Wednesday, June 1, 2011
The Oklahoma Supreme Court has reinstated an attorney, finding that her handling of social security matters did not involve the unauthorized practice of law.
...Petitioner testified she moved to Alabama with her husband in June 2004 to be close to their families. She also relayed that prior to the move, she had recently had a baby. Petitioner stated that she thought the move to Alabama was permanent, so did not continue to pay her OBA dues or complete Oklahoma CLE. This resulted in Petitioner being administratively suspended for non-payment of dues and non-compliance of mandatory CLE requirements, and stricken from the roll of Oklahoma attorneys on September 11, 2006.
Petitioner further testified that she returned to Oklahoma in October 2007, because she and her husband decided that it was the best place to rear their four-year-old daughter and for her to attend school. Petitioner was initially employed in Oklahoma by West Publishing as an editor. In January 2010, Petitioner began working for a Tulsa law firm handling Social Security Disability claims before the Social Security Administration. She has stated that the reinstatement of her license would allow her to represent clients through the appeals process in the courts.
The court agreed with the parties that there was no unauthorized practice:
Petitioner, through her attorney, and Assistant General Counsel for the OBA, filed a joint Memorandum of Law on October 6, 2010, asserting that...representation of bankrupts [by a petitioner whose reinstatement was denied] was distinguishable from Petitioner representing claimants before Social Security tribunals. The Joint Memorandum pointed out that pursuant to 20 C.F.R. § 416.1505(b), nonlawyers can represent claimants before the Social Security Adminstration, but that Petitioner also maintained an Alabama license to practice law. It further relayed that Petitioner has been under the supervision of an Oklahoma licensed attorney during all times with regard to her Social Security Disability work. The joint memorandum further asserted that there was no Oklahoma state law component to federal disability claims and that Petitioner's representation before the Social Security Administration did not constitute the unauthorized practice of law in Oklahoma.