Monday, June 29, 2020
The Georgia Supreme Court has accepted a voluntary license surrender "which is tantamount to disbarment"
stating that on February 4, 2020, he entered a guilty plea in Chatham County Superior Court to one count of theft by conversion. He states further that the theft charge arose from his conduct in the administration of an estate, in the course of which he sold real property on the estate’s behalf, deposited the sales proceeds, totaling $509,618.68, into his trust account, and then, rather than disbursing the funds to the estate, converted the funds to his own use.
The order of interim suspension is linked here.
Savannah Now reported
Suspended Savannah attorney Don Smart on Thursday was indicted for theft by conversion of more than $25,000 from clients in an estate matter.
Smart obtained funds while administering a trust and estate and “did knowingly convert said funds and property to (his) own use in violation of the agreement and legal obligation,” the Chatham County grand jury said in returning the single-count indictment.
The alleged conduct occurred between April 15, 2013, and Aug. 24, 2018, the indictment said.
It included a notation that the defendant’s “actions were unknown to the state until or about the 8th day of Oct. 2016 and (were) thus excluded from the statute of limitations until such date.”
The indictment, obtained by Assistant District Attorney Scott Robichaux, was a special presentment, meaning prosecutors will have to obtain a bench warrant for Smart’s arrest in the case.
Chatham County District Attorney Meg Heap declined to discuss specifics of the case in line with office policy against commenting on pending cases.
The Georgia Supreme Court placed Smart on interim suspension from practicing law on Dec. 17 for “fail(ing) to adequately respond to the State Bar’s (of Georgia)’s Notice of Investigation” in the same case.
Maximum sanction for the violations in the case is disbarment, the Supreme Court’s order said.
State Bar of Georgia General Counsel Paula Frederick said Thursday her office asked the Supreme Court for the action against Smart based on his failure to provide the requested response, adding the bar’s investigation is ongoing.
A telephone call to Smart’s Savannah law office for comment was not returned on Thursday.
Smart, 67 and a lawyer since 1975, served as a judge advocate in the U.S. Marine Corps and was commanding officer of the Savannah Marine Corps reserve unit when it was re-activated in 1983.
Smart served in the U.S. Marine Corp on active duty from 1975 to 1979 and continued in the Marine Corps Reserve for an additional 20 years, according to his website.
Smart earned his law degree from Emory University and an MBA from Duke University.
In addition to his law practice, Smart has run unsuccessfully for several elected offices, including the U.S. House of Representatives in 2002 and again for a Georgia House seat in 2006.