Wednesday, September 22, 2010
The Oklahoma Supreme Court has granted admission to an attorney who was issued a special temporary permit to practice with the state Department of Agriculture in 1997 and was admitted in Arkansas in 1992.
A dissent would require the applicant to take and pass the bar exam:
[The applicant's] Special Temporary Permit was granted to her on November 12, 1997, for the purpose of obtaining employment with the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture. See Rule 2, Section 5, Admission Rules. We assume that she has remained in the same employment under the same permit since that time. At the time Ms. [she] applied for her special temporary permit, she was a licensed attorney in good standing in the state of Arkansas. She was admitted to the Arkansas Bar in 1992.
In her current application for membership in the Oklahoma Bar Association pursuant to Rule 2, [she] has provided evidence of her good standing as a member of the Arkansas State Bar. However, she has failed to provide evidence that she has been "engaged in the actual and continuous practice of law for at least five of the seven years immediately preceding application for admission under this Rule" in a reciprocal state which is a requirement for admission upon motion. See Rule 2, Section 1. Her experience in Oklahoma will not fulfill this requirement. See Rule 2 of the Admission Rules, Section 4.
On July 2, 2009, this Court amended Article II, Section 5 of the Rules Creating and Controlling the Oklahoma Bar Association. Section 5(E) was added and provides for an annual renewal of special temporary permits issued under Rule 2, Sections 5 and 6 of the Admission Rules. See section 5(E)(1).4 Section 5(E)(2) provides that special temporary permits granted prior to the promulgation of this rule shall be deemed to have a renewal date of January 2, 2010. This Court has been advised by the Board of Bar Examiners that [she] has had a special temporary permit with the Oklahoma Bar since 1997, but it is unclear whether it was renewed. Unless a renewal fee was paid within the time limits of Section 5(E)(1), the permit should have been cancelled.
For decades, our rules have clearly stated that the only means available to attain full membership in the Oklahoma Bar Association is taking the bar examination. The only exception is the reciprocity provision under Rule 2. She should be required to register for the February, 2011 bar examination, pursuant to Rule 4 [Admission by examination]. The reciprocity provisions of Rule 2, Section 1, are not available to her. Otherwise, she will have become an active member of the Bar by using her special temporary permit to obtain legal experience in Oklahoma to avoid the requirement which we expect from all Oklahoma lawyers, i.e., taking the bar examination. The special temporary permit is not transformed into a license to practice law in Oklahoma merely because the permit holder has practiced many years in this state. This was not the intended purpose of Rule 2.
The materials presented to us also indicates this petitioner was issued a Bar card with an OBA number in 1997 which contravenes the rules in effect then and which continue in effect to this day. See Art. II, Section 5(E)(2), Rules Creating and Controlling the Oklahoma Bar Association, 5 O.S. Supp. 2009, Ch. 1, App. 1. I would therefore require the petitioner to surrender her Bar card and order her name stricken from the roll of attorneys until she has successfully passed the Oklahoma Bar Examination and the MPRE. I therefore respectfully dissent. (footnotes omitted)