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OBA Ethics Counsel

Ethics Opinion No. 86

Adopted February 22, 1935

A member of the bar, who on January 14th, 1935, became a county judge, inquires:

"(a) What is my status as a member of the State Bar?

(b) Am I to pay the annual fee, either as an active or inactive member?

(c) If I pay the annual fees as an active member, may I engage in the practice, such as filing divorce actions and obtaining uncontested decrees therein?"

In response:

(a) The State Bar Act, which became effective June 29, 1929, provides (Sec. 3) the members of the State Bar shall be all persons now entitled to practice law in this State, and (Sec. 7) that after the organization of the State Bar, all persons who are admitted to practice shall become by that fact, members of the State Bar.

In the opinion of the Board of Governors, the member of the bar in question, if admitted prior to June 22, 1929, was "entitled to practice law" within the meaning of the State Bar Act and is therefore a member of the State Bar. If the member of the bar in question was admitted to the bar subsequent to June 22, 1929, by the express terms of the State Bar Act he became a member of the State Bar without limitation or qualification. The fact that he has been elected the judge of a court of record in this State merely suspends his right to engage in the practice of law under the provisions of Section 4199 hereinafter quoted during his term of office, that is, so long as he holds such commission. Upon the relinquishment of his commission as such judge by expiration of his term or otherwise, he may resume the practice of law. His status as a member of the State Bar is not otherwise affected.

(b) The State Bar Act (Sec. 4) provides that the members of the State Bar shall be divided into two classes, active and inactive, and (Sec. 6) that every person licensed to practice law in this State shall be deemed an active member until, at his request, he shall have been enrolled as an inactive member. So far as the payment of fees is concerned, the member of the bar in question is required to pay fees as an active member, unless, at his request, he shall have been enrolled as an inactive member, in which event, of course, the fees applicable to inactive members should be paid.

(c) No. Section 4199, Okl.Statutes 1931, 5 Okl.St.Ann. § 1 provides:

"No person shall practice as an attorney and counselor at law in any court of this state ... who holds a commission as judge of any court of record."