Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Pawning Client's Jewelry Gets Attorney Disbarred

The Oklahoma Supreme Court disbarred an attorney admitted in 2013 for a criminal conviction

At some point before July 12, 2019, a husband and wife hired Sweet to prepare trust documents. She went to her clients' house on several occasions to create an inventory of various pieces of jewelry to include in the trust documents. From July 12 through July 30, 2019, Sweet pawned at least six pieces of jewelry owned by her clients for $2,910.00. Sweet falsely declared to the pawnbroker that she owned the pieces of jewelry. The clients then positively identified the pawned items as pieces of jewelry Sweet had handled in the preparation of the trust. Sweet was arrested and charged with Grand Larceny and False Declaration of Ownership in Pawn Shop.

On June 8, 2021, Sweet entered pleas of guilty to one count of Grand Larceny, a felony, in violation of 21 O.S. Supp. 2018, § 1705, and one count of False Declaration of Ownership in Pawn Shop, a felony, in violation of 59 O.S. Supp. 2018, § 1512(C)(2). The district court entered a deferred sentence of three years, until June 3, 2024.

Sanction

The totality of Sweet's conduct demonstrates her unfitness to practice law. Sweet has failed to comply with the mandatory MCLE requirements since 2018. A week before she committed the crimes, this Court suspended Sweet from the practice of law for failure to comply with MCLE. Sweet therefore engaged in the unauthorized practice of law when she visited her clients' house to create an inventory for the trust documents and stole the items of jewelry. The two felony crimes committed by Sweet undoubtedly involved dishonesty, fraud, deceit, and breach of trust. In this disciplinary proceeding, Sweet never responded or otherwise offered any explanation for her conduct. She has not requested a hearing, filed a brief, or submitted any evidence to support any mitigation of final discipline.

The sum of Sweet's actions--her continuing failure to comply with the MCLE requirements even after her suspension that resulted in this Court striking her name from the membership rolls, her unauthorized practice of law, her guilty pleas to two felonies, and her failure to respond to these disciplinary proceedings against her--combine to reflect adversely on Sweet's trustworthiness and fitness as a lawyer. Because of the gravity of Sweet's misconduct and as her culpable acts are neither mitigated nor explained by extenuating circumstances in the record, there is no basis for a sanction less severe than that of disbarment. See State ex rel. Okla. Bar Ass'n v. Cantrell, 1987 OK 17, ¶ 2, 734 P.2d 1292, 1293. This Court holds that Sweet be disbarred. See, e.g., State ex rel. Okla. Bar Ass'n v. Cook, 1983 OK 33, 661 P.2d 531 (disbarring an attorney for committing the crimes of embezzlement and false account of officer).

(Mike Frisch)

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/legal_profession/2021/11/the-oklahoma-supreme-court-disbarred-an-attorney-admitted-in-2013-at-some-point-before-july-12-2019-a-husband-and-wife-hir.html

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