Wednesday, April 4, 2012
The Oklahoma Supreme Court has suspended an attorney for two years and a day.
On January 30, 2009, [attorney] Conrady returned to Oklahoma following a three-week trip to the Middle East. Conrady was met at the Tulsa airport by his longtime girlfriend, Janice Pierce ("Pierce"), for a return trip to Okmulgee. During the drive home, Pierce informed Conrady she no longer wanted to continue their relationship. Pierce dropped Conrady off at his apartment; however, she refused to discuss the relationship any further. At some point Pierce also advised Conrady that she had begun dating a fellow Sunday school teacher at her church, Steve McCroskey ("McCroskey").
Over the next twenty-four hours, Conrady became increasingly despondent. He began consuming vodka and taking pain medication. Pierce ignored Conrady's repeated efforts to contact her during this period of time. On the evening of February 1, an intoxicated and emotionally charged Conrady armed himself with a .45 caliber semi-automatic handgun and drove to McCroskey's residence. Fortunately, prior to Conrady's arrival, McCroskey and Pierce had departed to return McCroskey's six-year-old daughter to her mother in Wilson, Oklahoma. Conrady arrived at the residence and forcibly entered the house, armed with the loaded pistol. After finding no one present, Conrady fired rounds throughout the home, including into a bathroom mirror, a television, and other personal items belonging to Pierce's boyfriend. One of the rounds pierced an interior wall and the projectile was discovered in a bedroom normally occupied by McCroskey's daughter. Another round penetrated the outside wall of the house and lodged in a neighbor's storm door. After exiting the home, Conrady discharged his firearm multiple times into Pierce and McCroskey's unoccupied vehicles. Conrady left the scene and returned to his home in downtown Okmulgee.
The attorney pled to felony charges as a result.
As to sanction:
There can be no doubt that Conrady's intentional discharge of multiple rounds from a high caliber firearm was reckless and potentially deadly. Yet, Conrady's assertion overlooks the actual and personal harm which resulted from the shooting. Both McCroskey and Pierce were forced to obtain protective orders and live their lives fearful of further aggression. McCloskey was required to temporarily suspend visits with his six-year-old daughter as a result of the shooting. The harm and threat of harm faced by these individuals was not a mere hypothetical, it was real and it was unnerving. The unlawful acts were also damaging to the legal profession as a whole. Conrady's actions brought embarrassment and discredit to himself and the entire profession... Additionally, we take special note of exhibits presented by the OBA during the administrative hearing, which included e-mails sent from Conrady to Pierce. In spite of his alleged psychotherapy and sobriety, Conrady delivered e-mails to Pierce in March and April of 2010 which were offensive and demeaning.
Weighing the mitigating evidence against the baseline discipline of disbarment, we hold Respondent, James Albert Conrady is hereby suspended from the practice of law for a period of two years and one day.
Justice Kauger specially concurred, expressing concern about the failure to follow procedures for interim suspension and the delay in the matter.
Justice Combs and Chief Justice Taylor dissented and would disbar. Justice Edmondson would defer a sanction determination until the attorney completes the obligations of his criminal sentence. (Mike Frisch)