Submitted July 9, 2015.
Appellate Case No. 2015-001444.
Lesley M. Coggiola, Disciplinary Counsel, and Sabrina C. Todd, Assistant Disciplinary Counsel, both of Columbia, for the Office of Disciplinary Counsel.
Sara Jayne Rogers, Respondent, Pro se.
TOAL, C.J., PLEICONES, BEATTY, and HEARN, JJ., concur. KITTREDGE, J., not participating.
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 disbarment. We accept the Agreement and disbar respondent from the practice of law in this state, with conditions that will be set forth more fully below. The facts, as set forth in the Agreement, are as follows.
Respondent negotiated a plea agreement on behalf of a client which required the client to pay restitution, prosecution costs, and other fines and fees. Sufficient funds had to be deposited into respondent's trust account before the client could plead guilty. The client provided respondent with a total of $157,500, in addition to respondent's fee. The client pled guilty and after all items were paid, $22,795 of the client's funds remained in respondent's trust account. Respondent did not return the funds to the client and made no further payments on the client's behalf, but failed to keep the client's remaining funds safe. The balance in respondent's trust account fell below $22,795 within three weeks and below $100 within a year. Respondent wrote to ODC before a complaint was filed, describing the matter as a fee dispute. However, by that time, respondent had admitted to the client that she did not have the balance of his money. The client filed a claim with the Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection and received an award of $22,795.
During the investigation of the matter, ODC subpoenaed respondent for her trust account records. In response, respondent provided a partial bank statement and copies of a few checks related to the client's case. Respondent did not provide any other trust account records despite repeated requests. Respondent did not keep a receipt and disbursement journal or client ledgers for her trust account and did not maintain a running balance. She never attempted to reconcile the account. Indeed, respondent did not have the knowledge and skills necessary to keep and balance a simple checkbook and made no effort to learn how to properly protect the funds entrusted to her care.
A review of the records provided by respondent's bank revealed that during a period of approximately two years, respondent deposited approximately $7,800 in unidentified funds into her trust account. During that same period of time, she disbursed more than $26,000 in funds without specifically identifying the client or matter involved, including nearly $25,000 in checks made payable to her. Respondent also issued checks to herself for fees and to others for costs in cases for which the records show no identifiable deposit. Respondent ...