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Defrocked Idabel Judge May Practice Law While Serving 5 Years Felony Probation

The Oklahoma Supreme Court on June 18 allowed former Idabel Municipal Judge Jon Brown to return to work as an attorney after Brown entered a plea agreement in which he is to serve five years probation for a felony drug charge. If Brown fails to complete the five-year drug court program, he faces five years in prison.

Brown was arrested Feb. 23, 2012 in McCurtain County on two drug-related misdemeanor counts and a felony count of possession of methamphetamine. The Oklahoma Bar Association filed a complaint against Brown on May 8, 2012, and the court suspended him from practice of law on June 11, 2012. The court reinstated Brown’s license June 18, 2013 after hearing evidence that he’d abstained from drug use since August 6, 2012.

According to the Supreme Court document, an intervention by fellow attorneys a month after his arrest prompted Brown to enter a 90-day inpatient substance-abuse treatment program in Purcell, Okla. He was asked to leave the program after 24 days, reportedly for using Valium and methamphetamine, and for giving Valium to another patient. After leaving the program he achieved sobriety on his own, Brown told a Bar Association trial panel.

Brown testified at the Bar Association ethics hearing that he spiraled into drug use after the suicide of his brother-in-law at his family home. He escalated his use of hydrocodone, which had previously been prescribed to treat pain from an old high-school football injury. He said that he began taking methamphetamine to counteract the affects of hydrocodone.

A sharply divided court lifted the year-long suspension of Brown’s law license after noting that no other complaints had been filed against him for neglect of client matters. Although four grievances had been filed with the OBA, those were all resolved administratively. The court noted that Brown had taken steps to transfer his clients’ cases to other attorneys and, where appropriate, had returned all fees and files associated with cases.

Four justices dissented from the court’s opinion that limited sanctions against Brown to a public censure and a year-long suspension. “A defendant who has entered a plea of guilty in a felony case should not be practicing law. At a very minimum, the Respondent should be suspended from the practice of law during this five-year felony probation,” Justice Steven Taylor wrote in a dissenting opinion. Justices Joseph Watt and Noma Gurich joined in Taylor’s dissenting opinion.

Read the entire Supreme Court opinion here: State ex rel. Oklahoma Bar Association v. Brown 2013 OK 40

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