Wednesday, May 15, 2019

25 Years After Administrative Suspension, Petitioner Must Pass Bar Exam

The Oklahoma Supreme Court has held that an applicant for reinstatement must pass the bar examination

We hold the Petitioner has demonstrated her moral fitness and that she has not engaged in the unauthorized practice of law, however she has failed to demonstrate her competency and learning of the law by clear and convincing evidence. To demonstrate her competency and learning in the law, Petitioner must retake and successfully pass the Oklahoma Bar Examination. She shall also be required to pay the OBA membership dues and complete the required continuing legal education for the year she passes the bar exam.

Background

 On November 2, 2018, the Petitioner, Ruth Brummett Rickey, filed her Petition for Reinstatement requesting she be readmitted as a member of the Oklahoma Bar Association (OBA) pursuant to Rule 11, Rules Governing Disciplinary Proceedings, 5 O.S. 2011, Ch. 1, App. 1-A (RGDP). Petitioner graduated from the Oklahoma University School of Law in 1987. She was admitted to practice law that same year. During law school, she worked as a Licensed Legal Intern. Petitioner practiced law for six years after graduating law school. At her first firm, she devoted most of her time to bankruptcy proceedings. After three years, she was recruited to another firm where she primarily worked bankruptcy cases. She remained with her second firm for four years until she voluntarily left due to firm-wide internal conflict.  She reviewed contracts for a short term at Eagleton & Nicholson. In 1994, she worked as a hearing officer for the Oklahoma Employment Securities Division. She remained in that position for the allotted six months. The position did not require a licensed attorney. Petitioner let her license lapse and was stricken from the rolls of the Oklahoma Bar Association in 1995 for failure to complete CLEs in 1993 and failure to pay dues in 1994. 

Petitioner went on to work as a cake decorator and eventually opened her own bakery. In 2001, Petitioner was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia and due to medical complications was unable to work for several years. Once petitioner was able, she began participating in several charitable organizations. These organizations focus on the advancement of leukemia research and providing financial assistance to those undergoing medical treatment. In 2018, she began working part-time for Allegiance Credit Union. After filing her petition, the Professional Responsibility Tribunal (PRT) held a hearing pursuant to Rule 6, RGDP. The Petitioner testified she has worked her way up to a full-time position and on the urging of the Credit Union's CEO and CFO began seeking reinstatement. The CEO testified that Petitioner would be an asset to the credit union by saving them the costs of outside counsel. Petitioner's role should she be reinstated would focus on compliance matters, vendor management, contract review, and handling creditor proceedings.

Moral fitness

Except for her suspension in 1995 for failure to pay dues and complete her CLEs, the Petitioner has never faced disciplinary action. Nine letters were admitted as evidence that strongly supported a finding that Petitioner possessed good moral character.  Additionally, the petitioner has engaged in several philanthropic activities fundraising and advocating for cancer research. Testimony at the hearing also supported Petitioner's good moral character.  No contrary evidence was presented. The PRT found Petitioner had shown by clear and convincing evidence that she possessed the good moral character to be readmitted to the OBA. After an examination of the record, we agree with this finding.

But as to present competence

 In the present matter, the Petitioner has taken twenty-one hours of continuing legal education in the previous year.  The Trial Panel's Report determined that Petitioner has completed five to six Kaplan bar review modules with three to six hours of lecture per model.  Petitioner's work after her license lapsed does not include hands-on supervised legal experience. The Petitioner's relevant work for the past year consists of reviewing contracts and researching news and other states' laws.  The Petitioner has not practiced law or engaged in law-related work for 25 years. One year of continued legal education and completing Kaplan bar review modules after 25 years does not display sufficient learning and competence in the law. Especially when the standard requires stronger proof of qualifications than one seeking admission for the first time. Rule 11.4, RDGP.

Not sure that this is a fair result for someone without a disciplinary blemish. (Mike Frisch)

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/legal_profession/2019/05/the-oklahoma-supreme-court-has-held-that-an-applicant-for-reinstatement-must-pass-the-bar-examination-we-hold-the-petitioner.html

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