White-Collar Crime

Looming 30-Day Jail Term Is Sad Chapter in Career of Renowned Trial Lawyer

A well-known Oregon trial attorney, Mike Shinn scored many victories over his 36-year legal career. Perhaps best known is the civil wrongful death case he pursued against a now-convicted murderer of another Portland lawyer, Cheryl Keeton. It led to the successful prosecution of her estranged husband and killer, Brad Cunningham.

As detailed in a true-crime novel by best-selling author Ann Rule, Dead by Sunset, the civil case was considered too dangerous to pursue by other lawyers until Shinn took it on, winning an $81.7 million verdict in the early 1990s.

But since then Shinn, who is now 63, has fallen from grace. Accused by the Oregon bar of mishandling funds of at least 22 clients, he is no longer a lawyer and is about to begin serving a 30-day jail sentence, according to the Oregonian.

“I’ve been here many times—never in my worst nightmares did I envision an appearance like this,” Shinn told the Oregonian last month, as he sat in Multnomah County Circuit Court after being sentenced to 30 days in jail and five years of probation for stealing client funds.

Although he blamed an inexperienced legal secretary for some of his problems, he also said he had been “careless” and “reckless,” at one point. He said he didn’t take drugs and, while he does drink, has it “under control.”

Some $250,000 in debt, he expects to file for bankruptcy, according to the newspaper.

Shinn’s attorney, Ron Hoevet, describes him as one of the best civil trial lawyers in the city, but says his record-keeping was “a mess,” the Oregonian reports.

Additional coverage:

Oregonian (2008): “Oregon lawyer accused of stiffing clients on settlements”

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