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State ex rel. Oklahoma Bar Association v. Smolen
Supreme Court of Oklahoma
17 P.3d 456 (Okla. 2000)
Attorney Donald Smolen (defendant) represented a client named Miles in a case before the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Court. Smolen loaned Miles $1,200 through a check that noted the money was for travel expenses. However, Smolen admitted that the true purpose of the loan was to cover Miles’s living expenses after Miles’s home was destroyed in a fire. Smolen’s loan to Miles was interest free and had no penalty or fee other than the cost of the principal. Miles repaid $200 on the loan. Smolen agreed to forego any further repayment until the workers’ compensation case was completed. Miles became involved in other legal matters and searched for a new attorney to handle the other matters. When Smolen learned that Miles was looking for a new attorney, Smolen terminated their attorney-client relationship. Miles later hired another attorney. During a mediation of a fee dispute between Miles and the new attorney, the Tulsa County Bar Association learned about Smolen’s loan to Miles and reported Smolen’s conduct to the Oklahoma Bar Association (OBA) (plaintiff). The OBA filed a complaint of misconduct against Smolen, alleging that Smolen had violated Oklahoma Rule of Professional Conduct (ORPC) 1.8(e), which prohibited attorneys from providing financial assistance to clients in connection with pending or contemplated litigation. The state supreme court reviewed the record de novo.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Hodges, J.)
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