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In re Beck

Supreme Court of South Carolina

June 10, 2015

In the Matter of Daniel A. Beck, Respondent

Heard February 18, 2015

Appellate Case No. 2014-001912.

Lesley M. Coggiola, Disciplinary Counsel, and Barbara Seymour, Deputy Disciplinary Counsel, both of Columbia, for Office of Disciplinary Counsel.

James K. Holmes, of The Steinberg Law Firm, LLP, of Charleston, for Respondent.

OPINION

PER CURIAM

Respondent self-reported misuse of his trust account. He and the Office of Disciplinary Counsel (ODC) stipulated the facts, and at the Panel Hearing the sole issue was the appropriate sanction. The Panel found that mitigating factors outweighed aggravating factors, and recommended Respondent be suspended for three years, retroactive to the date he was indefinitely suspended,[1] and that several other conditions be imposed.[2] ODC has taken exception to the three-year suspension recommendation, and contends that disbarment, retroactive to September 2, 2011, is the appropriate sanction. We agree with ODC, and disbar Respondent retroactive to September 2, 2011. Further, we impose the additional conditions recommended by the Panel.

FACTS

1. Respondent operated a law firm as the principal shareholder for twenty-four years, primarily handling plaintiff's personal injury cases on a contingency basis. For a period of approximately eleven years, Respondent used funds from his trust account for purposes for which those funds were not intended, including funding other clients' litigation, cash advances to clients, office operating expenses, payroll, and personal expenses.
2. Respondent instructed his nonlawyer staff with signatory authority on his trust account to issue checks from that account for purposes for which those funds were not intended.
3. Respondent failed to properly reconcile his trust account or otherwise maintain records required by Rule 417, SCACR. As a result of inadequate accounting practices, Respondent made numerous mistakes in client transactions resulting in overpayments of attorney's fees to the firm, overpayments to clients, and bank fees that were not covered by firm funds.
4. Periodically, Respondent attempted to restore misappropriated funds by leaving earned fees in his trust account, but no regular accounting of those credits was maintained.
5. As of August 31, 2011, Respondent had approximately $565,806.86 in negative client ledger balances. At the time of his interim suspension, the balance in Respondent's trust account was $439,042.30.
6. As of the date of these stipulations, the attorney appointed to protect Respondent's interests has restored the trust account with funds received on behalf of Respondent in the form of earned fees and cost reimbursements and has reimbursed from those funds all clients, medical ...

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