Wednesday, February 18, 2009
The South Carolina Supreme Court imposed a nine-month suspension of an attorney who had returned to South Carolina after a decade of practice based on his admission in New York and New Jersey. He joined a firm as an associate and the arrangement did not work well. The firm's management committee "formalized an 'exit strategy' which would provide for [him] to continue working at the firm for a period of time in order that [he] could pursue other employment." A review of his timekeeping records found improper entries and discrepencies. He was discharged. The firm's investigation found a "folder containing materials used to 'doctor' the firm's reimbursement forms" and led to a bar complaint.
A hearing led to the following finding:
Turning to the facts of the instant case, Respondent over a period of one year engaged in a pattern of conduct that was deliberate, purposeful, deceitful, and fraudulent. Not only did Respondent overcharge clients for his time, he also altered documents to falsify reimbursement expenses. Furthermore, unlike [a prior case], Respondent never self-reported his misconduct to the ODC. Accordingly, we conclude that Respondent’s conduct warrants a sanction of definite suspension of nine months.
The court agreed with disciplinary counsel that a harsher sanction than the 180 day suspension proposed by the hearing panel was appropriate. The attorney must establish his character and fitness prior to reinstatement. (Mike Frisch)