August 2007

Demanding Accountability

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Oscar “The Grouch” Nealy?
JoCo attorney resigns

By Ron Lee
Investigative Reporter

Grants Pass, OR - Even though he has stiff competition, Oscar Nealy could go down in Josephine County history books as one of the worst attorneys to ever practice law. So pervasive were his wrongdoings he sent a letter of resignation to the Oregon State Bar (OSB) on May 3, 2007, stating, "I do not desire to contest or defend the ... complaints, allegations or instances of alleged misconduct." And, on June 20, 2007, his resignation was accepted.

Complaints filed with the bar included: failure to carry out a contract of employment; failure to deposit or maintain client funds in trust; failure to account for client funds or property; failure to keep a client reasonably informed of the status of a case; failure to communicate with client sufficient[ly] to allow client to make informed decisions regarding the representation; knowingly make a false statement of law or fact to a tribunal; conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation; conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.

From criminal defenses to post conviction relief cases, guardianship filings to civil suits, Oscar Nealy misrepresented his clients and foiled their cases while asking for more money at every turn. Some clients would hire him and never hear from him. He would even avoid their multiple attempts to contact him.

At one point Nealy was suspended from the practice of law by the OSB for a period of 4 months, but that didn't stop him. He continued to practice, and appeared in court on several occasions during his suspension.

According to the OSB web site, his suspension resulted from the mis-handling of three client matters. OSB wrote: "In the first matter, Nealy failed to take substantive action on his client’s personal injury claim for a significant period and failed to notify his client prior to the expiration of the statute of limitations that he would not be pursuing the claim.

In the second matter, Nealy was unable to appropriately account for funds received on behalf of a criminal defense client or timely return the client’s remaining funds.

In the third matter, Nealy was appointed with his nephew as the co-personal representative of his deceased brother’s estate, and acted as the attorney for the personal representatives. Following initial filings, Nealy did not take any substantive action on the probate for more than a year. When he thereafter filed the final accounting and decree of final distribution, he failed to take the remaining steps of making the distributions, obtaining receipts and obtaining an order closing the probate for more than another year. In the interim, the court dismissed the probate for lack of prosecution.

While the probate was pending, Nealy took periodic payments for his fees from estate funds without petitioning the court for approval as required by statute.

The stipulation noted that Nealy has twice been publicly reprimanded for unrelated violations and has also received letters of admonition over the course of his practice for neglect violations similar to those acknowledged in these matters. Nealy has substantial experience in the practice of law, having been admitted in 1968."

In the case of Hank and Linda Ebert, clients of Nealy, whose bid to secure the guardianship of Hank's half brother Fred, Nealy's lack of performance has cost them greatly.

Commenting on his attempt to acquire guardianship of his brother Hank Ebert said, "All we want is to be a part of my brother’s care and medical decisions. Fred can't make those decisions on his own.”

Fred suffers from Down Syndrome and was placed in foster care prior to his mother's death. According to Ebert, "It was just too difficult for mom to care for Fred." Ebert also maintains that the foster care provider denied Fred access to visits with his mother, and that all of this was part of his case to attain guardianship.

Fred is currently in foster care and it has been determined that he can make all decisions regarding his well-being, even though he has difficulty understanding that his mother is no longer alive.

In the Ebert’s case, Nealy had attended a hearing during his suspension and the case could be overturned. This, however, would require the Eberts to retain another attorney and come up with even more money, something they are very leery of doing due to their "Nealy" experience.

Nealy can be pursued civilly for malpractice.

Nealy's latest career choice - logger.

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