May 5, 2008
Under The Influence
The South Carolina Supreme Court ordered a one-year definite suspension of an attorney found in contempt in a civil matter for violating an order compelling discovery responses and bouncing a check tendered to pay court-ordered attorney's fees. He also failed to inform the client of a trial date. Things were made far worse when:
...while before Judge Baxley at the June 19, 2003 Rule to Show Cause hearing, it appeared that Respondent was under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Upon inquiry by the court, Respondent denied being under the influence of any substance and denied having used any alcohol or drugs in the past seventy-two hours. The court then required Respondent to submit to an immediate urinalysis drug screening. The screening indicated the presence of cocaine in Respondent’s system. Upon learning of the results, Respondent admitted to the court that he had used cocaine within the previous seventy-two hours but denied being “under the influence.” The court found Respondent in direct criminal contempt for lying to the court about his use of cocaine and imposed a contempt sanction by sentencing Respondent to ninety days in the Horry County Detention Center to begin no later than June 25, 2003. However, the court allowed Respondent to avoid jail by enrolling in a drug treatment program with certain conditions. The court found Respondent’s conduct was having a detrimental effect on his clients, which the court believed to be the result of “a substance abuse problem that is destroying his life and legal practice and is certainly interfering with the administration of justice” and is “not isolated to this judge or this court.” Respondent initially entered a drug treatment program, but because he was unable to pay for the program, he failed to complete it. Respondent carried out his ninety-day sentence at the Horry County Detention Center.
In other matters, the attorney failed to pay a court reporter's bill, neglected a divorce and failed to comply with the final decision of the Fee Disputes Board. The sanction requires him to enter into a two-year monitoring contact with Lawyers Helping Lawyers, agree to random drug screens and make full restitution. (Mike Frisch)
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