Oklahoma Imposes 90-day suspension for forging client’s name on settlement agreement.

A lawyer in Oklahoma forged his client’s signature on a settlement agreement and had that signature notarized. The Oklahoma Supreme Court described the misconduct as follows:

¶16 The formal release of claims against Pappy, et al. (excluding Barnes and Plaxico), was signed by Respondent (using Ms. Miller’s name) and the “signature” was caused to be notarized by Respondent on September 17, 2015. Respondent admits that he tried to replicate Ms. Miller’s signature as close as possible before having it notarized. Respondent also admits that he had no power of attorney or other legal authority authorizing him to sign this agreement using Ms. Miller’s name. However, Respondent alleges that he did have oral authorization to execute the formal release. However, Ms. Miller contended that she did not give Respondent permission to sign this formal release of claims against Pappy, et al….

¶25 Respondent’s actions were also a violation of ORPC Rules 8.4(a) and (c). The PRT Report found that Respondent violated Rule 8.4(c) when he endorsed the Formal Release of Claims for the Pappy, et al. settlement, signing his client’s name. Although he claimed that the signature was done with his client’s permission, she disputed that fact. But more seriously, he acknowledged that after he signed the settlement agreement, he caused that signature of his client’s name to be notarized, and by his admission, attempted to make the signature look as much as possible to the client’s signature. Though Respondent claimed to have had the client’s oral consent to effect the signature, his actions reveal that it was not, at the very least, in accord with legal procedures. He admitted that he no power of attorney or other legal authorization to sign his client’s name.

The Court also found that the respondent had mishandled settlement funds by depositing them in his operating account. (The client was made whole by the lawyer). The court also noted that the lawyer did a good job handling the case and obtained a substantial settlement for the client. Forging a client’s name on a document is usually cause for discipline. For further information please consult our website. https://www.clintonlaw.net/legal-ethics.html

The case is Oklahoma Bar Association v. Shad Withers, 2019 OK 47

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