May 13, 2008
The South Carolina Supreme Court suspended an attorney for six months for misconduct in connection with the settlement of a personal injury claim. The attorney had settled the case without advising the client, signed the client's and her husband's name to the release and collected his fee without disbursing the client's share. The client fired the lawyer and learned about the settlement when she retained new counsel.
The accused lawyer sought but was not permitted to submit evidence concerning successor counsel. The court found no error in the exclusion of that evidence:
At the start of the hearing, Respondent’s counsel indicated that he intended to call Witness B, a former client of Attorney’s and a member of Respondent’s office staff who was also his client. According to Respondent’s counsel, Witness B was to testify regarding the “bad blood” that existed between Respondent and Attorney prior to the Client matter. Counsel also intended to elicit testimony from Witness B regarding a grievance she had filed against Attorney. Disciplinary counsel objected to the admission of this testimony on the ground it was irrelevant to a determination of Respondent’s alleged misconduct. After hearing arguments from counsel, the Panel ruled that Respondent’s counsel could not present any testimony regarding a grievance against Attorney and needed to limit the testimony to only the interactions between Attorney and Respondent regarding the Client matter.
The court rejected the 90 day suspension proposed by the panel below as unduly lenient. (Mike Frisch)
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