August 11, 2016 Top Story

E-Filing Ineptitude Results in Suspension and Censure

Non-compliance with court orders to acquire technological proficiency leads to discipline

Matthew S. Mulqueen

Failure to acquire the requisite technological proficiency for electronic filing of court documents can lead to harsh disciplinary action, as one sole practitioner recently discovered in State ex. Rel. Oklahoma Bar Association v. Oliver, 2016 OK 37 (2016). Despite the attorney's expertise in the substantive law, his lack of computer skills ultimately led to his permanent suspension from practice before a bankruptcy court, and later, censure by the Supreme Court of Oklahoma. The case serves as a stark reminder that ignorance is not bliss, and that an attorney's ethical duty of competence and care requires staying up to speed on developments in the legal practice, including technological changes.

E-filing Failures Lead to Permanent Suspension from Bankruptcy Court

The attorney was admitted to the Oklahoma bar in 1967, and had about 30 years of experience practicing before the bankruptcy courts. He had no prior record of disciplinary complaints or actions. When he failed to comply with court e-filing requirements, however, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Oklahoma suspended him twice on a temporary basis. The lawyer's suspension became permanent after he failed to comply with a court order to correctly submit nine "homework" documents without any rules or typographical errors, and to provide confirmation that he had associated with another attorney willing and qualified to assist him with his bankruptcy filings. In the permanent suspension order, the bankruptcy court concluded that the suspended attorney had defied the order by paying another lawyer $1,000 to ghostwrite the homework documents.

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