Monday, October 20, 2008

Compelling Mitigation

The South Carolina Supreme Court rejected an appeal for a harsher sanction by Disciplinary Counsel and imposed an indefinite suspension in a case involving three client matters. The attorney had been in partnership with her husband, who was placed on interim suspension in 1999. Each of the client matters were taken over by the lawyer although the husband continued to have some involvement. the court here rejected findings below that the lawyer engaged in an improper business transaction with a client and assisted his unauthorized practice of law. Her communication with her husband concerning the status of a case was not unauthorized practice.

As to mitigation:

we note that respondent’s mother died tragically and unexpectedly in 1999 as respondent was administering CPR.  Respondent testified that her mother’s death caused her to feel great grief and guilt, which persisted well after the event and contributed to her decision-making.  Also in 1999, shortly after the death of her mother, Husband was placed on interim suspension from the practice of law.  Respondent found herself solely responsible for their law practice and responsible for having to provide for her two special needs children.  Respondent testified that the period of time in which the two events occurred constituted a very traumatic time in her life.  Her misconduct occurred close in time to these events. 

The court agreed with the panel that, under the circumstances, no harsher sanction was appropriate. (Mike Frisch)

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