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In re Reinstatement of Conrady

Supreme Court of Oklahoma

April 11, 2017

IN THE MATTER OF THE REINSTATEMENT OF JAMES ALBERT CONRADY TO MEMBERSHIP IN THE OKLAHOMA BAR ASSOCIATION AND TO THE ROLL OF ATTORNEYS.

         ORIGINAL PROCEEDING FOR LAWYER REINSTATEMENT

          Dan Murdock, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma for Petitioner

          Tommy Humphries, Asst. Gen. Counsel, Oklahoma Bar Association, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, for Respondent.

          EDMONDSON, J.

         Lawyer suspended by prior order of this Court seeks reinstatement of his license to practice law. Trial panel of the Professional Responsibility Tribunal recommended that the petition for reinstatement be granted. We hold the evidence is sufficient to support the petition for reinstatement.

         PETITION FOR REINSTATEMENT GRANTED; APPLICATION FOR COSTS GRANTED; PETITIONER ORDERED TO PAY MEMBERSHIP DUES FOR CURRENT YEAR; AND COMPLETE A CURRENT ANNUAL MANDATORY CONTINUING LEGAL EDUCATION REQUIREMENT

         ¶1 This proceeding was brought for the purpose of reinstating a lawyer's suspended license to practice law. We conclude the evidence is sufficient to support reinstatement.

         ¶2 Petitioner's license to practice law was suspended for two years and one day by this Court in April 2012. State ex rel. Oklahoma Bar Ass'n v. Conrady, 2012 OK 29, 275 P.3d 133. Conrady violated the Oklahoma Rules of Professional Conduct (O.R.P.C.), Rule 8.4, [1] and the Rules Governing Disciplinary Proceedings (R.G.D.P.), Rule 1.3. [2] Petitioner's professional discipline arose from six criminal acts he committed while in an intoxicated and "emotionally charged" state. Conrady, 2012 OK 29, at ¶¶ 3-4. The trial judge issued an order deferring sentencing on all six counts, with the probationary periods on each to run concurrently over a period of five years. Conrady was also required to pay court costs and restitution to both of his victims. Id. 2012 OK 29 at ¶ 4.

         ¶3 A report from the Professional Responsibility Tribunal is required to include specific determinations whether: 1) the petitioner possesses the good moral character which would entitle him to be admitted to the Bar Association; 2) the petitioner has not engaged in the unauthorized practice of law during the period of suspension; and 3) the petitioner possesses the competency and learning required for admission to the practice of law. [3] The trial panel unanimously recommended that petitioner be reinstated. The panel recommended that petitioner complete the required number of mandatory continuing legal education course, pay current membership dues for the calendar year reinstatement is granted, and pay the fees and expenses of the reinstatement proceeding. The Bar Association waived filing a brief in opposition to reinstatement.

         ¶4 The trial panel's recommendation is merely advisory. [4] In reinstatement proceedings the court exercises exclusive original jurisdiction and independently reviews the evidence submitted to the trial panel. [5] An applicant for reinstatement must establish affirmatively that, if readmitted or if the suspension from practice is removed, the applicant's conduct will conform to the high standards required of a member of the Bar. [6] An attorney seeking reinstatement "bears the heavy burden of showing, by clear and convincing evidence, that reinstatement is warranted." [7]

         ¶5 Each case for reinstatement is reviewed on its own merits, and a case will fail or succeed on the evidence presented and the circumstances peculiar to that case. [8] The Court has explained it reviews the evidence of the trial panel and makes determinations of eight factors. They are: (1) applicant's present moral fitness, (2) demonstrated consciousness of the conduct's wrongfulness and the disrepute it has brought upon the legal profession, (3) the extent of rehabilitation, (4) the original misconduct's seriousness, (5) conduct after resignation, (6) time elapsed since the resignation, (7) applicant's character, maturity and experience when he resigned, and (8) present legal competence. [9] The Court makes a determination based upon its duty of safeguarding the interests of the public, the courts and the legal profession. [10] The court balances the interest of the applicant against the fact that the very nature of the profession places an attorney in a position where an unprincipled person may do tremendous harm to the public and to the attorney's clients. [11]

         ¶6 Two Oklahoma lawyers who are not Conrady's employer provided the Bar Association with statements on his present moral fitness and stated that he would "be honorable and reputable to his profession" and he is "ethical and competent." One witness commented that Conrady was remorseful for his actions. A statement was made by another lawyer who had appeared as co-counsel with Conrady's employer in litigation which occurred during Conrady's suspension. The statement is that in a phone conversation Conrady had "carefully explained" his suspension, his role as a paralegal in that litigation and that he was no longer licensed to practice law. Conrady took "full responsibility for his actions" in this conversation.

         ¶7 In 2016, the trial court found that Conrady had satisfactorily discharged his court-imposed responsibilities relating to his criminal charges. That court expunged his plea from the record, and dismissed charges against Conrady with prejudice to further action. His original misconduct is extremely serious and could have resulted in a tragic personal injury or loss of life, and such was averted due to the fortuitous circumstance of the two victims being absent from the scene of the event.

         ¶8 Conrady's conduct after imposition of discipline shows he obtained regular professional medical behavioral treatment with a professional witness stating Conrady's "complete success" with this treatment. The professional discipline of a suspension for two years and one day was imposed in 2012, and five years have elapsed since discipline was imposed. Prior to his discipline he had been a licensed attorney in Oklahoma since 1976 without prior professional discipline and without a criminal offense. He self-reported the criminal conduct, cooperated with the Bar ...


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