Heard August 5, 2014
Appellate Case No. 2014-001414.
Lesley M. Coggiola, Disciplinary Counsel, and Barbara M. Seymour, Deputy Disciplinary Counsel, both of Columbia, for Office of Disciplinary Counsel.
Michael J. Anzelmo, of Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, LLP, of Columbia, for respondent.
TOAL, C.J., PLEICONES, BEATTY, KITTREDGE and HEARN, JJ., concur.
[409 S.C. 612] PER CURIAM:
In this attorney disciplinary matter, respondent and the Office of Disciplinary Counsel have entered into an Agreement for Discipline by Consent (Agreement) pursuant to Rule 21 of the Rules for Lawyer Disciplinary Enforcement (RLDE) contained in Rule 413 of the South Carolina Appellate Court Rules (SCACR). In the Agreement, respondent admits misconduct and consents to the imposition of a public reprimand with conditions. We accept the Agreement and issue a public reprimand with conditions as stated hereafter. The facts, as set forth in the Agreement, are as follows.
Client A, respondent's childhood friend, was the sole beneficiary of a trust established by Client A's mother prior to her death. The corpus of the trust included stocks and a parcel of land with a house where Client A and his wife resided. In January 2006, Client A approached respondent with a request that respondent take over as trustee of the trust. Respondent
[409 S.C. 613] agreed and prepared a consent substitution of trust and a proposed Order Naming Successor Trustee.
Respondent acknowledges that his services as trustee for Client A's trust were law-related services and, therefore, the Rules of Professional Conduct apply pursuant to Rule 5.7. Further, respondent admits that at all times relevant to this matter, Client A believed respondent was acting as his attorney and, in fact, frequently referred to respondent as his attorney in conversations with respondent and others. As a result, respondent acknowledges that it was reasonable for Client A to believe that the trustee services respondent was providing carried with it the protections normally afforded as part of the attorney-client relationship and that respondent took no steps to advise him otherwise.
Misrepresentation to the Court
In the proposed Order Naming Successor Trustee,
respondent significantly overstated his qualifications to serve as trustee. He
stated that he was " an attorney licensed to practice law in the state of South
Carolina and [that he had] an extensive background in the Probate field,
including but not limited to, trust administration." In fact, as of the date of
submission of the proposed order to the Probate Court, respondent had only been
admitted to the Bar for three months. Although he had worked for a probate judge
and a law firm as a law clerk for a total of one and one-half years, he had
never actually handled a probate matter as an attorney and had no experience as
a trustee or administrator of an estate. The probate judge signed
the order naming respondent as successor trustee on February
Respondent admits that he misrepresented his experience to the probate judge when he submitted the proposed Order Naming Successor Trustee. He further acknowledges that he did not have ...