Attorney Stephen Woodruff Disbarred

June 10, 3013

Saipan attorney Stephen Woodruff was disbarred for  44 violations of the  Model Rules of Professional Conduct. The 28-page ruling by Associate Superior Court Judge David Wiseman details the violations that involved nine clients.  The clients retained Woodruff expecting competent legal representation, but suffered because he failed to deliver. They filed complaints with the CNMI Bar Association's disciplinary committee.

The court determined:
"Mr. Woodruff has a history of failing to appear as ordered, of failing to observe rules of court, of missing deadlines, of receiving attorney's fees and application fees and then filing the applications late, in the wrong place, or not at all, of not communicating with clients to keep them reasonably informed of the status of their matters between them, of taking aggressive action toward one of his clients by threatening to call police if she kept appearing at his office to inquire as to the status of her legal matter, of misrepresenting facts to clients such as the divorce decree for [name of client], not showing up for a trial and having the case dismissed with prejudice and miscellaneous other profession shortcomings as detailed above."
The complaint states that Woodruff has violated professional conduct in more than one court. In the U.S. District Court there are 25 different types of adverse actions taken on Woodruff for his incompetence and non-diligence. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed three cases because Woodruff failed to file an opening brief. The Commonwealth Court of Appeals dismissed two cases for untimely filing.

When Woodruff was suspended from practicing law earlier this year, he was ordered by the Supreme Court of the NMI to provide the Court a list of his clients. The Court warned that failure to comply would result in further sanctions. When Woodruff failed to comply the court threatened him with jail time.

The Court found that because of Woodruff's serious violations and unprofessional  behavior mere suspension of his license was not enough. The ruling stated:
"Mr. Woodruff's misconduct has resulted in serious injuries to the legal profession, his clients, the public and the legal system in general through a continued disparagement of the administration of justice and such conduct cannot be allowed to continue." . . . 
"The Court therefore finds that its initial determination of suspension for a period of years would undermine the appropriate standards of the practice of law in the CNMI that need to be maintained. Therefore, it is this Court's opinion that the appropriate discipline in view of the foregoing findings and factors detailed herein is disbarment of Mr. Woodruff for his 44 violations of the MRPC in this case as well as his history of other adverse actions."
In addition to being disbarred, Woodruff was ordered to pay any costs for the prosecution of the case; to comply with all provisions of the NMI Disciplinary Rules, including notifying any clients of his status; to submit a list of all current and pending clients to the Commonwealth Superior Court within 30 days of the order and to repay all clients the sum of any unearned retainer fees; and to repay some of the fees to 7 of the 9 clients who filed the complaints against him.

Although the client's complaints clearly evidence the attorney's serious violations and their resulting harm, a Marianas Variety article quotes Woodruff attacking the judge. Woodruff  claimed that the order was "an attempt to bludgeon him out of his advocacy on behalf of the foreign, the dispossessed, the economically disadvantaged and the politically disenfranchised."

Actually, according to the order, it was Woodruff who preyed on the foreign, the dispossessed, the economically disadvantaged and the politically disenfranchised. He took retainer fees from them and then failed to properly pursue the clients' cases or even to communicate with them. Many of the clients will never be made whole.

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

"He who represents himself has a fool for a client."

"He who hires Stephen Woodruff has a fool for a laywer."

The USCIS lady laid it out very clearly on the news: There are no lawyers or law firms in the CNMI that can help you get a green card. None. Zero. These lawyers prey on desperate and scared contract workers and make a lot of money off of them. A lot of this money is generated by simply having their "client" do all of the running around while the lawyers does squat. These scumbags are not the only ones who prey on CWs. Many so called advocates marched with them for their own selfish interests and publicity.

Wendy Doromal said...

Most advocates are not motivated by selfish desires nor are they seeking publicity. They seek justice and reform.

Anonymous said...

Woodruff isn't my buddy and may or may not be a good lawyer, but to one matter there is no question and that is:

HIS WORK IN BEHALF OF WORKERS MADE ENEMIES WITH THE ESTABLISHMENT AND BUSINESS COMMUNITY IN SAIPAN AND THAT GOT HIM DISBARRED

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately Wendy, Woodruff is one of them whose selfish desire to enrich himself is purely from the expense of the desperate CWs.

Anonymous said...

9:05 Get real! He got himself disbarred.

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Anonymous said...

It would be interesting to have him take a drug test.
Also years ago,as a second hand hearsay only, it was stated by another attorney that he may have an Alcohol problem.
If any of this is true it would be good if he could get help, but that would not be available in the CNMI.

I never trusted him (among many others)

He graduated from law school in Hawaii and his license there is now inactive.

Anonymous said...

he can apply for a license in Connecticut where he came from

Anonymous said...

So Woodruff committed violations and was disciplined, OK. How will Judge Wiseman be disciplined for his own violation--the publication of the decision before the appeal time has passed, thereby violating Woodruff's rights? I find that action to be very disturbing and in need of closer examination.

One person's violations does not negate another's.

Anonymous said...

1:55 Where is it a violation to disclose an order before an appeal? Court orders are public information. Appeal all he want this crooked lawyer is facing consequences for his years of cheating the most impoverished community members. He cannot win an appeal. I am surprised Wiseman did not sanction him for his lies and attack on the judge.

10:40 Can an attorney who is disbarred for so many offenses just get licensed in another state? If so, too bad for the new victims.

Anonymous said...

Woodruff, Quichocho and Jorgensen. These three have been investigated for various crimes and finally one has been disbarred. What do the "three" have in common? They are very close to Saipan's three most famous advocates. This relationship is deeply troubling and should be brought to light - which it will.

Anonymous said...

4:49 What "three most famous advocates"? Seriously?

Anonymous said...

Boni DEKADA Sagana is not a famous advocate but he and Woodruff scammed 3 thousand OCWs with the $100 will be an investment for a green card scam. It's gone downhill from there. So if anything should come to light it should be what happened to the tens of thousands of $$$$ from the DEKADA scam.

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Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

1:55 Where is it a violation to disclose an order before an appeal? Court orders are public information.



I'm just reading from the Variety article that was linked:

"This is a plain violation of the spirit, if not the letter, of the Disciplinary Rules, which require strict confidentiality until a case is properly concluded."

Anonymous said...

Did someone ever experience getting trapped for wrongdoing that is not directly but indirectly connected to you? Stephen Woodruff is just one of them. He thought, “He will never get caught”. But now he realized, “How he was framed up by some guys between NMI Bar association and CW’s”. It took a long way (44 violations) to get him disbarred. An U.S assistant Attorney General says, “He is likely to get disbarred by federal practice of law too”. A CIA agent used to say, “Do not ever get caught or you will be out”. It reminds us all, “To err is human”.

Anonymous said...

7:11 May be you're right but Woodruff is not the victim, all the clients he cheated are. He needs to man up or he'll never change.

Anonymous said...

Woodruff's law career mirrors that of Joey Arriola: OVER. Like most attorneys on Saipan, Woodruff tried to cash in during a feeding frenzy, think Hilbloom and Article 12. He got in there with the marchers and their organizers. He held hands with Glen and Tina. His client base were poor CWs who scraped what money they had together and handed it over to him. He reminds me of a two-bit con artist lawyer who defends drunk drivers for a living or worse he's your bottom of the barrel collections lawyer. There is more to this story. Who got him his clients ? Was there a finder's fee for this service? There are a few influential people among the CW community who no doubt directed them to seek out Stephen.

Wendy Doromal said...

10:13 You are way off base. The Unity March, (which originated through the Human Dignity Movement Jerry Custodio and others) consisted of thousands of people, including many worker groups, advocates, and people of conscience with diverse views and beliefs. There were federal officials, local officials, U.S. citizens, children, elderly and people of all races. Stephen Woodruff was there and so were over 5,000 other people. Being in a march does not mean that one supports the behavior or ideas of every single member who also marches! And why would you even suggest that Tina and Glen support people getting ripped off or cheated? I too initially thought that Steve Woodruff supported workers, but over the years my views changed and even clashed with many of his views. Furthermore, I support no one who takes money and does not fulfill a service, especially when the clients are voiceless, the poorest of the population and disenfranchised.

But to suggest that people received a finder's fee? Really? Pathetic!

Anonymous said...

partial justice for victim-clients. those who lost cases cuz of this bozo lawyer are still out money from cheating employers. this is his karma.

Anonymous said...

That is really true! Let Sagana answer this. Advocate? Hmmm....

Anonymous said...

this man destroyed the lives of my husband, I and our child with his bad legal advise and completely horrible council. This man is truly a man who should be several punished for he has done, and continues to do to the poor uneducated people of Saipan. The only other people who do more harm to the island and people of Saipan, is Glen and Tina, along with Ed....people come to your senses and see what these people are doing to you.