Tuesday, September 16, 2008
In a bar discipline case in which the Bar Association had recommended public censure, the Oklahoma Supreme Court disbarred a judge of the Court of Criminal Appeals who had engaged in misconduct after learning that he had a previously unknown son who was in trouble with the law. As the court found:
At some time before the acts alleged in the Complaint, the respondent experienced marital problems. During that time he renewed his relationship with Dawn Lukasic. She told him they had a son named Loren W., about whom the respondent had no previous knowledge. The young man had fourteen felony charges pending in Grady, Comanche and Stephens Counties. These felony charges included two counts involving drugs, numerous burglary counts, and two counts of concealing stolen property. The respondent retained three attorneys to represent his son, and he took an active role in his son's criminal cases through multiple communications with defense counsel and various Department of Corrections employees. From June 24, 2004, to October 29, 2004, he traveled to the facilities where his son was incarcerated, almost on a weekly basis, at the taxpayer's expense. The real purpose of the trips was to either visit his incarcerated son or to take care of legal and other issues involved in his son's incarceration. On some of the trips he was accompanied by Dawn Lukasic. He filed travel claims seeking reimbursement for these personal trips, claiming he attended project conferences, projects, or meetings of the Regimented Inmate Discipline (RID) Program offered by the Department of Corrections. But there were no RID project conferences, projects, or meetings on the dates for which he filed travel claims. These travel claims were signed by the respondent under oath and under penalty of perjury.
He also contacted one of the three judges who would sentence his son and pressured another judge, repeatedly contacted the defense lawyers, criticized the probation officer in a letter on his court stationary, hired Ms. Lukasic as his administrative assistant and intervened when she was charged with drug possession.
The court concluded that disbarment was the proper sanction:
Notwithstanding the cooperation of the respondent with the Bar Association in its investigation and prosecution of this matter; the fact that the respondent voluntarily repaid the amounts improperly claimed; the respondent's many years with no previous disciplinary record; the domestic stresses of divorce, single-parenthood, and discovery of the fact that he had an adult son charged with multiple felonies; and the high recommendations from testifying lawyers of his current fitness in his practice of law, we find mitigation of discipline unwarranted. In view of the seriousness of the respondent's misconduct while serving in his position as a judge on the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals, we reject the Bar Association's and Professional Responsibility Tribunal's recommendations and find, under these facts, that the respondent should be disbarred from the practice of law and assessed the costs of these proceedings in the amount of $892.53.
The Professional Responsibility Tribunal had recommended a suspension of two years and a day. NewOK.com reports that the former judge represented Ms. Lucasic in connection with drug charges and that they were married after her release from prison.(Mike Frisch)