State Bar to Reimburse Client Losses

December 19, 2022

The Oklahoma Bar Association Clients’ Security Fund will pay $115,899.58 to 31 people who lost money or other property from the dishonest conduct of their attorney. The association is reimbursing money to the clients of deceased, suspended or former lawyers whose dishonest actions led to the losses.

OBA President James R. Hicks of Tulsa said, “Within the legal profession, upholding the public’s trust is paramount. When a lawyer dies or violates that trust, the members who make up our association collectively assume responsibility. The Clients’ Security Fund enables us to restore faith in our profession’s integrity, by returning lost money to those who have been victimized.”

Claims result when an attorney misappropriates client funds or property, then is disbarred, suspended or dies, and there is no other source for compensation or recovery. The OBA’s Clients’ Security Fund Committee reviews client claims and annually makes recommendations to the OBA Board of Governors on the merits of those claims. Committee Chair Micheal Salem of Norman said claims typically arise when these former attorneys become unstable as a result of a personal crisis, substance abuse or illness and fail to follow Bar Rules of Professional Conduct regarding the safeguarding of client funds or property.

“Unfortunately, the reputation of every Oklahoma lawyer suffers when a very small number of attorneys engage in unethical or illegal behavior,” Salem said “On behalf of the association, the committee works to assist people who’ve been wronged by the dishonest acts of the very few former lawyers who have misappropriated client funds or property. Our purpose is to rebuild confidence in our profession by fairly compensating these victims in accordance with our rules.”

All active Oklahoma lawyers contribute to the fund through a portion of their annual bar dues, and more than $3.8 million in reimbursements has been paid to clients since the fund was created in 1965.

Former or deceased attorneys for whom the OBA will be paying claims, the individuals to be compensated for their losses and the reimbursement amounts are:

Former attorney Tuan Khuu, Oklahoma City; clients Brent Rooney, $5,728; and Nazario Villegas, $16,667.

Deceased attorney Michael Arnett, Oklahoma City; clients Lamonta Johnson, $2,000; Dawyla Dawkins, $5,400; Mattie LeMay, $7,500; Lennie Mathis, $2,800; Jamie Rogers, $2,000; Samantha Bland, $4,500; Jessica Elam, $2,500; Jeffery Grove, $15,000; Jasmine Rogers, $2,500; Rosie Garcia, $1,700; James Woodfork, $2,750; Nancy DeRoche, $2,200; Kaylob Klingler, $2,670; Catrice Boyce, $5,500; Suzuki Guzman, $3,500; Robert Cowan, $2,500; Randale White, $1,000; John Wood, $2,500; Nicole Foret, $3,300; Robert Dudley, $1,000; and Tyjia Sparks, $6,000.

Deceased attorney Kathy Fry, Owasso; client Antonio Colbert, $1,000.

Deceased attorney Jon Carter, Cleveland; client Nicki Thomas, $1,500.

Deceased attorney Eric Jones, Ardmore; client Cynthia Burris, $1,500.

Five clients of former or deceased attorneys will receive funds totaling $10,684.58. The names of those attorneys are being withheld due to medical privacy concerns.

More information about the Clients’ Security Fund can be found on the OBA website at www.okbar.org/gc/clients-security-fund.

The 18,000-member Oklahoma Bar Association, headquartered in Oklahoma City, was created by the Oklahoma Supreme Court to advance the administration of justice and to foster and maintain learning, integrity, competence, public service and high standards of conduct among Oklahoma’s legal community.

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