In the Matter of the Application for
Reinstatement of ROBERT L. McKEE, Applicant.
SUPREME COURT OF OREGON
333 Ore. 209;
37 P.3d 987;
2002 Ore. LEXIS 2
May 9, 2001, Argued and Submitted
January 10, 2002, Filed
[***1] Application for reinstatement to the practice of law in Oregon.
DISPOSITION: Conditional reinstatement approved.
COUNSEL: Susan D. Issacs, Beaverton, argued the cause and filed the briefs for
Jane E. Angus, Assistant Disciplinary Counsel, Lake Oswego, argued the cause
and filed the brief for the Oregon State Bar.
JUDGES: Before, Carson, Chief Justice, and Gillette, Durham, Leeson, Riggs, and De
Muniz, Justices. * Leeson, J., dissents and files an opinion in which Carson,
* Kulongoski, J., resigned June 14, 2001, and did not participate in the
decision of this case. Balmer, J., did not participate in the consideration or
decision of this case. Leeson, J., dissents and files an opinion in which
Carson, C.J., joins.
[*211] PER CURIAM
reinstatement to the
practice of law after having served an 18-month
suspension that this court imposed in July 1993.
In re McKee, 316 Or 114, 849 P.2d 509 (1993) (McKee II). The Oregon
[**988] State Bar (Bar)
recommended that the application be denied. Applicant petitioned this court to review the
Bar's recommendation, and this court referred that petition to the Disciplinary
[***2] Bar Rule of Procedure (BR) 8.8 (providing procedure). After a hearing, a trial
panel of the Disciplinary Board
recommended that applicant be
reinstated on the condition that he complete 60 hours of minimum continuing legal
education (MCLE) credits during his first year of
reinstatement. Our review is automatic and
de novo. BR 10.2; BR 10.6. We reinstate applicant and adopt the trial panel's
recommended MCLE requirements.
Applicant was admitted to the Bar
in 1954. He has a prior disciplinary record consisting of one two-year
suspension, two letters of
admonition, n1 and the previously mentioned 18-month
suspension. In 1961, this court
suspended applicant for two years for violating rule 3 of the then-operative Rules of
Professional Conduct, after he solicited professional employment by means of
In re McKee, 229 Or 67, 365 P.2d 120 (1961) (McKee I). In 1970, applicant received a
letter of admonition for seating an imposter at counsel table during a judicial proceeding and
thereby misleading the judge as to the defendant's identity. In 1980, he
admonition for disbursing client trust funds contrary to an oral agreement that applicant
[***3] had made with a creditor.
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n1 Although a
letter of admonition neither is a
"sanction," nor is it part of a
"disciplinary proceeding" or an accused lawyer's
"[it] can be relevant to the determination of the appropriate sanction in a
subsequent proceeding involving other
In re Cohen, 330 Or 489, 500, 8 P3d 953 (2000). In a disciplinary matter, a
letter of admonition may be considered as evidence of past
misconduct, if the
misconduct that gave rise to that letter was of the same or similar type as the
misconduct at issue in the proceeding at bar.
Id. In the
reinstatement context, we conclude that a
letter of admonition might be relevant to determine whether an applicant meets the moral character
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In 1993, in
McKee II, this court determined that applicant had committed eight violations of the
[*212] Rules (DR) in two unrelated client matters. In the first matter, Morris had
retained applicant because
[***4] that his
neighbor was harassing him. After filing a complaint on Morris's behalf, applicant
concluded that Morris was mentally disturbed, that Morris might be at fault in
the dispute with his
neighbor, and that Morris would not prevail on any of his claims. Applicant failed to
keep Morris informed about the progress of the litigation. In addition,
applicant ignored Morris's desire to have his
"day in court" and negotiated a
settlement without Morris's knowledge or consent. Finally, applicant falsely represented
to the court that the parties had reached a
316 Or at 116-19.
In the second matter, applicant had represented both a wife (Crosby) and a
husband (Newby) in their dissolution case. Then, without advising either party
about his potential conflict of interest, or obtaining waivers, applicant
represented the husband against the wife in a subsequent, related dispute.
Id. at 119-21.
concluded that, in the two matters, applicant violated DR 1-102(A)(3)
(misrepresentation), DR 1-102(A)(4) (conduct prejudicial to administration of
justice), DR 5-105 (client conflicts), DR 6-101(B) (neglect of legal matter),
DR 7-101(A)(2) (intentionally
[***5] failing to carry out contract of employment), and DR 7-102(A)(5) (false
statement to tribunal).
Id. at 130-31. As noted, this court
suspended applicant for 18 months, and he has remained
suspended until now.
Applicant did not apply for
reinstatement in 1995, when he initially was eligible, because of illness. In 1997, when his
health improved, he filed this application for
This court must consider two areas of fitness to determine whether applicant
reinstated. First, we must determine that applicant
good moral character and
fitness to practice law and that the
resumption of the
practice of law in this state by the applicant will not be detrimental to the administration
of justice or the
[*213] interest." BR 8.1(b). Next, because applicant has been in
suspended status for more than three years, he also must demonstrate
[**989] that he has the
learning and ability to
practice law." BR 8.1(c).
We first address the requirements of BR 8.1(b). The trial panel concluded that
"a fine person" with the
good moral character and general
fitness to practice law. We need not detail the evidence offered on applicant's behalf
[***6] which the trial panel relied upon in support of that proposition. Our own
review of the record satisfies us that applicant accepts and recognizes that
his past conduct was improper and otherwise possesses the
good moral character and general
fitness to practice law. We conclude that his
resumption of the
practice of law will not be to the
detriment of the administration of justice or the
Next, because applicant was
suspended or in
suspended status for more than three years before applying for
reinstatement, he also must demonstrate the
learning and ability to
practice law." BR 8.1(c). The trial panel concluded that applicant
"is both capable and professional in his role as an advocate," and needs only
"some refreshment and
update of his knowledge."
We conclude that applicant's long experience as a lawyer is significant to an
appraisal of his
learning and ability. In that regard, the trial panel appropriately declined the Bar's
suggestion of a second Bar examination. However, applicant's lengthy absence
practice of law justifies requiring applicant to take steps to
update his knowledge. We concur with the trial panel's
[***7] legal education by applicant as a condition of readmission.
We approve the application for
reinstatement, conditioned upon applicant's successful completion of 45
hours of MCLE courses during the first three months of
reinstatement and before he actively practices law. Based upon applicant's declared
intention to practice in certain skill areas, the MCLE requirements shall
consist of not less than 10 hours in legal ethics and 35 hours in
landlord/tenant law, family law, debtor/creditor law, elder law and recent
[*214] in those areas of the law. In addition, applicant shall complete an additional
15 hours of MCLE courses in any subject area during first 12 months following
Leeson, J., dissents and files an opinion in which Carson, C.J.,
DISSENT: LEESON, J., dissenting.
In my view, the record in this proceeding does not demonstrate that applicant
has overcome the characteristics that led to the previous
In re Griffith, 323 Or 99, 106-07, 913 P.2d 695 (1996) (applicant in
reinstatement proceeding under BR 8.1(b) following disbarment has burden to show applicant
[***8] has overcome characteristics that led to previous
misconduct). Because doubt must be resolved in favor of protecting the
public interest by denying
id. at 106, I respectfully dissent.
joins this dissent.