In the Matter of Paul Clarendon Ballou, Respondent
Submitted June 9, 2015
Appellate Case No. 2015-000959.
Lesley M. Coggiola, Disciplinary Counsel, and Ericka M. Williams, Assistant Disciplinary Counsel, both of Columbia, for Office of Disciplinary Counsel.
Paul Clarendon Ballou, of Columbia, Pro se.
In this attorney disciplinary matter, respondent and the Office of Disciplinary Counsel (ODC) 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 definite suspension ranging from nine (9) months to three (3) years or disbarment. He requests that any suspension or disbarment be imposed retroactively to May 23, 2013, the date of his interim suspension. In the Matter of Ballou, 403 S.C. 138, 742 S.E.2d 868 (2013). In addition, respondent agrees to pay the costs incurred in the investigation and prosecution of this matter by ODC and the Commission on Lawyer Conduct (the Commission) within thirty (30) days of the imposition of discipline and to complete the Legal Ethics and Practice Program Ethics School and Trust Account School prior to reinstatement. Further, within sixty (60) days of the imposition of discipline, respondent agrees to enter into a restitution agreement with the Commission to repay clients and third parties harmed as a result of his misconduct. We accept the Agreement and disbar respondent from the practice of law in this state retroactively to the date of his interim suspension, and, further, impose the conditions as set forth hereafter in this opinion. The facts, as set forth in the Agreement, are as follows.
Respondent represented Complainant A and his wife in a personal injury case. Subsequent to mediation, Client A became dissatisfied with respondent's representation, terminated respondent's services, and demanded his file. Respondent prepared a handwritten release for Complainant A's signature discharging respondent from representation. The release also stated respondent had incurred $313.05 in expenses, the defendant had offered to settle the case for $23,000, and that respondent asserted an attorneys' fee lien in the amount of 25% or $5,750 payable out of any settlement of the case along with costs. Complainant A signed the document and added the following notation: " With reservations and after Disciplinary Counsel Review Board."
Complainant A and his wife later settled the case with the defendant insurance company. The insurance company sent a check to respondent in the amount of $5,750 payable to the order of respondent's firm, Complainant A, and Complainant A's wife. Respondent endorsed the check, signing the names of Complainant A and his wife without their consent. Respondent then deposited the check into his operating account.
Respondent's firm represented Complainant B on criminal charges arising out of her employment; the employer alleged Complainant B had stolen funds from the employer. On November 17, 2006, the criminal charges were dismissed with leave to re-indict by the solicitor's office.
After the employer's insurance company covered the stolen funds, it attempted to recover the amount it paid to the employer from Complainant B. Some of the efforts to recover the funds were allegedly made by a recovery management company.
Thereafter, respondent represented Complainant B in a civil suit for damages allegedly suffered by Complainant B as a result of the collections efforts taken by or on behalf of the insurance company. Initially, respondent filed suit in state court in March of 2007. On May 27, 2008, respondent filed for a voluntary ...