The Oklahoma Supreme Court has suspended for two years and a day an attorney convicted of obstructing a public officer. The attorney, Robert S. Kerr, was accused of offering bribes to a police officer in exchange for him not appearing at a client’s drivers license revocation hearing.
The court weighed mitigating circumstances in the case against the serious nature of an attorney’s effort to affect legal proceeding through bribery. Mitigating factors included Kerr’s inexperience as an attorney, and his familial relationship with an uncle who owned the law firm where he worked.
“The respondent’s uncle, David Ogle, was his principal employer and undoubtedly exercised more influence over him than would normally be found in an employer-employee relationship, given the added component of familial relationships,” wrote Justice James Winchester for the court majority that handed down the opinion.
The court placed David Ogle, a partner in the Oklahoma City law firm Ogle & Welch, on interim suspension pending resolution of a disciplinary case against him. As Kerr’s uncle and employer, Ogle allegedly instructed Kerr to offer bribes to the police officer. In related criminal cases, Kerr and Ogle each reached plea agreements that reduced felony charges of bribery to misdemeanor obstruction charges. There were each handed deferred sentences and ordered to comply with probation.
Justices Yvonne Kauger, Doug Combs and Noma Gurich did not participate in the disciplinary decision. Justice James Edmondson dissented but did not provide written dissent to explain his reasons.