CNMI Attorney Woodruff Scolded As Victims Never Made Whole

October 13, 2013

It is hard to comprehend why an attorney would accept cases from the poorest of the CNMI's poor, the disenfranchised foreign workers, and then time after time fail to give them the proper legal representation that they paid for and deserved. It is even more difficult to understand if the attorney claims to be a defender of the very people who he has cheated time and time again.

In June 2013, 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 and blatant incompetent behavior that involved nine clients.  The clients who retained by Woodruff 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.

The U.S. District Court required Woodruff to notify the court in writing each month of progress of his disciplinary matters. He failed to comply and was ordered to appear in court on October 11, 2013 to show cause why he should not be fined and jailed.

Only hours prior to the U.S. District Court hearing, Woodruff finally filed required reports. In the end, U.S. District Judge Ramona Manglona let the attorney off with a mild scolding:


A letter presented to the court by one of Woodruff's victims:
Woodruff has denied his negligence and, as far as I know, has not apologized to his many victims who have never been made whole and probably never will be. Instead of being humbled by this wake-up call and attempting to correct his harmful negligence, Woodruff has shown arrogance and acted defensively, even lashing out at the judges. He attempted unsuccessfully to have judges recused from his case, as the documents indicate.

It is disappointing that so many rogue attorneys have preyed on innocent foreign workers. Woodruff is certainly not the first. (I wish I had even half of the money I paid to former attorney Dennis O'Shea on behalf of dozens of  foreign workers who he victimized in the 1990's.)

If the CNMI Bar Association did their job perhaps some innocent victims could have been spared. But then again, has this organization of legal professionals disbarred former notorious CNMI Attorney General Edward Buckingham? Did it even investigate the sidesteps of CNMI Chief Prosecutor Shelli Neal? The loudest noise is the CNMI has always been the swish of garbage being swept under the rug.


18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wendy,

You and hundreds of foreign workers were bamboozled by Woodruff and the other activists. Woodruff is hands down the worst attorney in the CNMI. He is too dumb to be a cunning ruthless lawyer like Jorgensen. However he is a snake who managed to defraud many poor workers out of their life savings.

Anonymous said...

Sharks aren't the predators found in this island. The attorneys are. Shame on them all.

Anonymous said...

What sickens me most is that Woodruff might make a million bucks from the NMIRF lawsuit brought on by Tina Sablan, Betty Johnson, Moe, Doe and aggressively marketed by Glen Dale Hunter and his on island minions. At the very least the court should withhold every single dime owed to the poor contract workers Woodruff scammed or hold these Plaintiffs accountable.

Wendy Doromal said...

7:03 Since 2008 I have publicly disagreed with Woodruff on many issues, as has been documented by blogs and Saipan newspapers. These include his alliance with Fitalite Deanne Seimer and his attacks on hard working and dedicated foreign worker leaders and groups (Human Dignity Movement among others). His actions and treatment of the leaders were divisive and uncalled for. I can respectfully disagree with people with opposing views, but will never defend a person who cheats or preys on those who lack basic rights and the resources to get justice. He needs to apologize and make these people whole by at least refunding all of their attorney fees. Unfortunately, when he failed to show up in court and his clients' cases were closed, the system failed them too. Most of his victims will never be made whole. It is very unjust. It is sickening to read excuses for such unethical and harmful behavior.

Wendy Doromal said...

10:01 I don't see the connection between the Retirement Fund lawsuit and Woodruff's ill treatment of foreign worker clients that resulted in his disbarment. As I understand it, the CNMI Gvt. had to be sued -it was not paying what it was obligated to into the Retirement Fund. I doubt that Woodruff kept accurate records to document work on this lawsuit, since he has demonstrated that he consistently did not even file court documents in a timely manner. If he did keep the records of his hours and he contributed to the case, then he should be paid what he is owed. I am guessing the judge can determine this.

Anonymous said...

Sagana and Woodruff got rich off scheming workers with their Dekada get a green card scheme. The only ones who got something were those two who stole over $50,000 from desperate workers. Bonny got a car and Woodruff pocketed the rest. The workers got nada. "Pay me $100 I'll get you a green card" was the worse scheme ever.

Anonymous said...

There may not be a direct connection between the NMIRF lawsuit and scamming CWs but it is no coincidence that Jorgensen hired Woodruff. Both of them are despicable attorneys who are loved and cherished by Tina Sablan and Glen Hunter. When Jorgensen hired Woodruff where were the protests from Plaintiff Tina Sablan who knew full well what he did to the contract workers. I mean didn't she hold hands with him at the candle light vigils ?

Anonymous said...

atty.woodruff is a good lawyer im a contract worker here in cmni.his doing his jod as a lawyer..only the adviser like sagana is devil..and also the politics here in cnmi is to much playing game...

Wendy Doromal said...

12:11 Okay, we get it - you don't like Tina and Glen, but please focus!

Tina and Glen have nothing to do with the deplorable acts that Woodruff committed. Tina and Glen "love and cherish" these two attorneys? From what authority do you make this silly claim?

Vigils, protests and rallies are public events. Just because a person attends an event with someone else does not mean that they support or even like the ideas or actions of every other person who attends. You made a childish statement and topped it with your personal hatred for two upstanding people who have made significant contributions to the CNMI. Just stop!

justice seeker said...

This post is patently defamatory from the title and first sentence onward.

For starters, I have never "accept[ed] cases from the poorest of the CNMI's poor, the disenfranchised foreign workers, and then time after time fail[ed] to give them the proper legal representation that they paid for and deserved."

To the contrary, I have done exactly the opposite. I have given to the poor and disenfranchiesed competent and zealous representation far beyond anything they paid for. In the process, I lost close to $200,000 of my own money (something I can document), suffered the considerable ire of my spouse, and had my professional reputation subjected to the kind of attack usually reserved for political battles at the national level

Judge Wiseman's June 7, 2013 so-called disbarment order was a hatchet job that in my opinion constituted judicial misconduct. It was issued after refusing to allow me to be heard on the merits and by brushing aside affidavits from complainants telling the Court that the bar association charges were without merit.

Moreover, it is not a final order, as I have exercised my right to appeal to the Commonwealth Supreme Court. This fact was explicitly stated by Judge Manglona in her well-publicized order staying proceedings in the Federal court. In short, I am not presently disbarred even in CNMI courts, although I am still subject to the the Commonwealth Supreme Court's interim suspension issued on February 1, and currently am representing no one in, or in connection with, Commonwealth courts. Moreover, state courts have no authority to control practice of law in federal jurisdictions, as is clear from more than 100 years of U.S. Supreme Court jurisprudence.

The disciplinary proceedings in the Superior Court followed a highly irregular and unprecedented action in the Commonwealth Supreme Court by Disciplinary Committee Chairman Tim Bellas against me, resulting in a shocking interim suspension that ran against all the Court's prior precedent and conflicted with provisions of the CNMI Disciplinary Rules.

To create a supposed case against me, the Bar Disciplinary Committee, run by Mr. Bellas, had to aggregate six years of trivial or utterly meritless complaints against me to allege a supposed "pattern" of allegedly not doing my job. In truth, the pattern is one I admit: for far too long, I have, as one of my colleagues told me years ago, done "too much, for too many, for too litte."

In two of the nine cases used as the purported basis for discipline, I already had Superior Court judgments in my favor against the complaining parties (Itos Feliciano and Honorio Cambronero) against their claims that I was guilty of breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and legal malpractice.

Mr. Cambronero's employer spent over $40,000 defending against my advocacy on his behalf. How much did Mr. Cambronero pay for this massive effort on my part? It's right there in Judge Wiseman's decision. $100.

And Mr. Feliciano? He paid me all of $300. That fact also is right there in Judge Wiseman's decision. For this, I prepared and filed his complaint against his employer, went through the entire pretrial process, and prepared for trial. Mr. Feliciano's employer was represented by Jack Torres and refused to offer more than $500 to settle.

Mr. Feliciano steadfastly refused to accept the settlement offer despite having an especially weak case based principally on asking the court to infer that the employer discriminated against Mr. Feliciano simply because it was engaged in wrongdoing of another sort (hiring of "ghost employees," i.e. employees without proper papers) and notwitstanding the firm's nondiscriminatory employment of other Filipinos.

I did not appear for trial as scheduled because of a medical reason (I was at the hospital per doctor's orders from the night before). Judge Munson got angry, dismissed the case, and subsequently refused to back down.

(con't next comment)

justice seeker said...

It was Judge Munson who planted the idea for my clients to go against me, with language he put in his order in the Feliciano case. After Judge Munson dismissed his case and suggested that Mr. Feliciano sue me, Mr. Feliciano told me to my face that he was "not interested" in taking any kind of action against me. Later, he apparently got the idea that maybe he could make money off of me, and filed a small claims case against me and a complaint with the bar association. When he was frustrated with his failure to extort money, he began on a crusade, a vendetta against me that continues to this day and I have mostly ignored.

A review of U.S. District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands records shows that in the past dozen years I represented twice as many clients in Federal court as Judge Wiseman did in his entire career as an attorney. Mine, of course, produced little renumeration for me, while his almost certainly were invariably profitable.

On critical examination, it should be plain to any thinking and informed person that my difficulties have political roots arising out of my zealous and highly effective advocacy on behalf of foreign nationals and my willingness to stand up to the CNMI government and powers that be in the Retirement Fund case (with no assurance of ever getting a penny), a risk no other member of the CNMI bar was willing to take.

Regards,

Stephen C. Woodruff

justice seeker said...

My " alliance with Fitalite Deanne Seimer" (which actually was not an alliance but simple professionalism) helped literally hundreds of foreign nationals to to cure their status prior to the Federal takeover of immigration.

Unlike Pam Brown's dalliance with Ed Buckingham to create the "umbrella permits for overstayers" order, my strategy actually worked. The Department of Homeland Security unquestionably accepts the umbrella permits I procured through Ms. Siemer but to this day refuses to recognize the validity of the status granted by Attorney General Buckingham's order.

Despite the infirmity of Ms. Brown's strategy, I have advocated vigorously to get the 628+ list recognized. No other lawyer has come even remotely close to the extent of my advocacy. Obviously there were some persons who ardently desired to terminate my ability to do so.

Ironically, Ms. Siemer's umbrella permit program was questioned by a number of attorney's -- notably Mark Hanson and Jane Mack -- (and scorned by Wendy) based on its implementation by the Department of Labor rather than the Division of Immigration. Yet it is the order issued by the chief immigration authority of the Commonwealth, the Attorney General, not Ms. Siemer's umbrellas, that is utterly disregarded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

At the time, I did (and wrote up) the legal analysis concluding that the umbrella permit program was sufficiently grounded in existing law. The FUD missiles (Fear, Uncertainty & Doubt -- a marketing strategy conceived and honed to great effect by Xerox in the 1950s) launched by those with views driven more by personal affinities than critical thinking have been shown by four years of experience to be wholly insubstantial -- while Deanne Siemer and Steve Woodruff achieved concrete and lasting results for thousands of foreign nationals and their families.

justice seeker said...

The title of this post -- "CNMI Attorney Woodruff Scolded As Victims Never Made Whole" is entirely false.

To the extent that it can be said that I was scolded by either Judge Wiseman or Judge Manglona in recent court proceedings or orders, it very plainly had absolutely nothing to do with any "victims" not having been "made whole."

Judge Wiseman explicitly stated in his order that I am not presently required to make any payments to the individuals he would characterize as victims.

Judge Manglona was not concerned at all about whether I did or did not do anything in any Commonwealth court order. Instead, she was concerned exclusively with my compliance with extensive reporting requirements she imposed upon me as a result of the actions of the Commonwealth courts. Judge Manglona discharged the order to show cause and excused my late performance because by the time of the hearing I was in full compliance with her order.

Judge Manglona also recognized that the scurrilous and dishonest paper filed in her proceedings by Murugesan Subbaiah was not properly filed therein and ordered it stricken from the record and handled in accordance with the district court rules for disposition of complaints made about attorneys (such as myself) admitted to practice in that court.

justice seeker said...

What "attacks on hard working and dedicated foreign worker leaders and groups (Human Dignity Movement among others)," Wendy?

Please support this claim with specific examples and details.

You can't, because it never happened.

Wendy Doromal said...

Stephen: I am sure those seeking justice are those who suffered twice -once at the hands of employers who cheated them and once again because you failed to adequately represent them. As the court documents stated:

"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 court documents attest to the truth. People can read every one of them and decide for themselves.

You owe the clients that you misrepresented an apology, and you need to reimburse some of them for fees. You need to own your mistakes. Attacking innocent people like the ombudsman, judges, and any one else that disagrees with you is not owning up to the blatant acts that have been documented by the court and your peers.

And yes, I have examples and details as you are fully aware. (Comment at 10:00) I will not engage in a pingpong game of words with you - been there, done that. I no longer respect you and you no longer have a forum on this site.

Anonymous said...

Poor Steve. I'm starting to feel sorry for you like a beaten down kid on the playground. If by some miracle you get your one million dollar paycheck out of this NMIRF lawsuit you can finally cash out. You will have the last laugh all the way to the bank. You are one of the dumbest lawyers in the region and managed to maybe make close to a million bucks without doing anything. I'm impressed.

Anonymous said...

So everyone is wrong except Woodruff? The clients, the judges, the critics areall wrong if they disagree with the most incompetent boastful lawyer to ever grace Saipan. This guy needs a major reality check. Next time he doesn't comply I hope he gets fined and spends a few days in the slammer. Maybe that will wake him up!

Anonymous said...

In regards to 12:11 comment, if I am not mistaken Jorgenson needed (was told by the court)a local address (with an attorney) to continue his actions in the NMI.
Also isn't Jorgensen barred from practicing in the local courts? Only Fed courts he is allowed.