The allegations stemmed from an October 2011 court order titled a “mental illness magistrate hold,” which was proposed by both attorneys and signed by Circuit Judge Thomas Kohl. The order hospitalized Donn Thomas Spinosa, who is schizophrenic and has twice been indicted in his ex-wife’s 1997 stabbing death.
At the time, Hermann called the order an unusual solution to avoid the release of a dangerous person who is not fit to stand trial.
The case came to the bar’s attention after retired Lane County Judge Jim Hargreaves filed a complaint against the attorneys in December 2011, saying the order did not exist within the law. Hargreaves learned of Spinosa’s case in The Oregonian.
According to the state bar, it dismissed the charges of ethics violations after a Saturday meeting of the State Professional Responsibility Board.
“Most notably, the OSB’s case rested on a belief that Hermann and Axford crafted an order essentially to bypass Oregon’s civil commitment process in order to permanently institutionalize a criminal defendant without due process of law,” state bar spokeswoman Kateri Walsh said Tuesday in a statement.
“During the course of the investigation,” Walsh said, “OSB staff concluded that the attorneys had not sought to bypass the civil commitment procedure, but to initiate that very same process. … The allegation that the attorneys were knowingly taking a legal position without any merit became untenable.”
More information to come.
– Emily E. Smith