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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Judge denies Woodruff’s motion to suspend 3-day jail term

Superior Court Associate Judge David A. Wiseman denied on Friday Stephen C. Woodruff’s request to suspend his three-day prison sentence for contempt of court pending his appeal before the CNMI Supreme Court.

With Wiseman’s order, Woodruff was expected to be released from the Department of Corrections yesterday morning. He voluntarily reported to DOC on Thursday morning pursuant to a court order.

In denying Woodruff’s motion for a stay of his sentence, the judge said the disbarred lawyer “does not assert the standard governing motions for stay and thus his motion fails to substantially show a combination of probable success on the merits and the possibility of irreparable injury or that serious questions are raised and the balance of hardships tips sharply in his favor.”

Wiseman said that Woodruff merely asserts that the Superior Court is wrong.

Wiseman said the court did not err in partially revoking Woodruff’s suspended sentence and did not err in refusing to acknowledge respondent’s an in-camera submission without the proper procedural vehicle.

In-camera submission means filed in private.

The judge said the court also did not err in finding the results of the Nov. 21, 2013, hearing warranted partial revocation of the suspended sentence and appointment of an auditor.

Wiseman pointed out that Woodruff’s other allegations of error have no basis.

On Woodruff’s failure to pay $200 to his former client, Mr. Nakamura, Wiseman gave the respondent one month or until Jan. 6, 2014, to pay the amount.

As to the issue of standards cited by Woodruff in his motion to stay, Wiseman said Commonwealth Rule of Civil Procedure 62(d) deals with supersedeas bonds, which are not at issue here, and Commonwealth Rule of Criminal Procedure 38(a)(2) is a rule of criminal procedure that is inapplicable to this civil case.

In his motion to stay, Woodruff claimed that the court erred in partially revoking his suspended sentence because he did everything he could to purge the contempt as there is no evidence he did not inform his clients of his ability to practice law, and that the disbarment order is not final, and that he was not given a chance to purge the contempt before sentence was imposed.

Wiseman disagreed. He noted that Woodruff is correct in stating that there is no evidence that he did not inform his clients of the status of his ability to practice law, as this is exactly what the affidavit in Rule 15 of the Commonwealth Rules of Disciplinary Rules and Procedures and the disbarment order required.

Second, the judge said, if the disbarment order was not a final order, then respondent would not have the ability to appeal it.

Third, Wiseman said, Woodruff was given several opportunities to comply before the sentence was imposed.

“The court ordered the suspended sentence on the condition that respondent comply, gave him a chance to file the required affidavit, and then gave him a chance to file a supplement to the affidavit to cure its defects,” he said.

Woodruff, under the threat of imposition of the sentence for his contempt, failed to avail himself of these opportunities, according to Wiseman.

“These arguments go toward the factor of probable success on the merits and respondent fails to establish any of the other factors required for a stay. A stay is therefore not warranted on this ground of error,” the judge said.

Wiseman said that Woodruff alleges other miscellaneous areas of error but similarly fails to allege any other standard required to warrant a stay.

On Nakamura’s fees, Wiseman said the court directed the respondent to pay $200 to the client by Dec. 6, 2013, but Woodruff raised the arguments that he may be incarcerated at that time and also lacks the ability to make the payment.

Wiseman acknowledged the arguments and amended the payment date to Jan. 6, 2014.

Wiseman disbarred Woodruff on June 7, 2013, for 44 violations of the Model Rules of Professional Conduct.

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