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Attorney Runs Law Practice While Locked Up In Jail, Gets Disbarred For His Efforts


Close up hand of woman prisoner holding old iron bar in jail.Attorney Jay Silvernail was disbarred by the Oklahoma Supreme Court. In 2019, he was convicted of assault and battery with a deadly weapon for shooting a man in front of an Oklahoma City nightclub. But that wasn’t the reason — or at least not the full reason — he’s getting the boot from the profession. That ignominious distinction occurred because, post-conviction and pre-sentencing, while waiting in jail, Silvernail continued to run his law practice.

The Oklahoma Supreme cheekily referred to Silvernail as giving “new meaning to the term ‘jailhouse lawyer.’”

Nice.

The court noted Silvernail “was more interested in cash flow than client care,” and “placed his own financial interests above the interests of his clients by trying to keep his practice on life support while he awaited sentencing.”

And it wasn’t like his jailing was a surprise — the charges against him were filed three years prior, in 2016, when the shooting occurred. But, as has been reported, his plan for his practice was to operate “vicariously, as a sort of general manager” while finding other attorneys to cover appearances. As you might imagine, the Oklahoma Supreme Court thinks that’s… less than an ideal way to run a practice:

“And yet, for more than three years, Silvernail apparently took no steps to prepare for that contingency,” the state supreme court said.

Silvernail thought that as long as he could find lawyers to stand in for him at hearings, “he could operate his practice vicariously, as a sort of general manager,” the Oklahoma Supreme Court said. But it was not a good idea.

“The obstacles to effective representation from a jail cell should be obvious,” the state supreme court said. “As an inmate, Silvernail was unable to confer with clients confidentially. He was unable to communicate freely with prosecutors or other opposing counsel about his clients’ cases. He was obviously unable to appear in court on his clients’ behalf. His ability to access legal resources, a computer or even his own clients’ files was hampered, to say the least. Finally, practicing law from a jail cell arguably gives the appearance of impropriety. These conditions would have prompted a reasonable attorney to take a different tack.”

Plus, in opting for disbarment, the court noted his decision to carry a loaded weapon to a verbal dispute “gives us grave concerns about his fitness to practice law,” and Silvernail “resorted to deadly force in circumstances that did not justify such a response.”

And now there’s one less attorney in the profession.


Kathryn Rubino is a Senior Editor at Above the Law, host of The Jabot podcast, and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. AtL tipsters are the best, so please connect with her. Feel free to email her with any tips, questions, or comments and follow her on Twitter (@Kathryn1).





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