Thursday, October 1, 2009

Once A Thief

The Oklahoma Supreme Court has reinstated an attorney who had resigned after misappropriating $50,000 from his firm. The petitioner had support from a number of character witnesses including a state representative:

Fourteen witnesses appeared before the trial panel in support of Mumina's reinstatement. State Representative Mike Shelton (Shelton/Representative) testified that the attorney's earlier misdeeds had not affected adversely the attorney's leadership in the community and that he would have no hesitation in employing him as an attorney. Not only did Shelton provide an unqualified recommendation for reinstatement, he testified that the attorney's inability to practice was a detriment to the Representative's constituents. A retired long-time prosecutor in the United States Attorney's Office for the Western District of Oklahoma stated that he would welcome Mumina's reinstatement and was confident that the attorney would be a valuable contributor to the city, to the judicial system, and to the Bar. Two sitting District Court Judges, with knowledge of both the complaint filed against the attorney and the federal indictment, recommended reinstatement. One of the judges actively encouraged Mumina to seek the same. The lawyer for whom Mumina has been doing para-legal work testified that, during the five years of their association, the attorney has been forthright, honest, and completely trustworthy. In addition, the lawyer testified that throughout the same time period, Mumina had demonstrated his fitness, moral character, and competency in the law.

Three attorneys testified against Mumina's reinstatement. Two of the three were members of the firm from which the attorney misappropriated funds and the third was the attorney hired to handle the firm's bar complaint against the attorney. Despite their concerns about reinstatement, one of the attorneys testified that Mumina was one of the most qualified attorneys he had ever encountered.

The other stated that he believed that Mumina's actions had been out of character for the attorney and that he had no knowledge of Mumina's present fitness to return to the practice of law. The third witness for the Bar Association was the attorney hired by the firm to prosecute the bar complaint. He took no position on the issue of reinstatement.

We do not ignore either the serious nature of Mumina's transgressions or the steep hill he must climb before he may be considered for reinstatement. All that is required of a first-time applicant is that the individual show that he or she has "good moral character, due respect for the law, and fitness to practice law" without any demand of proof of the same.

When viewed in its entirety, the evidence goes well beyond those requirements and is clear and convincing in support of the attorney's present moral fitness to return to the practice of law in Oklahoma.

Justice Taylor dissented:

I dissent to the reinstatement of the Respondent. He is a thief. He stole over $50,000.00 from his law firm and actively attempted to conceal the theft. He was a court-appointed trustee and stole over $100,000.00 from a bankruptcy estate. He is a convicted felon. He made restitution and apology only after being discovered and confronted.

The Respondent does not meet, by clear and convincing evidence, the very strict test set out in Rule 11.4 RGDP which requires that "An applicant seeking such reinstatement will be required to present stronger proof of qualifications than one seeking admission for the first time." (emphasis added) If today, with his record, he was seeking admission to the Bar for the first time he would certainly, absolutely and rightfully be denied.

This Court has a primary obligation to safeguard the interests of the public and to protect the integrity of the legal profession. If Rule 11.4 RGDP is to have any meaningful enforcement at all, this Respondent's application for reinstatement must be denied. His qualifications are not stronger than anyone seeking admission for the first time. No first-time applicant with the Respondent's record would be admitted to the Oklahoma Bar Association. That is the standard required by the RGDP and it has not been followed in this case.

Justice Winchester joined the dissent.

Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink

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