Submitted April 23, 2015
Appellate Case No. 2015-000536.
Lesley M. Coggiola, Disciplinary Counsel, and Ericka M. Williams, Assistant Disciplinary Counsel, both of Columbia, for Office of Disciplinary Counsel.
Max B. Singleton, of Greer, Pro se.
[412 S.C. 317] PER CURIAM
In this attorney disciplinary matter, respondent and the Office of Disciplinary Counsel (ODC) have entered into an [412 S.C. 318] 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 or definite suspension not to exceed nine (9) months. Respondent requests that any suspension be imposed retroactively to November 7, 2014, the date of his interim suspension. In the Matter of Singleton, 410 S.C. 504, 765 S.E.2d 147 (2014). Respondent further agrees to enter into a restitution plan to pay the costs incurred in the investigation and prosecution of this matter within thirty (30) days of the imposition of discipline and to complete the Legal Ethics and Practice Program Ethics School, Trust Account School, and Advertising School within nine (9) months of the imposition of discipline. Finally, respondent agrees that, within thirty (30) days of his reinstatement to the practice of law, he will enter into a restitution agreement with the Commission on Lawyer Conduct (the Commission) to pay persons and entities harmed as a result of his misconduct
as discussed in this opinion. We accept the Agreement and suspend respondent from the practice of law in this state for nine (9) months, not retroactive to the date of his interim suspension. In addition, respondent shall enter into a restitution plan to pay the costs incurred in the investigation and prosecution of this matter by ODC and the Commission within thirty (30) days of the date of this opinion and he shall complete the Legal Ethics and Practice Program Ethics School, Trust Account School, and Advertising School no later than nine (9) months from the date of this opinion. Further, in the event he is reinstated to the practice of law, respondent shall enter into a restitution agreement within thirty (30) days of the date of his reinstatement to pay persons and entities harmed as a result of his misconduct as discussed in this opinion. The facts, as set forth in the Agreement, are as follows.
Respondent was retained to represent Complainant A on a matter in traffic court as well as two other criminal matters. [412 S.C. 319] After receiving a summons to appear in Magistrate's Court on the traffic matter, Complainant A attempted to reach respondent about the hearing but was unsuccessful. Complainant A appeared in court without representation and, after communicating with respondent by text message, Complainant A resolved the ticket by agreeing to pay a reduced fine.
Respondent represents he was not notified of the Magistrate's Court hearing. Respondent further represents that he was in General Sessions Court for a guilty plea with another client at the time of the Magistrate's Court hearing in Complainant A's case. Respondent did not continue his representation of Complainant A on the remaining matters.
Respondent failed to refund the unearned fees to Complainant A. After a finding by the Resolution of Fee Disputes Board, respondent was ordered to pay $700.00 to Complainant A. Respondent represents he did not pay the award because he did not have the funds to do so.
On August 15, 2012, a Notice of Investigation was mailed to respondent requesting a response to the complaint within fifteen days. When no response was received, respondent was served with a letter pursuant to In the Matter of Treacy, 277 S.C. 514, 290 S.E.2d 240 (1982), on September 19, 2012, again requesting respondent's response. Respondent's written response was received by ODC on October 26, 2012.
In 2008, respondent engaged the services of a court reporting agency. In December of 2011, the court reporting agency filed a complaint with the Commission due to respondent's failure to pay an outstanding invoice in the amount of $588.72. Following the complaint, respondent mailed a check for $200.00 to the court reporting agency on or about February 20, 2012, along with an agreement to mail another payment of $200.00 on or about March 8, 2012, and a final payment of $188.72 on or about March 29, 2012. The disciplinary matter was resolved based on respondent's agreement to make the payments as outlined. The agency ...