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In re Moak

Supreme Court of South Carolina

July 20, 2016

In the Matter of Ronald Wade Moak, Respondent. Appellate Case No. 2016-001018

          Submitted June 21, 2016

          Lesley M. Coggiola, Disciplinary Counsel, and Sabrina C. Todd, Assistant Disciplinary Counsel, both of Columbia, for Office of Disciplinary Counsel.

          Ronald Wade Moak, of Camden, pro se.

          OPINION

          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 in this opinion. The facts, as set forth in the Agreement, are as follows.

         Facts and Law

         Matter I

         Respondent agreed to represent Client A on three matters for a flat fee of $2, 500: a criminal domestic violence charge, a Department of Social Services paternity case, and a possible divorce. Ultimately, respondent collected $2, 785 in fees, but also represented Client A on an additional criminal domestic violence charge as well as an animal control charge.

         A few days after beginning the representation, respondent filed a divorce complaint and a motion for an emergency hearing on Client A's behalf. Although respondent provided information for the domestic action, respondent did not provide him with a copy of the complaint. The temporary hearing was continued because Client A's wife was incarcerated in another county. Respondent did not seek to have the hearing rescheduled and did not adequately explain the status of the case to Client A. When Client A later waivered on whether he wanted to pursue the divorce, respondent considered the matter abandoned but did not clearly communicate that to Client A. At times, respondent's communications with Client A and his daughter caused Client A to believe the divorce action was proceeding.

         Respondent admits that, at times, he failed to respond to Client A's reasonable requests for information about the action. He did not notify Client A when he received a 365-day benchmark notice from the family court or when the case was dismissed.

         Client A obtained a divorce with assistance from another lawyer. Thereafter, Client A filed a complaint with ODC under the mistaken belief respondent never filed a divorce action on his behalf.

         Respondent admits that his conduct violated the following provisions of the Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule 407, SCACR: Rule 1.3 (lawyer shall act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing client); and Rule 1.4 (lawyer shall keep client reasonably informed about status of matter and promptly comply with reasonable requests for information).

         Matter II

         Client B sought respondent's assistance with a child visitation issue. Respondent recommended Client B reach a visitation agreement with the child's father which respondent could then submit to the family court for adoption as an official court order. Respondent agreed to represent Client B for $500, which included a court appearance and filing fees. The fee agreement was not reduced to writing. Client B understood respondent would file the visitation agreement upon payment of $350 with the balance due later. Client B paid respondent $350. ...


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