Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Reinstated With A Warning

The Oklahoma Supreme Court reinstated an attorney suspended for non-payment of dues notwithstanding its conclusion that she had engaged in the unauthorized practice of law in Texas. The attorney had left practice to become sales director for Mary Kay Cosmetics. The court found her work in Texas involved unauthorized practice:

 Based on Petitioner's conduct prior to her administrative suspension, it appears her actions ran afoul of ORPC Rule 5.5, which governs the unauthorized practice of law in the context of multi-jurisdictional practice. Rule 5.5(a) mandates that "[a] lawyer shall not practice law in a jurisdiction in violation of the regulation of the legal profession in that jurisdiction, or assist another in doing so." Okla. Stat. tit. 5, ch. 1, app. 3-A (Supp. 2002). First, Petitioner is not admitted to practice in Texas where she established a continuous and systematic presence via her only office. Second, the legal services which Petitioner rendered can hardly be deemed limited to federal law given the fact that bankruptcy law is inextricably intertwined with state law. Third, the act of assessing the legal position of Texas debtors through analysis, interview, or explanation of legal rights and then representing only those clients whose cases squarely fit within the federal court's jurisdiction is no shield against Petitioner's unauthorized activities within Texas.

However, reinstatement was granted:

The Petitioner has advised, under oath, that she intends to resume the same activities. The Petitioner is warned that this conduct in the future would constitute the unauthorized practice of law and would warrant disciplinary action. Effective upon the payment of $533.03, the costs incurred in this reinstatement proceeding, it is ordered that petitioner...be reinstated to membership in the OBA and her name placed on the Roll of Attorneys licensed to practice law in Oklahoma. It is further ordered that Petitioner shall pay said costs and current membership dues within twenty days from the date this opinion is filed with the Clerk of this Court.

One justice dissented:

Petitioner for reinstatement seeks renewal of her Oklahoma license for use collateral to that which the license is to serve. Its legal purpose is to authorize a person to practice law in Oklahoma. She seeks it to serve as primary state bar membership for needed legal support of her federal bankruptcy practice in Texas. In my view, an Oklahoma license to practice law should not be issued when it is apparent that the applying licensee's Texas bankruptcy practice has no proven nexus to a sustained stream of Oklahoma clientele.

I must therefore recede from today's reinstatement of petitioner's Oklahoma license to practice law.

 (Mike Frisch)

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