Thursday, May 14, 2009

Disregarding Sympathy

The Oklahoma Supreme Court denied reinstatement of an attorney suspended for four years for a tax-related criminal conviction:

The petitioner...was suspended from the practice of law for a period of fours years effective September 20, 2002. The suspension arose from the attorney's criminal conviction in the United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma for failure to file her 1996 federal income tax return and for contempt for wilfully failing to disclose her fees in a bankruptcy proceeding. The attorney's actions also led to suspensions from the practice of law in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Oklahoma and in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Texas. The attorney sought reinstatement which the respondent, Oklahoma Bar Association (Bar Association), opposed. The trial panel of the Professional Responsibility Tribunal found that [she] had failed to meet the burden of proof in establishing that her future conduct would conform to the high standards of a member of the Bar Association and to present stronger proof than an individual seeking first time admission. Upon de novo review, we determine that reinstatement should be denied and impose $1,015.53 in costs.

The court concluded:

We agree with the trial panel that there is no evidence to indicate that the attorney engaged in the unauthorized practice of law during her suspension and that she successfully demonstrated her present ability to competently practice law. Unlike the trial panel and the Bar Association, we also determine that [her] testimony reflects an understanding both of the wrongfulness of her acts and sincere remorse for the injury she caused to her clients, the practicing bar, and the judicial system. However, although there is evidence in support of [her], we cannot equate her having discharged federal income tax obligations with the payment of the same.

In making a reinstatement decision, this Court must disregard feelings of sympathy, recognizing that the petitioner's burden of proof is a heavy one. While we are concerned with any adverse effect reinstatement might have on the practicing bar, our foremost consideration is always to protect the public welfare. After having given due consideration to the evidence contained in this record and the appropriate factors examined in reinstatement proceedings along with relevant jurisprudence, we determine that the petitioner has failed to carry her burden to show by clear and convincing evidence that she is entitled to reinstatement. Therefore, reinstatement is denied and costs of $1,015.53 are imposed.

(Mike Frisch)

Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink

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