IN THE MATTER OF THE APPLICATION OF CALEB ALEXANDER HARLIN FOR ADMISSION BY EXAMINATION TO THE OKLAHOMA BAR ASSOCIATION.
OPINION HAS NOT BEEN RELEASED FOR PUBLICATION. UNTIL
RELEASED, IT IS SUBJECT TO REVISION OR WITHDRAWAL.
Applicant Caleb Alexander Harlin appeals from a decision of
the Oklahoma Board of Bar Examiners denying his application
for admission to the practice of law in Oklahoma by
examination. As an attorney of a non-reciprocal jurisdiction
who is not eligible for admission upon motion, the Applicant
seeks admission to the practice of law in Oklahoma by
examination under Rule 4 of the Rules Governing Admission to
the Practice of Law in the State of Oklahoma. Upon review, we
conclude Mr. Harlin has satisfied the requirements of Rule 4
and no issues remain outstanding. Mr. Harlin shall be allowed
to take the Oklahoma bar exam.
Neville, Charles E. Geister, III, & Emily S.
Eleftherakis, Hartzog Conger Cason & Neville, Oklahoma
City, Oklahoma, for Petitioner Caleb Harlin.
Patrick H. Kernan, Newton, O'Connor, Turner &
Ketchum, P.C., Tulsa, Oklahoma, for Oklahoma Board of Bar
Rule 4 of the Rules Governing Admission to the Practice of
Law in the State of Oklahoma (RGAP) allows for admission to
the practice of law in Oklahoma by examination.
The issue in this case is whether an attorney licensed in a
non-reciprocal jurisdiction who applies to take the bar exam
under § 1 of Rule 4 must meet the same requirements as a
law student applying to take the bar exam under § 2 of
Rule 4, specifically the undergraduate degree requirement
found in § 2(a) of Rule 4.
& Procedural History
Mr. Harlin graduated from homeschool high school in Muskogee
in July of 2003. After working for approximately a year, he
applied for admission to the Juris Doctor program at Oak
Brook College of Law and Public Policy in California. Oak
Brook is a four-year program recognized by the State Bar of
California, but is not accredited by the American Bar
Association.  In California, students who attend
non-accredited ABA institutions are required, after their
first year of study, to sit for and pass a bar exam called
the First Year Law Students' Exam. The exam is a
seven-hour test that consists of four essay questions and 100
multiple choice questions styled after the Multi-State Bar
Examination. Mr. Harlin took California's First Year Law
Students' Exam in October of 2006 and passed on his first
In December of 2009, he graduated cum laude from Oak
Brook with a Juris Doctor degree. In February of 2010, Mr.
Harlin sat for the California bar exam and passed on his
first attempt. In June of 2010, he was sworn into the State
Bar of California where he remains in good standing. Upon
admission to the State Bar of California, Mr. Harlin began
doing contract work with two different firms in the San
Francisco area while living in Muskogee. His practice
included assisting with several jury trials, arbitrations,
mediations, appeals, and depositions primarily in the areas
of personal injury and employment law. Mr. Harlin is also
admitted to practice before the Ninth Circuit Court of
Appeals, the U.S. District Courts for the Northern and
Central Districts of California, and the U.S. District Courts
for the Western and Eastern Districts of Oklahoma.
After practicing for a year in California, Mr. Harlin
contacted the Oklahoma Board of Bar Examiners (Board) and
inquired about admission to practice law in Oklahoma.
Mr. Harlin spoke with the Administrative Director of the
Board, who informed him that under the RGAP he could not be
admitted to practice in Oklahoma unless he obtained a law
degree from an ABA accredited law school.  During this
conversation, there was no discussion regarding Mr.
Harlin's lack of an undergraduate degree and whether such
would be an impediment to seeking admission to the practice
of law in Oklahoma. Pursuant to his discussion with the
Administrative Director, and his understanding of the RGAP,
Mr. Harlin applied to and was accepted to Oklahoma City
University School of Law and began attending classes in the
fall of 2012. 
Oklahoma City University School of Law was aware that Mr.
Harlin did not have an undergraduate degree. However,
Oklahoma City University School of Law admitted Mr. Harlin
pursuant to Standard 502(b) of the ABA Standards for Approval
of Law Schools, which allows a law school to admit an
applicant who does not have a "bachelor's degree, or
successful completion of three-fourths of the work acceptable
for a bachelor's degree" in "an extraordinary
During his time at Oklahoma City University School of Law,
Mr. Harlin sought to perform licensed legal intern work under
the supervision of an Oklahoma attorney. Thus, on October 15,
2013, he registered with the Board as a law student to become
a Licensed Legal Intern.  On November 19, 2013, the
Administrative Director contacted Mr. Harlin by e-mail and
advised him that "[o]ne of the requirements to register
as a law student and for taking a bar exam is that an
applicant has a certificate of graduation with a
Bachelor's degree from a college whose credit hours are
transferable to an Oklahoma law school."  On November
20, 2013, Mr. Harlin replied to the Administrative Director
and confirmed he did not have an undergraduate degree and
that his degree was from the Oak Brook College of Law and
Public Policy. The Administrative Director replied to Mr.
Harlin that same day and notified him that she had not yet
processed his application but that he could submit a
statement to the Board explaining how he met the admission
requirements of Rule 4.
On March 5, 2014, Mr. Harlin submitted a statement to the
Administrative Director via e-mail wherein he set forth why
he believed he satisfied the requirements of Rule 4 of the
RGAP. On April 9, 2014, Mr. Harlin received a letter from the
Board, notifying him that the "Board has determined that
you do not meet the necessary filing requirements for a Law
Student Registration application."  The letter also
advised Mr. Harlin that if he wished to apply and take the
bar exam, he could "submit an Exam Application by
Attorney prior to February 1, 2015." 
On December 2, 2014, Mr. Harlin submitted an Exam Application
by Attorney along with the $1, 000.00 application fee. Unlike
Mr. Harlin's law student registration application,
the Board processed the Exam Application by Attorney and
accepted the fee. On March 31, 2015, Mr. Harlin received
a letter from Patrick Kernan, general counsel for the Board,
notifying him of the Board's denial of his Exam
Application by Attorney and his right to appeal such decision
under Rule 11 of the RGAP.  On April 15, 2015, Mr.
Harlin timely requested a hearing under Rule 11 of the RGAP.
The Rule 11 hearing was held before the Board on November 4,
2015. At the hearing, Mr. Harlin argued that the Board had
erred in denying his Exam Application by Attorney because
under Rule 4, § 1 he was not required to satisfy the law
student registration requirements of Rule 4, § 2,
specifically the requirement that he obtain an undergraduate
degree.  On November 19, 2015, Mr. Harlin
received a letter from the Board notifying him that the Board
had again denied his application. The letter advised him that
the Board had found that even as an attorney applying under
§ 1 of Rule 4, Mr. Harlin had to comply with all of the
requirements of law student registration found in § 2,
including obtaining an undergraduate degree.
Mr. Harlin timely appealed the decision of the Board to this
Court on December 18, 2015. Briefing was completed on April
25, 2016, and the cause was assigned to this office on April
26, 2016. We note that during the pendency of the proceedings
before the Board, Mr. Harlin graduated summa cum
laude from Oklahoma City University School of Law in May
of 2015 where he served on the Oklahoma City University Law
Review and was voted by the faculty as the Most Outstanding
Graduate of the Class of 2015.
In a proceeding to review the Board's decision denying an
application for admission by examination, this Court reviews
de novo the entire record tendered. Application of
Sanger, 1993 OK 158, ¶ 12, 865 P.2d 338, 344. The
"findings of fact made by the Board are neither binding
nor persuasive, " and this Court "must pass on the
sufficiency and weight of the evidence as a tribunal of first
instance." Id., ¶ 13, 865 P.2d at ...