Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Reinstatement Granted And Denied

The Oklahoma Supreme Court has reinstated an attorney who had resigned from the Bar 

Petitioner practiced continuously from 1997 to 2004. During 2004 and 2005, Petitioner worked at the law firm of Mark Hammons. According to her testimony, in late 2005, Petitioner began experiencing episodes of paranoia and other behavior that was not conducive to a pleasant work environment. These episodes ultimately led to her dismissal.

The loss of her job prompted Petitioner to seek treatment with a psychiatrist, who diagnosed her with Bipolar Disorder and placed her on medication. The medications controlled her symptoms to a degree but not well enough for her to return to work. In 2007, Petitioner moved to Forth Worth with her husband where she applied for and received Social Security disability benefits.

In 2009, the OBA notified Petitioner that she was not current on her continuing legal education requirements and bar dues for the previous two years. In response, Petitioner contacted the OBA in June 2009 and requested to resign her membership. Her resignation was accepted on June 25, 2009.

In 2018, Petitioner separated from her husband. Their divorce was still pending at the time of the trial panel hearing. Petitioner blames the pending divorce for her estrangement from her three adult children.

Petitioner's relationship with her youngest daughter, Blair, became particularly acrimonious. In July 2019, Blair filed a Petition for Protective Order against Petitioner. In the petition, Blair alleged that Petitioner made several unwelcome visits to her home and engaged in disruptive behavior, including banging on her front door and yelling. Blair also alleged that Petitioner's medical condition made her dangerous. Blair referenced one occasion where Petitioner allegedly threw a wooden hanger at her. Petitioner claims that any visits she made to Blair's home were for legitimate reasons, and she denies the allegation that she poses a threat to Blair or any member of her family.

On July 12, 2019, the District Court of Tulsa County entered an emergency order of protection against Petitioner and ordered her to appear for a hearing on the petition. Petitioner failed to appear at the hearing because she was living in Colorado at the time and lacked the funds to travel back to Oklahoma. On October 1, 2019, the District Court entered a final order of protection against Petitioner, which remains in effect until October 2024.

From July 2021 to October 2021, Petitioner spent approximately three months working as a public finance paralegal at Ballard Spahr LLP. Petitioner indicated that working as a paralegal made her realize she was capable of returning to practice. On November 4, 2021, Petitioner filed her Petition for Reinstatement. On December 14, 2021, Petitioner filed a motion in the District Court of Tulsa County to vacate the protective order entered against her. Between January 12 and January 17, 2022, Petitioner completed twenty-four (24) hours of online continuing legal education ("CLE") credits.

The Trial Panel had found she met the reinstatement criteria despite the family situation

 there was very little testimony at the hearing regarding the circumstances surrounding the issuance of the protective order. [Petitioner's mother] Hofberger testified that she witnessed text messages from Blair to Petitioner that were rude and disrespectful. Hofberger also generally affirmed Petitioner's explanation of the events that were referenced in the Petition for Protective Order. Investigator Stoner chose not to interview Blair to gain her account of these events or what prompted her to seek the protective order. When the trial panel questioned that decision, Stoner explained that, based on his investigation up to that point, he did not think it would be productive and he was relatively confident that Petitioner possessed the good moral character necessary for reinstatement.

The court

Petitioner has demonstrated by clear and convincing evidence that she possesses good moral character and that she has not engaged in the unauthorized practice of law. Petitioner has not, however, demonstrated that she possesses the competence and learning in the law necessary for reinstatement. Accordingly, Petitioner's reinstatement is granted upon completion of the following conditions: (1) Petitioner must take and pass the Oklahoma Bar Examination; (2) Petitioner must pay $375 in bar association dues and late fees; (3) Petitioner must pay $900 in MCLE fees. Additionally, upon reinstatement, Petitioner is required to pay dues and satisfy MCLE requirements for the calendar year in which she is admitted.

The court denied reinstatement in an unrelated matter involving an attorney who had resigned while faced misappropriation and other allegations

Testimony from Petitioner's reinstatement hearing shows Petitioner failed to disclose or attach pleadings from multiple civil lawsuits in which he was involved, failed to account for lawsuits filed against him alleging the unauthorized practice of law and/or fraud, misrepresentation, and deceit, failed to account for various numerous periods of unemployment, and claimed he had received a private reprimand for his past misconduct as opposed to resigning pending disciplinary proceedings.

(Mike Frisch)

Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink


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