In re Jeffrey L. Hefner, D2016-21 (USPTO Dir. Aug. 11, 2016)

Michael E. McCabe, Jr.Criminal, USPTO

Disposition: Interim suspension from practice before the USPTO predicated upon practitioner’s conviction in Illinois state court of felony possession of methamphetamine.   Final decision here.

Summary: A patent practitioner was convicted in Illinois state court of felony possession of methamphetamine. Pursuant to 37 C.F.R. § 11.25, the OED Director determined, and the USPTO Director agreed, that interim suspension was warranted based upon the practitioner’s conviction of a “serious crime.” The practitioner’s matter was referred to an ALJ for formal disciplinary proceedings. The practitioner will remain suspended pending the resolution of formal USPTO disciplinary proceedings.

Related Cases:  The People of the State of Illinois vs. Jerry L. Hefner, 14-CF-140 (Ill. Cir. Ct. Sept. 9, 2015); In the Matter of Jeffrey Lane Hefner, Case No. 14-C-05148-DFM (Cal. State Bar Ct. Dec. 5, 2016)

Related to USPTO Practice?  No

Facts: On May 26, 2014, Mr. Hefner was a passenger in a car driven by Jeannette Rockey (“Rockey”). An Illinois State Police Trooper initiated a traffic stop of Rockey. When the Trooper approached the vehicle, Mr. Hefner was asleep in the front passenger seat. Rockey was breathing heavily and, when asked about her driving, gave the Trooper an incoherent statement. Throughout the encounter, Rockey’s statements were muddled and disjointed, and she continued to breathe in a rapid, heavy fashion. When Mr. Hefner was asked for identification, he gave the Trooper his California driver’s license. The Trooper observed white residue on Mr. Hefner’s lips. Mr. Hefner was holding a piece of copper wire, and there was a butane torch on the floorboards where he was sitting.

Other Illinois State Police Troopers arrived at the scene, Mr. Hefner was detained and placed in the back of a patrol car. As Mr. Hefner was escorted to the patrol car, he became highly agitated and began cursing and yelling at the Troopers. While in the back of the patrol car, Mr. Hefner began rocking back and forth in his seat and continued to scream at the Troopers. A search of Mr. Hefner’s person resulted in the discovery of a glass pipe in his pocket. The Troopers conducted a search of the vehicle with the help of a police canine trained in narcotics detection and found a plastic jar containing a small amount of methamphetamine, a glass marijuana pipe, and other drug paraphernalia. A search of Rockey’s purse revealed a pill bottle containing marijuana and a metal marijuana pipe with burnt marijuana residue. As the search continued, the Troopers found a drawstring bag containing a small plastic box. Inside the box was other drug paraphernalia and a clear plastic baggie containing crystal methamphetamine. Based on the Troopers’ observation, the belief was formed that Mr. Hefner and Ms. Rockey were under the influence of methamphetamine.

Mr. Hefner and Ms. Rockey were arrested and cited for several violations of Illinois law. On May 27, 2014, an information was filed, charging Mr. Hefner with one (1) count of possession of methamphetamine, a felony, one (1) count of possession of drug paraphernalia, a misdemeanor, and one (1) count of possession of cannabis, a misdemeanor. On September 9, 2015, the court entered Mr. Hefner’s plea of guilty to a count of possession of methamphetamine, a felony. The court dismissed the two (2) remaining counts pursuant to a plea agreement. The court sentenced Mr. Hefner to 36 months’ probation and included the requirement that he serve 120 days in jail, with credit for 74 days of time served.

On June 21, 2016, the USPTO Director served Mr. Hefner with a complaint for discipline as well as a notice and order to show cause why he should not be suspended on an interim basis pursuant to 37 C.F.R. § 11.25 based upon his Illinois conviction. Mr. Hefner failed to file any response. Accordingly, the USPTO Director entered an Order imposing an interim suspension pending further disciplinary proceedings before an administrative law judge.

Mr. Hefner is also a member of the California State Bar. The California State Bar Court (in which Mr. Hefner had been a member since 2001) found that the facts and circumstances surrounding Mr. Hefner’s conviction did not involve moral turpitude but did constitute other misconduct warranting discipline. On December 5, 2016, the State Bar Court entered an order recommending that Mr. Hefner be disbarred from California.