A lawyer with an office in John Day was publicly reprimanded last month by the Oregon Supreme Court for posting a message on an Internet site that contained a sexual innuendo about a local teacher.
In a 5-2 ruling, the court concluded that Jim Carpenter, who also has a law office in Hines, "acted intentionally to harm the teacher's reputation, but that his conduct did not seriously adversely reflect on his fitness to practice law."
The court also determined that while Carpenter had a selfish motive, he "had no prior disciplinary record, had provided information fully and freely to the trial panel and had cooperated in the disciplinary process, had a good character and good reputation, was subject to other penalties and sanctions, and was remorseful."
The ruling concerned actions taken by Carpenter in February 2001, when rumors circulated in John Day that the teacher was having an extramarital affair with a student.
At the time of the allegations, according to the court brief, school officials placed a window in the door of the teacher's counseling office and police started an investigation into the affair, but stopped it when the former student refused to disclose whether the affair had begun while she was still attending the high school.
Reacting to the rumors, Carpenter, who had attended high school with the teacher, registered as the teacher on classmates.com and posted this message: "Hey all! How is it going. I am married to an incredibly beautiful woman, AND I get to hang out with high school chicks all day (and some evenings too). I have even been lucky with a few. It just doesn't get any better than this."
Carpenter intended it as a "practical joke" that he believed "no one could take seriously," he wrote in a letter to the Oregon State Bar Association, which had begun an ethics inquiry.
The controversy caused Carpenter to end a campaign to be Grant County's district attorney.
No criminal charges were filed against Carpenter, and during its case before the state supreme court, the bar association conceded that it had not proved by clear and convincing evidence that the statements regarding the teacher's sexual conduct with students in the online message were false.
"That concession is well taken, and we conclude that the accused did not engage in conduct involving misrepresentation," the court's majority opinion said.
In a written statement to the Blue Mountain Eagle, Carpenter said, in part: "I gave my word to the person involved that I would not comment publicly about this case. I intend to honor that commitment."
Along with the court's published ruling, a public reprimand includes an item that will appear in the bar association's monthly magazine.
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