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State ex rel. Oklahoma Bar Association v. Moody

Supreme Court of Oklahoma

April 11, 2017

STATE OF OKLAHOMA, ex rel. OKLAHOMA BAR ASSOCIATION, Complainant,
v.
CHAD WARD MOODY, Respondent.

         BAR DISCIPLINARY PROCEEDING

          Loraine Dillinger Farabow, Oklahoma Bar Association, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, for complainant.

          Chad Ward Moody, respondent, pro se.

          WINCHESTER, J.

         ¶0 The complainant, Oklahoma Bar Association, commenced disciplinary proceedings against the respondent, Chad Ward Moody. Based on evidence presented during a hearing, the Trial Panel concluded that two voicemails sent from the respondent to a client were unprofessional, inappropriate, vulgar, offensive, and served no legitimate purpose thereby bringing discredit to the professional of law, violating RGDP 1.3. The Trial Panel also found this conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice in violation of ORPC Rule 8.4(d).

         ¶1 The complainant, Oklahoma Bar Association, filed its complaint against the respondent, Chad Ward Moody, pursuant to Rule 6, Rules Governing Disciplinary Proceedings (RGDP), [1] alleging violations of Rule 1.3 (RGDP) [2] and Rule 8.4(d) of the Oklahoma Rules of Professional Conduct (ORPC). [3] The Trial Panel heard this disciplinary matter, found the respondent had violated ORPC 8.4(d) and his actions warranted discipline. The Panel recommended that the respondent be publically censured.

         I. FACTS

         ¶2 Nichalas Frank hired the respondent in November of 2015 to represent him in three (3) criminal cases pending in Oklahoma County District Court. Mr. Frank's grandfather paid the respondent the five-hundred dollar ($500) retainer fee required to obtain his services, and Mr. Frank was to pay an additional total of $4, 000.00 to the respondent in six monthly payments. [4] Frank, however, failed to make any further payments.

         ¶3 On March 15, 2016, the respondent learned during a staff meeting that Mr. Frank had not made any additional payments for attorney fees. The respondent reacted to this by telephoning Frank and, in front of his staff, leaving two messages containing expletives and threats. We will address the content of the messages later in this opinion.

         ¶4 After receiving the respondent's voicemail messages, Frank contacted a local Oklahoma City TV news station. In an interview with the station he stated he feared for his life because the respondent was pretty powerful, and "I'm pretty sure he can do what he wants to do at any moment." The TV station aired the news story on March 16, 2016, and played bleep-censored audio of both voicemail messages left by the respondent. He refused to be interviewed and did not comment on the allegations.

         ¶5 On March 17, 2016, Mr. Frank filed a grievance with the Oklahoma Bar Association regarding the respondent's conduct. That same day the respondent filed motions to withdraw from Frank's cases and was authorized to do so by the District Court on March 21, 2016.

         ¶6 In his written response to Frank's grievance, the respondent advised he had appeared in court on Frank's behalf and continued the cases because he was not getting paid, and he was trying to consolidate them before the same judge. The respondent went on to state that when he learned Frank had not paid the fee promised, he left the two voicemails, "in an attempt to get Frank to pay him so that he would not have to withdraw." In his written response, the respondent also stated that Frank

"... needed me to get his attention and I did.... I simply spoke to him in words he understood. My communication was directed to him personally, and was intended to be private in nature. Sometimes communications with difficult drug addicted clients has [sic] to be blunt and straight forward to impress upon them the reality of their situation."

         ¶7 On July 13, 2016, the Bar Association filed a formal Complaint, at the Office of the Chief Justice of the Oklahoma Supreme Court. The Complaint alleged the respondent violated his ...


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