Kennewick attorney suspended for 3 years

Kristin M. Kraemer, Tri-City HeraldDecember 8, 2012 

A Kennewick lawyer is suspended from practicing for three years after she was caught lying to judges in Benton and King counties and failed to pay court-ordered sanctions.

Andrea M. Salinas agreed to the order, which was approved unanimously this week by the Washington Supreme Court.

The Washington State Bar Association's disciplinary board noted seven counts of violating the Rules of Professional Conduct.

The suspension is retroactive to May 1, when Salinas initially was told to stop practicing because she had not paid her licensing fees, according to disciplinary documents released by the association.

Salinas passed the bar exam in February 2008 and was admitted three months later.

Information on the association's website shows that she covered many areas of the law, including civil litigation,criminal, family and estate planning.

Salinas' misconduct came to light after William Kral, a former client, filed a grievance against her with the state bar association.

Kral was convicted in 2006 of DUI and driving with a suspended license. He served a nine-month sentence that included three months in an alcohol treatment program and paid more than $4,600 in fines.

In February 2010, Salinas was appointed to represent him in Benton County Superior Court on his appeal. She filed a brief stating that she "saw no grounds for appeal," and was ordered by the court to file a supplemental brief, documents show.

She never filed the brief, so the court scheduled an Aug. 19, 2010, status hearing. The day before, Salinas reportedly left messages for the deputy prosecutor and the court saying she'd been in a vehicle crash and would not be appearing.

That statement was false and intentional, the disciplinary board found.

The hearing was postponed a month and a court clerk mailed notice of the new date to Salinas' address on record, but the letter was returned. Salinas had moved her practice on Sept. 1, 2010, to Seattle, but didn't inform the court, the clerk's office or even her client Kral of the change.

Kral was unable to reach Salinas before the Sept. 23, 2010, hearing, so he drove from his home in Snoqualmie to Kennewick, only to discover his attorney was absent. Meanwhile, the court had arranged for a sign language interpreter to be there because Kral is hearing impaired.

Because Salinas was a no-show and had not updated anyone on her status, the judge imposed a $100 sanction and ordered the lawyer to pay the cost of the interpreter. She received notice of the money owed but never paid it.

Salinas skipped out on another hearing two weeks later and didn't give advance notice to court administration or her client, despite being told to do so by the deputy prosecutor. Kral drove over for the hearing and was in court with an interpreter.

The judge again imposed a $100 sanction and ordered Salinas to pay the interpreter's costs and $150 for Kral's travel expenses. She didn't pay.

A new lawyer was assigned to the case and spent two months trying to get Kral's file from Salinas. The lawyer had to reconstruct the file by getting copies of documents from the prosecutor's office, only to eventually get two boxes from Salinas. There was no evidence in the boxes that Salinas had ever worked on the supplemental brief as earlier ordered by the court.

When confronted by the bar association after Kral filed his grievance, Salinas reportedly asserted that she'd been in a crash the day of the Aug. 19, 2010, hearing.

Kral, who had several court-appointed attorneys during the five years he fought his conviction, won his appeal in August 2011.

A Superior Court judge ruled Kral's constitutional rights were violated because there wasn't a qualified sign language interpreter in court when he was arraigned years before.

His case was sent back to District Court, where the conviction was overturned and the fines he paid were ordered to be returned to him.

The bar association discovered that Salinas was dishonest with the King County Superior Court in 2011 when she inappropriately filed a motion in a custody matter. She also had a hearing before a judge without properly making arrangements with the opposing attorney.

The disciplinary board, in deciding that three years was enough for Salinas' suspension, found that she has a documented history of severe bipolar mood disorder which "significantly contributed to her misconduct." The board noted that she's been receiving medical treatment but has yet to demonstrate "a meaningful and sustained period of successful rehabilitation."

What also weighs in Salinas' favor is that she had no prior disciplinary action and was an experienced lawyer, the association documents said.

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