378 P.3d 1212 (Okla. 2016), SCBD-6389, State ex rel. Oklahoma Bar Ass'n v. Gaines

Docket Nº:SCBD-6389
Citation:378 P.3d 1212, 2016 OK 80
Opinion Judge:EDMONDSON, J.
Party Name:STATE OF OKLAHOMA ex rel. OKLAHOMA BAR ASSOCIATION, Complainant, v. SHANITA DANIELLE GAINES, Respondent
Attorney:Loraine Dillinder Farabow, First Assistant General Counsel, Oklahoma Bar Association, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, for Complainant. No appearance for Respondent.
Judge Panel:EDMONDSON, J. CONCUR: COMBS, V.C.J., KAUGER, WATT, WINCHESTER, EDMONDSON, TAYLOR, COLBERT, and GURICH, JJ. NOT PARTICIPATING: REIF, C. J. CONCUR: COMBS, V.C.J., KAUGER, WATT, WINCHESTER, EDMONDSON, TAYLOR, COLBERT, and GURICH, JJ. NOT PARTICIPATING: REIF, C. J.
Case Date:June 28, 2016
Court:Supreme Court of Oklahoma
 
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Page 1212

378 P.3d 1212 (Okla. 2016)

2016 OK 80

STATE OF OKLAHOMA ex rel. OKLAHOMA BAR ASSOCIATION, Complainant,

v.

SHANITA DANIELLE GAINES, Respondent

No. SCBD-6389

Supreme Court of Oklahoma

June 28, 2016

RESPONDENT IS SUSPENDED FROM THE PRACTICE OF LAW FOR TWO YEARS AND ONE DAY AND ORDERED TO PAY COSTS.

SYLLABUS

[¶0] Respondent, a lawyer licensed in Oklahoma, received a two-year probated suspension of her license to practice of law in the State of Texas. Pursuant to Rule 7.7 of the Oklahoma Rules Governing Disciplinary Proceedings, 5 O.S.Supp.2015 Ch. 1, App. 1-A, the complainant, Oklahoma Bar Association, filed in this Court documentation showing respondent's suspension by the Texas State Bar. Upon order of this Court, respondent was directed to show cause why a final order of professional discipline should not be imposed on her by this Court. Respondent did not file a response and complainant requests a final order of discipline and imposition of costs. We hold that respondent's appropriate professional discipline is a suspension from the practice of law for two years and one day. Costs in the amount of $66.52 are imposed on respondent.

Loraine Dillinder Farabow, First Assistant General Counsel, Oklahoma Bar Association, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, for Complainant.

No appearance for Respondent.

EDMONDSON, J. CONCUR: COMBS, V.C.J., KAUGER, WATT, WINCHESTER, EDMONDSON, TAYLOR, COLBERT, and GURICH, JJ. NOT PARTICIPATING: REIF, C. J.

OPINION

ORIGINAL PROCEEDING FOR ATTORNEY DISCIPLINE

EDMONDSON, J.

[¶1] Respondent received previous attorney discipline from the State Bar of Texas, and the Oklahoma Bar Association filed a reciprocal professional discipline proceeding in this Court. The Bar Association recommends that respondent be suspended from the practice of law for two years and one day. We impose a suspension for two years and one day, and impose costs in the amount of sixty-six dollars and fifty-two cents ($66.52).

Texas State Bar Proceeding

[¶2] In March of 2016, respondent personally appeared before an Evidentiary Panel of a Grievance Committee for the State Bar of Texas where three disciplinary cases against her were adjudicated. The Evidentiary Panel made Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law concerning respondent's professional conduct in the three disciplinary cases. The Panel's judgment orders, adjudges and decrees " that Respondent be suspended from the practice of law for a period of two (2) years, with the suspension being fully probated . . ." pursuant to the terms specified in the judgment. The panel's judgment directed it " shall be made a matter of record and appropriately published in accordance with the Texas Rules of Disciplinary Procedure." Nothing in the record before us suggests respondent lacked a full and fair opportunity to litigate the complaints before the Texas State Bar.

[¶3] In the first case, the panel found that respondent (1) neglected legal matters entrusted to her by failing to provide legal services, (2) failed to keep a client reasonably informed about the status of client's legal matters, and (3) failed to supervise a nonlawyer in her office in accordance with respondent's professional obligations. In the second case, the panel found that respondent (1) received settlement funds and failed to promptly notify both her client and her client's medical providers who had interests in these funds, (2) failed to promptly deliver the settlement funds to her client and her client's medical providers, (3) failed to supervise a nonlawyer in her office in accordance with respondent's professional obligations, (4) shared legal fees with a nonlawyer in her office, and (5) owed restitution in the amount of one thousand five hundred sixty-six and 66/100 dollars to her client. In the third case, the panel found that respondent neglected a legal matter by failing to provide legal services, (2) failed to keep this client reasonably informed about the status of client's legal matters, (3) failed to comply with reasonable requests from the client for information about the status of the client's legal matters, and (4) failed to supervise a nonlawyer in her office in accordance with respondent's professional obligations.

[¶4] The panel's Conclusions of Law are respondent violated Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct, Rules 1.01(b)(1), (competent and diligent representation),1 1.03(a),(communication),[2] 1.14(b) (safekeeping property),3 5.03(a) (responsibilities regarding nonlawyer assistants),4 and 5.04(a)(Professional Independence of a Lawyer).5 of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct.

[¶5] The panel imposed upon respondent a probated suspension for two years. The terms of the probation are that she (1) not violate any term of the suspension, (2) not engage in professional misconduct in violation of Texas Rules of Disciplinary Procedure, Rule 1.06(W),[6] (3) not violate any state or federal criminal statutes, (4) keep the Texas State Bar advised on her current addresses and telephone numbers, (5) comply with Texas continuing legal education requirements, (6) comply with Interest on Lawyers Trust Account (IOLTA), (7) promptly respond to any request for information from the Chief Disciplinary Counsel's Office in connection with any investigation of allegations of professional misconduct, (8) pay restitution to her client in the amount of $1,566.66, (9) pay reasonable and necessary attorney's fees and direct expenses of the Texas State Bar in the amount of $1,962.50, and (10) make contact with the Chief Disciplinary Counsel's Offices' Compliance Monitor and Special Programs Coordinator. The panel's order stated the procedure for revoking her probation, she would not be given credit for any term of probation served prior to revocation, and any conduct which serve as grounds to revoke her probation could be brought as independent grounds for professional discipline. The order stated that any amount of money not paid shall accrue interest at the maximum legal rate per annum until paid and the State Bar of Texas " shall have all writs and other post-judgment remedies against Respondent in order to collect all unpaid amounts."

Oklahoma Discipline

[¶6] This Court may impose lawyer discipline on a lawyer when that lawyer has received discipline from the highest court of another state or a federal court.7 Rule 7 of the Rules Governing Disciplinary Proceedings, 5 O.S.2011 Ch. 1, App. 1-A, provides for summary lawyer disciplinary proceedings before the Supreme Court in rule-specified circumstances. One of these circumstances is a lawyer's professional discipline imposed on the lawyer in another jurisdiction. Rule 7.7 of the Rules Governing Disciplinary Proceedings (R.G.D.P.). 8 This rule also provides the Court will issue an order providing a respondent an opportunity to appear and show cause why he or she should not be disciplined by this Court.9

[¶7] On April 28, 2016, this Court issued an order directing respondent " to show cause in writing why a final order of discipline should not be imposed, or to request a hearing, on or before May 19, 2016." Respondent did not file a response to this Court's order or enter an appearance. Respondent did not request a hearing.

[¶8] A lawyer accused of misconduct must be afforded due process, and given notice of the charges and a reasonable opportunity to be heard.10 Complainant filed a notice of serving respondent a copy of the order of the Texas State Bar. This notice used respondent's roster address for the Oklahoma Bar Association. Complainant did not file any notice of serving respondent a copy of the Court's order directing respondent to show cause why a final order of discipline should not be entered.

[¶9] The rules of this Court require the Clerk of this Court to mail orders and notices to parties, including respondents in a lawyer discipline proceeding who have failed to make an appearance.11 In a Rule 7.7 proceeding where a respondent has not made an appearance, this Court has used mail to the lawyer's Bar Association address as a method to provide notice of (1) an order directing the lawyer to respond why final discipline should not be entered, and (2) the order imposing final discipline.12 This Court has held notice by mail to a lawyer's official roster address to be sufficient to satisfy due process.13 A lawyer's failure to respond to the Bar's requests for information or the disciplinary complaint, or failure to appear at a disciplinary hearing does not prevent this Court from crafting an appropriate discipline.14 A lawyer's failure to respond to this Court's order directing a Rule 7.7 response from the lawyer does not prevent this Court from entering an order of final discipline.

[¶10] Documents...

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