregon State Bar to suddenly scramble to act like a regulatory agency regarding the matter of Craig Wymetalek, and make a bloody show of him?
It appears that the OSB was tipped off that their former licensee, Megan M. Moeller, aka Megan Perry, was about to be arrested for identity theft related to forged court documents she created.
Moeller had sixteen disciplinary complaints open against her when she resigned her law license in March 2018. Most of those victims had credibly alleged criminal conduct by her ranging from fraud to theft to forgery. And while Moeller whined vaguely about overwhelming personal problems, there was literally nothing to redact from the public records in her case.
Megan Moeller was immeasurably worse — and far less sympathetic — than Craig Wymetalek, yet the Oregon State Bar never warned the public about her, never sought her immediate suspension, and never reported her to law enforcement. In fact, the OSB valiantly protected her from criminal prosecution for nearly two years, helping her run out the statutes of limitations in nearly ever matter she ever touched.
Moeller was finally arrested exactly two weeks after the OSB hastily dusted off Wymetalek’s case, shoved him into the spotlight, promoted stories about him, and began congratulating themselves for all the public protecting they did. They desperately needed to look like they were tough on attorney crime just before one of their absolute worst was finally hauled in.
The public was absolutely never protected in either matter… but the Oregon State Bar and their agenda, as always, were.