Wednesday, June 12, 2013
An attorney who had "trampled" the fine line between zealous advocacy and frivolousness was disbarred by the Oklahoma Supreme Court.
The misconduct took place in litigation over a trust and was exacerbated by the failure to cooperate in the bar proceeding:
Godlove repeatedly failed to provide competent representation, failed to act with reasonable diligence, failed to act in good faith, asserted issues and claims which were frivolous, failed to make reasonable efforts to expedite litigation, was less than candid with the court when she continuously filed repeated actions regarding the same issue which had already been determined by a final order, not keeping her address current with the court and opposing counsel, and by failing to appear and prosecute motions that she had filed. Godlove knowingly disobeyed an order of the court by filing notices of lis pendens on behalf of a client who had been enjoined from such filings. Godlove also made numerous irrelevant and frivolous discovery requests. Godlove has completely ignored her obligations to respond to inquiries in this bar disciplinary proceeding. Godlove's conduct is prejudicial to the administration of justice and has caused both her client's and the trusts unnecessary expenditure of funds.
The court concluded
We have not before been presented in an attorney disciplinary proceeding with facts in which a lawyer abused the judicial system to the extent that Godlove has done here. For the extensive violations of the rules governing lawyers' conduct and for ignoring these proceedings, we find that disbarment is necessary to stop the abuse of the system hailed on it by Godlove's frivolous, multiple, duplicate filings and to end the disservice to her clients, to opposing parties, to opposing counsel, and to judges presiding over cases in which she is involved.
There is a fine line between zealous advocacy and harassing, frivolous litigation. Godlove has not only overstepped the line, she has trampled it. We have a duty to protect against the type of frivolous litigation undertaken by Godlove. When a lawyer fails to recognize the authority of a court's final order, she must answer for her actions in continuing to relitigate the same issues again and again.