Orrin Onken Prevails Against the Oregon State Bar in Lengthy Reinstatement Litigation

Briefs and Decisions

Orrin Onken applied for reinstatment to the Oregon State Bar in the winter of 2000. He had resigned from the Bar because in the late eighties--during the darkest days of his alcholism--he stole just under a thousand dollars of client funds. The taking of client funds is arguably the most severe crime a lawyer can commit, and in the history of Oregon no person has ever been readmitted after commiting such an offense.

History suggests that only one disbarred lawyer had ever been readmitted to Bar membership prior to Orrin. That lawyer was the named partner in a major firm and had political and social connections in the highest echelon of the Oregon legal community. Orrin had no such connections. His connections were in the AA group he attended, the warehouse where he worked, and in a small community of scholars on the internet. His reinstatment case was a case that could not be won.

The case was named,

In re Orrin Onken
A contested admission proceeding before the Supreme Court of the State of Oregon
SC S54801

The case was first heard by a three person panel consisting of two lawyers and a member of the public. The Oregon State Bar was represented by Stacy Hankin and Skip Frank. They were experienced lawyers who knew how to present evidence well. Orrin's brief in that case is presented below. Orrin, with a fool for a lawyer, represented himself.

        Hearing Brief
Appendix 1: Bankruptcy Issues
Appendix 2: Chart of National Approaches in Readmission
Appendix 3: Chart of results in Oregon admission cases

On February 21st, 2002, the trial panel issued its opinion.  It recommended reinstatement and the chairman wrote in his opinion.

The Applicant has maintained complete responsibility for the thefts.

The Applicant has been faithful to his sobriety, and has strengthened his relationships with his family, friends and co-workers. The evidence of reformation of character is not only clear and convincing, it is substantial and impressive in the complete reversal of habits that consumed the Applicant for years.

After considering all of the evidence, this Panel concludes that Applicant has sustained his burden of proving by clear and convincing evidence that he has reformed the deficiencies in those character traits that led to his disbarment. Additionally, he possesses the good moral character and general fitness required to practice law, and his resumption of the practice of law will not be detrimental to the administration of justice or to the public interest.

The complete decision is linked below.

    Opinion of the trial panel

The Oregon State Bar was not satisfied with its decision and took the matter to the Supreme Court. On June 6, 2002 the Oregon State Bar filed its brief before the Oregon Supreme Court opposing reinstatement.

Brief of the Oregon State Bar

Orrin's Answering Brief is below.

Applicant's Answering Brief

The Oregon Supreme Court found no merit to the Bar's position and by unanimous decision affirirmed the finding of the trial panel.

The Decision of the Oregon Supreme Court

Orrin was admitted on the first day of 2003. The litigation took three years. The case serves as a beacon of hope for all professionals suffering the consequences of addiction. Since reinstatement Orrin has opened an elder law practice and now works out of an office in Fairview, Oergon.

One version of the story can be read in Insight Magazine, a periodical for Oregon Lawyers.

Insight Article

Of course all this is ancient history by now. If you want to see what Orrin Onken is doing today, read on.

If you are at all interested in Oregon elder law, guardianships, consevatorships, probate, estate planning and Medicaid check out Orrin's Oregon Elder Law blog.

If you would like to read The Duke of Morrison Street, Orrin's legal whodunnit in a twelve-step setting, buy it at Amazon, or if you want him to make more money, at Createspace. And be sure to read all the comings and goings at Salish Pond Press and the Salish Ponds Press blog. There you can read about how Orrin Onken started the publishing company, the progress being made on new books, and how he is losing money hand over foot doing it.

If you are really desperate you can read Orrin Onken's reviews on Amazon.