Wednesday, September 19, 2012
A decision from the Oklahoma Supreme Court in a case involving an attorney's alcohol-related driving convictions:
Over a period of approximately three years, the respondent...was arrested twice, first in Oklahoma and subsequently in Wyoming, for alcohol-related incidents involving the operation of a motor vehicle and was issued citations for a third situation after wrecking a vehicle and leaving the scene of the accident. In 2009, following the Wyoming arrest, the attorney pled guilty to driving under the influence receiving two years unsupervised probation. In November of 2011, [he] entered a negotiated plea of guilty to two misdemeanor counts in exchange for dropping of two felony charges arising from the Oklahoma arrest. The attorney received a two year deferred sentence to be served under supervision of the District Attorney's office. The complainant, Oklahoma Bar Association (Bar Association), filed a three count Rule 6, Rules Governing Disciplinary Proceedings, 5 O.S. 2011, Ch. 1, App. 1-A, formal proceeding alleging violations of Rule 8.4(b), Rules Governing Professional Conduct, 5 O.S. 2011, Ch. 1, App. 3-A and Rule 1.3, Rules Governing Disciplinary Proceedings, 5 O.S. 2011, Ch. 1, App. 1-A. The parties entered into joint stipulations regarding the charges and an agreement for a recommended discipline of public censure, a year's probation with conditions, and the payment of costs. The trial panel joined in the stipulated recommendation for discipline. The gravamen of each of the three counts brought against the respondent revolves around the abuse and misuse of alcohol, specifically during the operation of a motor vehicle. Upon de novo review, we hold that the clear and convincing evidence supports charges relating to the respondent's driving while under the influence along with attempts, on the occasion of both arrests, to achieve favorable treatment by indicating an ability to influence improperly one or more government officials. We determine the appropriate discipline as public censure, a deferred suspension of two years and one day under conditions intended to assist the attorney in maintaining his sobriety and to protect the public, and the payment of $1,459.55 in costs.
In the first incident, the attorney told police he had influential contacts, threatened a lawsuit and spit on an officer. He was charged with felony placing bodily fluids on a government employee.
In the second incident, he had parked his car in the middle of a road and told police he was "watching moose."
The third incident involved an accident after which the attorney abandoned his car and went home. He greeted police in the nude with a firearm.
Chief Justice Taylor, joined by three justices, dissented:
Due to his history with alcohol, guns, lying and outrageous behavior and in order to protect the public and uphold the standards of the legal profession, I would immediately suspend this Respondent from the practice of law.
Hat tip to General Jack Ripper for the title. (Mike Frisch)