June 10, 3013
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.