Wednesday, April 19, 2017

A Lighter Touch

The Oklahoma Supreme Court publicly reprimanded an attorney for violations committed in a matter "concerning his representation of an elderly client with whom he developed a close, familial, personal relationship."

The client was satisfied with her decisions to bestow benefits on the attorney

Ms. Brooks wanted Helton to handle everything, and she got exactly what she wanted, but because she was elderly and did not want to be bothered with details, everyone else determined that she should not have been allowed to do what she wanted with her money. Disposing of one's property is a basic right of every citizen.

Not your normal case

The Court recognizes the circumstances of this cause are very unusual. The respondent has no previous disciplinary history and after the Bar began communicating with him, he committed all of his agreements with Brooks to writing. Brooks continually expressed that Helton was doing exactly what she wanted him to do. Upon discovering the extent of his overpayment to himself from the Helton Properties, LLC., account, he ceased payments to himself for managing the properties and has since made up the difference. It is unquestionable from the evidence that Respondent and his family have developed a close personal, familial, relationship with Brooks and that they care for her and she cares for them. Helton was merely attempting to provide for Brooks and her future care. Brooks benefited from Helton's representation and Helton has fully complied with every aspect of the disciplinary process in this matter.

Complainant argues Respondent should be suspended from the practice of law for a minimum of six (6) months and be assessed the costs of these proceedings. The PRT recommends that Respondent receive a public reprimand, given the unusual facts and mitigating circumstances of this cause. Given the nature of the technical rule violations and the evidence in favor of mitigation, it is the determination of this Court that Respondent shall be publicly reprimanded, but not ordered to pay costs in the amount of $4,439.47.

Justice Wyrick dissented

During the course of his representation of an elderly client, Respondent Scott Robert Helton violated numerous rules of professional conduct, including Rules 1.1 (he was not competent), 1.3 (he was not diligent), 1.4 (he failed to adequately communicate), 1.8 (he had a conflict of interest), 1.15 (he did not safeguard his client's money), and 8.4 (he engaged in professional misconduct). For these violations, the Bar Association recommends that Helton's license be suspended for six months and he be forced to pay the costs of the investigation and prosecution of his misconduct. The majority is persuaded that a variety of mitigating circumstances counsel in favor of a lighter touch; it accordingly rejects the Bar Association's recommendation in favor of the public reprimand preferred by the Professional Responsibility Tribunal. Respectfully, I am not so persuaded, and would accept the Bar Association's recommendation.

(Mike Frisch)

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/legal_profession/2017/04/the-oklahoma-supreme-court-the-court-recognizes-the-circumstances-of-this-cause-are-very-unusual-the-respondent-has-no-prev.html

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