Lawyer Misconduct Civil Action for Damages In Oklahoma

It is black-letter law in Oklahoma that no civil remedy is available for litigation-related misconduct. Patel v. OMH Medical Center, Inc., 1999 OK 33, 987 P.2d 1185, 1202, cert. denied 528 U.S. 1188, 120 S. Ct. 1242, 145 L. Ed. 2d 100 (2000). Further, "... no civil action may be maintained for damages caused by perjury, whether the petition for damages refers to the tort as perjury or as fraud or deceit." Id. The Oklahoma Supreme Court's stated reasons for why there is no civil action for damages caused by perjury, are pertinent to the reasons why lawyer statements in litigation are also non-actionable. Those reasons include the need for finality of judgments and the possibility of multiplicity of suits by parties dissatisfied with the outcome of trials. Cooper v. Parker-Hughey, 1995 OK 35, 894 P.2d 1096, 1101. Attorney misconduct may be sanctioned by the court in which the misconduct occurred. In addition, reports of alleged misconduct may be forwarded to the General Counsel's office of the Oklahoma Bar Association for investigation and appropriate action, up to and including recommendation of disbarment. But advocacy, even abusive advocacy, is not an independent tort that a party litigant may bring against a lawyer or his client outside the action in which the person believes the misconduct occurred. Oklahoma criminal law permits civil treble damages for attorney deceit and collusion. 21 O.S. 1991 575. However, Patel unequivocally states that the civil remedy requires an antecedent criminal conviction. 987 P.2d at 1204, n 61. The statute makes it clear that any attorney who participates in deceit or collusion with the intent to deceive any party or the court is guilty of a misdemeanor and "in addition to the punishment prescribed therefor by this code, he forfeits to the party injured treble damages, to be recovered in a civil action." There was no showing that any of the lawyers had been convicted of a 575 violation.