Wednesday, April 7, 2010
The Oklahoma Supreme Court has issued a public reprimand of the former general counsel to the Oklahoma State Bar. while serving as general counsel, the attorney was involved in an incident that led to a Alford plea to a charge of sexual battery and later reduced to the misdemeanor offense of outraging public decency. The court rejected lesser discipline:
Membership in the Bar is a privilege burdened with conditions. A fair private and professional character is one of those conditions. Compliance with that condition is essential at the moment of admission and it is equally essential afterwards. State ex rel Oklahoma Bar Ass'n v. Bradley, 1987 OK 78, 746 P.2d 1130. In lawyer discipline matters this Court seeks to preserve the confidence of the public and the legal profession. Here, the Respondent's job as general counsel for the Oklahoma Bar Association was to preserve the confidence of the public in the legal profession by prosecuting those who violated the standards of the profession.
We are not persuaded that a private reprimand is the appropriate discipline to be imposed here. We find that the Bar has established by clear and convincing evidence that the Respondent's conduct violated Rule 1.3, RGDP, and that public censure is the appropriate discipline to be imposed. The Respondent committed acts of a sexual nature that previously have been condemned by this Court as in violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct and the Rules Governing Disciplinary Proceedings. See State ex rel. Oklahoma Bar Ass'n v. Foster, 2000 OK 4, 995 P.2d 1138, 1140. In State ex rel. Oklahoma Bar Ass'n v. Wilburn, 2006 OK 50 ¶13, 142 P.3d 420, 424, we stated that a public reprimand served to advise other members of the Bar that inappropriate touching and sexually suggestive gestures and remarks will not be tolerated, regardless of whether they seem harmless, solicited or consensual. The objectives of this Court in disciplining lawyers who have admitted inappropriate sexual contact would not be met by imposing discipline of private reprimand in this case. The public and other members of the Oklahoma Bar Association are advised that this Court will not tolerate such conduct by members of the Bar.
Justice Taylor would impose a suspension.
As far as I am aware, this is the first time that a chief disciplinary counsel has been sanctioned for an ethics violation that took place while serving in that capacity.
Details concerning the underlying allegations from the The Lost Ogle.com, with links to related news articles, may be found here. (Mike Frisch)