March 18, 2010
It'a A Puzzlement
The Oklahoma Supreme Court denied a petition for reinstatement of an attorney who had resigned while facing a panel's proposed suspension of two years and a day. The court was unimpressed with the asserted reason for misappropriation of entrusted funds:
In 1986, two years before his initial suspension,[the attorney] was appointed as counsel for Charles Troy Coleman in a well-publicized, high-profile, murder trial which ended in Coleman's execution. In the reinstatement hearing, the attorney testified that his involvement in the Coleman case put him in a downward "spiral" which led to his first suspension. Once he was reinstated, [he] testified that he still found himself trying to make up for the "Coleman thing" but that he continued to "spiral" into a position where he felt forced to misuse his client's funds going so far as to describe his actions as "robbing Peter to pay Paul."
Misappropriation is the most serious infraction occurring with the handling of trust monies. There is no question that the attorney misappropriated client funds. What is puzzling is [his] after-the-fact reliance on his representation of a criminal defendant to demonstrate how his money problems began and intensified. In [his] attempt to defend his actions and avoid discipline in [his second bar case], the cause in which he resigned and from which he now seeks reinstatement, he never once related any of his problems to the defense of Coleman in the hearing before the trial panel. There is not a single reference, in the one-hundred-and-twenty-seven-page transcript of proceedings, where Coleman is even mentioned. The lack of any such testimony calls into question [his] veracity before the trial panel in the reinstatement proceedings.
The court also concluded that the petitioner had engaged in unauthorized practice after suspension. (Mike Frisch)
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