Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Rehabilitation From Addiction Prevents Active Suspension

The Oklahoma Supreme Court has concluded that a relatively lenient sanction is appropriate in a matter where an attorney had self-reported an arrest for attempting to use a forged prescription to obtain drugs and had taken steps to address her addiction:

We must fashion discipline that will sufficiently deter the respondent and other members of the bar from similar misconduct. The respondent in the case at bar committed the criminal offense of attempting to obtain a controlled dangerous substance by forgery or fraud. This is serious misconduct and it is not to be taken lightly. The respondent also had obtained drugs by forged prescription in the weeks prior to her arrest. The respondent has not been charged with or convicted of any crime nor has she any previous disciplinary history. Counsel for the Bar admitted that the Bar might never have learned of respondent's conduct if she had not reported herself. Thus, the respondent put herself in the position of being investigated by the Bar and subjecting herself to professional discipline when she might have avoided it by being less forthright.

Counsel for the Bar told the PRT that the respondent cooperated fully and frankly with the Bar and had done everything she could do to address her problem and facilitate her recovery. No clients were involved or harmed. We agree with the Bar that the evidence overwhelmingly demonstrates that respondent's problems were a result of her addiction to highly addictive pain medication. The respondent's conduct in confronting her addiction and seeking treatment, her self-reporting to the Bar and her forthrightness and cooperation throughout the disciplinary process serves as an example to other lawyers who are addicted. As in Donnelly, this Court will, where appropriate, look favorably on those who are self-motivated to confront their addictions, exhibit a sincere commitment to rehabilitation, openly admit their conduct and seek help before disciplinary charges are filed.

Respondent has agreed to a one-year deferred suspension and compliance with ten probationary conditions. Based on the particular facts and circumstances of this case, we determine that public censure coupled with a deferred suspension of one year, subject to the agreed probationary conditions, is appropriate to serve as a deterrent and to encourage a permanent change of lifestyle. Accordingly, the respondent stands publicly reprimanded and is placed under deferred suspension with probationary conditions for one year from the date of this opinion.

 The court imposed a one-year deferred suspension with probationary conditions. (Mike Frisch)

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