Wednesday, June 22, 2022
The Oklahoma Supreme Court has disbarred an attorney
The respondent was admitted to the practice of law in Oklahoma in 1997. He is a solo practitioner in Sapulpa, Oklahoma. In 2005, the Court suspended the respondent for one year from the practice of law for:
1) having a sexual relationship with a client during a divorce representation;
2) sending a threatening letter to the husband's divorce counsel;
3) threatening counsel with litigation for filing a grievance against him;
4) commingling and converting a client's retainer; and
5) failing to respond to the Bar regarding a grievance.
Although it is not clear precisely how many, the record reflects that the respondent has had other informal complaints previously filed which resulted in diversionary classes relating to client neglect, communication, and law office management, along with at least two letters of admonition. On May 24, 2022, the Court suspended the respondent for noncompliance with mandatory continuing legal education requirements for the year 2021.
The opinion in the 2005 matter is linked here.
There were three counts in the present matter
The first grievance concerns loan and business transactions with a client. In November of 2008, the respondent borrowed $130,000.00 from his client, Ken Robertson, for the purchase and remodeling of an office building in Sapulpa. The respondent did not make timely payments on the loan. On March 5, 2009, the respondent received a settlement check on Robertson's behalf from the sale of land in Texas, deposited the check in his IOLTA account, and without the client's knowledge, "borrowed" another $80,000.00 from the settlement funds.
Subsequently, the respondent confessed to the client that he had taken the funds, and in November of 2009, the respondent executed a new loan agreement for $95,000.00 to memorialize the promise to repay the funds taken without permission. The combined amount of funds which the respondent owed the client was now $205,726.96. The respondent again failed to make the required, regular payments.
The client hired new counsel to collect and filed a bar complaint; the client died in 2020.
A second grievance involved a client seeking to expunge a criminal record.
Ronald Gilmore hired the respondent in May of 2012 to file a probate after Gilmore's daughter and son-in-law were killed in a car crash. The decedents left behind Gilmore's five-year-old granddaughter. Respondent filed the probate in Payne County on April 3, 2012, but, according to Gilmore, the respondent failed to timely resolve the matter, and failed to communicate with him thereafter. The respondent admitted that the case took too long, but blamed part of the delay on strategy of allowing a foreclosure of the decedent's real property first to protect the assets of the estate. After years of unexplained and unreasonable delay, Gilmore fired the respondent in July of 2019, and hired another lawyer. The matter was then resolved in about a year.
The court cited its "difficult duty to withdraw the license to practice law" when required to protect the public and uphold the integrity of the profession. (Mike Frisch)