Tampering with Evidence
Oregon State Bar is jointly liable for contempt of court
Salem attorney John Pollino recently sent a letter to J.P. Morgan Chase Bank, calling into question the “authenticity of [a] subpoena” that the bank had been served with, and urging the bank not to produce the records requested by that subpoena. The bank’s records could substantiate claims of theft and fraud made against Pollino’s client, the defendant in a three-quarter million-dollar tort suit.
Pollino sent his bizarre letter despite knowledge that the subpoena had been legally and properly issued by court staff in Judge Courtland Geyer’s office at the Marion County Circuit Court.
Because of that knowledge, Pollino’s letter appears to constitute evidence tampering by an act of deception — a misdemeanor under Oregon statute. The Salem Police called it “a court matter,” not a criminal matter, and declined to investigate.
The conduct also constitutes contempt of court, and implicates several ethics rules that attorneys are supposed to abide by. However, it is unlikely that Pollino will be sanctioned for his misconduct by the state’s ethics watchdog, the Oregon State Bar (OSB). That is because the OSB is also Pollino’s employer in the tort suit — Pollino was hired by the OSB Professional Liability Fund (PLF) to defend that case.
As Pollino’s employer, though, the OSB PLF is jointly liable for Pollino’s contemptuous conduct in the tort case, as an “entity defendant.” “Contempt of court” incudes misconduct that interferes with the administration of justice, and obstruction of the court’s orders, including subpoenas. An entity such as the OSB PLF is liable for such conduct as Pollino’s if it is “engaged in by an agent of the entity while acting within the scope of employment and on behalf of the entity,” or “knowingly tolerated by a high managerial agent of an entity.” This incident certainly fits that standard.
Sanctions for contempt could include a fine, financial compensation to Pollino’s opponent, and even jail time.
It is unknown if, in conjunction with his letter, Pollino made a false report to police regarding this subpoena he insinuates is fraudulent, or if he made a report of simulation of legal process by Marion court staff.
What is known is that if Pollino had any genuine concerns about the authenticity of a court document he simply would have verified the document through the court, as any competent and reasonable attorney would have done.
But Pollino did not do what a competent and reasonable attorney would have and should have done.
Evidently his concerns were not genuine, but faux outrage designed to obstruct his opponent’s ability to gather evidence of a crime. Due to that deception, it is reasonable to presume that J.P. Morgan Chase’s business records — which Pollino and the OSB are obviously trying to suppress — must be significant indeed.