Friday, November 23, 2007

Probation For Alcohol-Related Misconduct

The Oklahoma Supreme Court imposed a public reprimand and probation for two years a one day with conditions in a case where the attorney had engaged in a series of criminal violations as a result of his alcoholism. In one instance, the attorney was incarcerated with a current client who had a pending felony DUI charge. The court rejected disciplinary counsel's request for disbarment, explaining:

"The Respondent has admitted that he is an alcoholic and he has stipulated to his past transgressions. He has sought help, though only after the bar complaint was filed. He has received good reports on his treatment and his participation in AA and counseling. He urges anyone to turn him in if he starts to drink again, and he has agreed to obtain inpatient treatment if that happens. Mr. McBride has expressed his remorse and his shame for his behavior. Mr. McBride was very candid with the tribunal. Against the advice of his attorneys, he refused to take the Fifth Amendment with regard to the testimony surrounding the DUI pending in Cleveland County, Oklahoma. The Respondent testified fully and freely about that arrest and the Trial Panel watched an hour-long highway patrol video of the Respondent's arrest, which did not show the Respondent in a good light. The Respondent stipulated that the highway patrol trooper's testimony, as well as the testimony of the off-duty police officer who called it in, would be as reflected in their reports and in the video.

[Respondent] was scheduled to represent two clients in court the day after his arrest and he arranged from jail for another lawyer to represent them. The trial panel felt that this showed that clients were affected by Respondent's alcohol-related crimes. We feel, however, that it is also to Respondent's credit that he arranged for his clients to be represented when he was unable to be there. It is to the Respondent's credit that he has wholeheartedly embraced sobriety and has done everything required of him and more in order to maintain sobriety.

Discipline imposed in cases involving alcohol-related crimes has ranged from the severe, when coupled with harm to clients,to censure, when no clients were involved. Probationary periods have often been imposed in cases of alcohol-related offenses. While alcoholism alone is not enough to mitigate discipline, the fact that an attorney recognized his or her problem, sought and cooperated in treatment and was willing to undergo supervision has convinced the Court that severe discipline need not be imposed. "
 

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/legal_profession/2007/11/the-oklahoma-su.html

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