Wednesday, September 21, 2011
The Oklahoma Supreme Court has reinstated an attorney who had been suspended for misconduct that inckluded instances of failing to respond to bar complaints. The court found that he had recovered from the alcohol and drug abuse that caused the ethical lapses:
[Petitioner] testified at his reinstatement hearing that he was suspended from the practice of law for his addiction to methamphetamine and alcohol and the consequences which arose from it. His disciplinary hearing was originally set because of other misconduct, the most frequent violation being his failure to respond to the Bar's allegations. However, he stated his addictions to methamphetamine and alcohol were not mentioned in the allegations, and he told the trial panel at his disciplinary hearing "that I was a drug addict addicted to methamphetamine and I was an alcoholic." He testified he did not know whether the Bar would have been otherwise aware of these addictions. He said he made it known because it was a fact, and he had an affirmative duty to report it.
Petitioner described how his addiction to alcohol destroyed his professional and family life. It destroyed him "economically, mentally, spiritually and physically as well." He discussed having cirrhosis and hepatitis, being homeless, and going long periods of time without seeing his children. He stated his addictions created quite a "wreckage" in his personal life, involving the things "nearest and dearest" to him. He testified his professional life was even more neglected.
However, he stated he "reached bottom" and cried out for help by calling his mother, who called his ex-wife, who called his father. His ex-wife took him to his father's home. He stayed with his father who nursed him back to health from a liver condition which, based on a series of blood tests, would have soon required him to be hospitalized. He started spending time alone, removed from everything.
He credits this change with starting him down the right path. He admitted to his father and mother that his illness was caused by his methamphetamine addiction. He told his ex-wife who had custody of his two sons, that "I'm the person on the street you point at and tell your kids to stay away from." He stated it was a "real eye opener" for him and occurred a couple of months before his disciplinary hearing.
He also credits "the event of" his disciplinary hearing "[f]or the genesis of my walk through sobriety." He explained he was still very physically ill at the time and was experiencing mental and emotional discomfort, as well. He recalled talking to his older son who rode with him to the hearing. His son asked him if he would get to keep his license. Petitioner answered, "'[i]f there's any justice in the world, son, no. No. We're going to go down and we're going to tell them the truth . . .' Professionally, I couldn't practice. I said 'I owe an obligation to my profession, to my clients, to the bar association and most importantly to you, your brother and myself, to look the world in the eye and tell them the truth.'" He described that event as the "opening of recovery for me . . . ." He stated he had been so low that complete candor and honesty with the world was palatable to him. As he had heard a friend say frequently at AA meetings, "When the pain of changing or the fear of changing is less than the fear of the pain of staying the same, then people will be open . . . to change." He chose honesty and to look people "in the eye" and tell them what's going on in his world and what type of person he is. He'll accept the consequences, which is the legacy he wants for his children, that "regardless of the mistakes you make, look the rest of the world in the eye and accept your consequences and I'll respect you as a man."
The court found the attorney better qualified to practice than he was when he was admitted to the bar. (Mike Frisch)