What should you do when faced with a letter from the ODC?

Standard

This disciplinary opinion clearly sets out what not to do!

I’ve blogged before about Mike Goodwin, the “Bow Tie Comedian” based here in Columbia, who entertained us during lunch at Chicago Title’s seminar several years ago. I highly recommend Mike if you need a comedian suitable for a family audience. A joke that bubbled up through his very funny presentation was a line his mother used to keep him on the straight and narrow during his childhood, “what you NOT gonna do is…..” 

For example, she would say, what you NOT gonna do is to stand there and hold that refrigerator door open while you try to decide what you want to eat. During one lull in the laughter, Mike said to us, “what you NOT gonna do is sit there and not laugh at my jokes.” (So we laughed.)

Mike’s tag line came to mind when I read a recent disciplinary case* involving a real estate lawyer. This lawyer did exactly what he should not have done when the ODC contacted him.

This lawyer had been previously disciplined for financial misconduct in 2011. In that case**, he was given a public reprimand. He did not learn from his mistake.

In 2016, a client gave the check in the amount of $8,969. Just prior to the deposit of this client’s check, the balance in the lawyer’s trust account was $0.15. The lawyer negotiated nine checks to himself totaling $365. Then he issued a check to the client’s seller in the amount of $8,969. This check was returned as unpaid for insufficient funds, and the bank notified the ODC. The client also filed a complaint with the ODC.

Later, he misappropriated trust funds by writing checks to himself in amounts totaling just over $8,000.

What did the lawyer do in response to the ODC? Nothing!

  • He failed to respond to notices of investigation, despite being served with reminder letters.
  • He failed to respond to the court-appointed receiver after he was placed on interim suspension.
  • He failed to cooperate with the receiver and failed to produce client files and trust account files after being ordered to do so.
  • He failed to file an answer to formal charges.
  • (The Court didn’t say this, but his worst mistake may have been failing to hire a lawyer experienced in disciplinary matters.)
  • He failed to appear at his hearing.
  • He failed to file a brief taking exception to the report issued subsequent to the hearing, thus accepting the findings of fact, conclusions of law, and recommendations.

The Court, siting the central purpose of the disciplinary process is to protect the public from unscrupulous and indifferent lawyers, disbarred the lawyer. Learn well from this lawyer’s lack of action!

*In the Matter of Griffin, South Carolina Supreme Court Opinion 28124 (December 14, 2022).

**In the Matter of Griffin, 393 S.C. 142, 711 S.E.2d 890 (2011).

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