Legal Ethics

Okla. Attorney Disbarred; Court Cites 'Unbelievable' Testimony

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An Oklahoma attorney has been disbarred by the state supreme court after allegations that he forged a letter under another lawyer’s letterhead, purporting to sign it with that lawyer’s name, and sought to trade legal services for sexual favors, among other claimed misconduct.

The lawyer, Michael Gassaway, “obtain[ed] the signature of a judge under fraudulent conditions,” and, after the Oklahoma Bar Association notified him of a pending investigation, Gassaway sent a forged letter to the OBA in his own defense that purported to come from another attorney, states the Oklahoma Supreme Court in a written opinion (PDF) that was filed today.

Among additional misconduct that the court also cited in support of disbarment was Gassaway’s apparent willingness to accept oral sex from a client’s girlfriend in lieu of legal fees, although Gassaway was acquitted of related criminal charges. “This is the first case we have been presented where the sexual misconduct by the attorney involved trading sexual favors for legal services,” the court notes in its opinion.

Among aggravating factors, according to the court’s opinion, were Gassaway’s “unbelievable” testimony and apparent lack of remorse. Rather than admitting and apologizing for wrongdoing, “Respondent vigorously denies the allegations in all fifteen counts against him and, in many of the counts, asserts as a defense that the grievant has a vendetta against him,” the court writes. “As the record stands, there is nothing to consider in mitigation of Respondent’s reprehensible misconduct.”

Additional coverage:

Oklahoman: “Attorney Mike Gassaway disbarred”

Journal Record (2007): “Oklahoma Bar Association panel disallows evidence for Gassaway”

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