On Thursday, September 28, 2023, the Supreme Court of Kentucky rendered its decision to reinstate Roderick Anibal Tejeda to the practice of law, following a four-year suspension over a guilty plea to reckless homicide. The court upheld the recommendation the Board of Governors of the Kentucky Bar Association (KBA) put forth to reinstate Tejeda, subject to specific conditions.
The case is entitled “Roderick Anibal Tejeda v. Kentucky Bar Association,” case no. 2022-SC-0470-KB.
Tejeda had faced suspension after pleading guilty to reckless homicide in connection with a fatal motor vehicle accident. The incident occurred in 2012, and Tejeda’s guilty plea led to an automatic suspension from the practice of law in September 2013.
During the suspension period, Tejeda, a recovering alcoholic, underwent treatment for alcohol addiction and actively participated in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). He also pursued vocational training and obtained a commercial driver’s license, eventually working as a truck driver. Furthermore, Tejeda became a certified drug and alcohol counselor, obtaining licenses to practice counseling in Kentucky and Georgia.
Tejeda applied for reinstatement in August 2018, demonstrating his continued sobriety and completing his probationary period. However, in October 2019, he experienced a relapse due to personal and academic difficulties. Tejeda promptly reengaged with AA and has remained sober since then.
The Character and Fitness Committee conducted a hearing on Tejeda’s application in March 2022. Initially, the committee recommended Tejeda’s reinstatement subject to enhanced monitoring by the Kentucky Lawyer Assistance Program (KYLAP). However, the recommendation was later modified by the Board of Governors, taking into account the nature of Tejeda’s employment as a truck driver. The board unanimously recommended reinstatement within ninety days, with enhanced monitoring to be initiated after reinstatement.
Accordingly, the Supreme Court of Kentucky, upon review of the board’s decision, ruled to reinstate Tejeda to the practice of law, accepting the modified recommendation for enhanced monitoring. The court emphasized the principle that the suspension or disbarment of an attorney does not necessarily constitute a permanent disability. It acknowledged Tejeda’s efforts to address his alcohol addiction and his commitment to living a law-abiding and responsible life.
Justice Christopher Shea Nickell dissented from the majority opinion, arguing that Tejeda’s lack of candor regarding the management of his alcohol addiction should lead to the denial of his reinstatement application. Justice Nickell emphasized the importance of exemplary conduct and honesty in the reinstatement process, stating that sympathy, mitigation, and the passage of time should not be considered when judging reinstatement merits. He highlighted Tejeda’s relapse, his dishonesty with the Kentucky Lawyer Assistance Program (KYLAP), and his delayed disclosure of the relapse. Justice Nickell concluded that Tejeda’s lack of candor and acceptance of responsibility made him ineligible for reinstatement at the present time. He recommended denying Tejeda’s application, with the possibility of resubmitting a new application in two years.
Mr. Tejeda acquired his law license in Kentucky in 1996.
A copy of the original filing can be found here.