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The Disciplinary Panel of the U.S. District Court for Utah found D. Bruce Oliver has a pattern of filing frivolous lawsuits.
In a ruling handed down Wednesday, the panel also publicly reprimanded Oliver, who has practiced for 20 years.
Oliver and his attorney could not be reached for comment Thursday. But in a written response to the complaint that led to the suspension, he denied the allegations and argued, among other points, that there was insufficient evidence to support any discipline against him.
The case began in August 2005 with a referral by federal Judge Paul Cassell, who sanctioned Oliver during pretrial procedures in a lawsuit filed by a man claiming he had been beaten by Ogden police officers.
Cassell said Oliver, who represented the man, had repeatedly missed deadlines to turn over documents to the department and ordered Oliver to pay $4,865 in attorneys' fees and costs to his opponents. The judge also filed a complaint with the panel, saying a search of the federal court docket had turned up 27 instances from 2001 to 2005 of missed deadlines, failures to respond to filings that resulted in suits being dismissed and the filing of questionable claims.
The panel noted there is no evidence suggesting that Oliver's misconduct was driven by a dishonest or selfish motive. However, the three members - District Judge Ted Stewart, Magistrate David Nuffer and Bankruptcy Judge Judith Boulden - said this mitigation is substantially outweighed by the aggravating circumstances.
One of Oliver's high-profile cases was a wrongful-death lawsuit against the Utah Department of Corrections and Salt Lake City police filed by Angela Ricci, widow of Richard Ricci, a one-time suspect in the Elizabeth Smart kidnapping. Angela Ricci reached a settlement in 2004 with the Corrections Department, which denied wrongdoing, but Stewart dismissed the portion of the legal action against the police.
Stewart ruled there were no solid facts to back up allegations that police were responsible for the arrest and detention conditions of Richard Ricci, who died in custody from a cerebral hemorrhage. In throwing out the suit, the judge criticized Oliver as unprofessional for failing to produce documents or witness statements to help prove the case.
A report prepared by Magistrate Paul Warner, who conducted an evidentiary hearing in Oliver's disciplinary case, does not list the Ricci case as an example of professional misconduct.