Ethics Counsel

Ethics Opinion No. 83

Adopted December 27, 1934

The Board is in receipt of the following request for an advisory opinion:

“Is it proper for a member of the State Bar of Oklahoma to buy an heir’s interest in the estate of a deceased person, take the title in the name of his son-in-law and immediately bring suit in the District Court to partition same? We have a lawyer here who is in the habit of doing such things. In a particular case he bought a 1/24 interest from a grand child of the deceased, brought suit to partition in the district court, while the estates were being administered in the county court. A motion to dismiss his suit was filed and on hearing the motion the district court rendered judgment dismissing his action, from which judgment he appealed to the Supreme Court of Oklahoma, thus blocking the administration proceedings for nearly four years. Immediately after taking his appeal he and an associate commenced to buy the interest of the balance of the heirs, giving them next to nothing for their interests, telling them that he was sure to win in the Supreme Court and the taxes and expenses would take their interest any way. On the …… day of …… the Supreme Court affirmed the district court. He filed a motion for re-hearing in order to hold the matter up longer hoping he could get the balance of the shares for nothing … This is not his first nor his last act of the kind. In the instance referred to he bought one fourth interest in land appraised for nearly $4,000.00 for $250.00.”

In response:

The practice of the member of the bar referred to is improper and unethical as being interdicted by the spirit, if not the express language of Rule 30 of the Rules of Professional Conduct with reference to stirring up litigation, and of Rule 31 requiring a member to uphold the honor of the profession. It is also in violation of the oath taken by a member of the bar by which he states that he will delay no man for lucre.

Such a practice is condemned as an abuse by a member of the bar of his high official position for personal selfish gain, thus tending to bring reproach and discredit upon the profession.