April 29, 2008
Not Quite As Bad As Misappropriation
The Oklahoma Supreme Court imposed a one-year suspension of an attorney for misconduct involving commingling and, at a minimum, simple conversion (an offense not to be confused with misappropriation). The court rejected his claim of "complete ignorance of the proper management of a trust account" in light of his undergraduate degree in, of all things, accounting. The court did consider as mitigation the attorney's rather full plate of outside activities and distractions:
"The Bar...stipulated to an array of factors that contributed to Respondent's inattentiveness to his professional responsibilities. Respondent was 'over-extended with civic and community responsibilities' during the relevant time period that 'contributed to [his] inability to properly monitor his trust account.' Respondent was the Mayor of the City of Tecumseh; President of the Pottawatomie County Bar Association; Chairman of the Pottawatomie County Democratic Party; Chairman of the Pottawatomie County Law Library Board; and on the board or executive board for Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Pottawatomie and Seminole Counties, the Tecumseh Chamber of Commerce, and the Tecumseh Growth and Development Authority. The Bar and Respondent also stipulated that he was distracted by 'politically motivated' criminal charges that ultimately resulted in a verdict of not guilty. Respondent testified that no trust funds were spent on his criminal defense because his attorneys, including the attorney representing him here, did not charge him for their services."
I would also assume that no client money was misappropriated to finance the defense of criminal charges because it would be wrong to do so. (Mike Frisch)
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