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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Wiseman orders Woodruff to start three-day prison term on Thursday
Judge says disbarred lawyer keeps blaming everything

Superior Court Associate Judge David A. Wiseman issued an order yesterday directing disbarred lawyer Stephen C. Woodruff to start serving his three-day prison sentence for contempt of court on Thursday at 8am.

Wiseman said this option for Woodruff to report voluntarily to the Department of Corrections in Susupe shall cease to exist at 8:01am Thursday.

If Woodruff fails to report to DOC by then, he shall be arrested and processed as any other person brought to DOC for detention.

Upon his release, Woodruff will be given five days to comply with the court’s other mandates. At the end of the five days, the court will set a hearing date to determine compliance and any other sanctions, if necessary.

The disbarred lawyer was originally sentenced to five days in prison, but because he did submit something that partially complied with court orders, Wiseman said he will not impose the whole five-day sentence at this time.

The judge said he finds it necessary and appropriate to partially revoke the respondent’s five-day suspended sentence due to Woodruff’s willful noncompliance.

Wiseman said he finds this action to be necessary based on the testimony presented at the Nov. 21 hearing, Woodruff’s refusal to accept any responsibility for the harm caused to former clients by his inactions and actions, and the record in this case.

“The court is very concerned about potential ongoing prejudice and injury to the rights of respondent’s former clients and finds it very disturbing that respondent expresses no remorse or acceptance of any responsibility for the harm he has caused to many and listens to their testimony in his state of indifference,” the judge said.

According to court records, Wiseman ordered Woodruff’s disbarment from the CNMI Bar on June 7, 2013, for 44 violations of the Model Rules of Professional Conduct.

On Oct. 2, 2013, Wiseman found Woodruff in contempt of court for not complying with the mandate of Rule 15 of the Commonwealth Disciplinary Rules and Procedures and of the disbarment order.

Woodruff was sentenced to five days in prison but it was suspended on the condition that he comply with the mandates.

Woodruff then submitted an affidavit pursuant to Rule 15, which the court did not find satisfactory so the judge set a hearing for him to explain how he believes his submission was in compliance.

At the hearing, Wiseman found that Woodruff has still not complied with the mandates of Rule 15 and its disbarment order.

On Nov. 22, Wiseman issued an order, stating that the court will issue an arrest warrant on Nov. 26 for Woodruff to serve five days in prison. On Nov. 26, the judge did not issue an arrest warrant because Woodruff submitted the document that the judge has been asking him to comply with the disbarment order.

Also on Nov. 26, Woodruff filed a motion to stay the execution of his sentence pending appeal. In his order issued Friday, Wiseman denied Woodruff’s request.

In his order yesterday that partially revoked the suspended sentence, Wiseman said that Woodruff has consistently refused to comply with the court orders regarding his disbarment and Rule 15 mandates, by “utilizing rhetorical positions and arguments that set forth frivolous arguments” such as the nonexistent automatic stay, which he extensively argued at the October hearing and subsequent submissions.

In addition, Wiseman noted, Woodruff has placed the blame for everything he is encountering with these and other ethical problems and proceedings by challenging the court’s jurisdiction, blaming his clients, the Disciplinary Committee and its chairman, disciplinary counsel Thomas Clifford, Wiseman, the CNMI Supreme Court, the U.S. District Court for the NMI, the U.S. Board of Immigration Appeals, and the Hawaii State Bar Association.

Wiseman said that Woodruff has also accused him of being biased and prejudiced, although he has never filed a written motion nor stated any grounds for his accusations.

Wiseman said he has been very patient with Woodruff’s reluctance and repeated attempts to avoid full compliance with the mandates to comply with the court’s orders.

However, the judge said, his patience and temperance shall not prevent him from entering appropriate sanctions when warranted in order to protect and preserve the public’s confidence in the administration of justice.

“Notwithstanding these allegations of blame there are still numerous clients who have been found to be harmed as well as those who have alleged harm as a result of respondent’s inactions and actions,” he said.

In his supplemental affidavit, Woodruff again argued that his original Rule 15 affidavit was self-explanatory and that he is at a loss as to what more is required of him.

Wiseman said the disbarment order was clear and unambiguous in ordering Woodruff to, among other things, send notices to clients and others and certifications to the court, submit a list of current and pending clients, notify all clients in pending matters of his disbarment and to advise them to substitute another attorney.

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