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In re Duffy

Supreme Court of South Carolina

November 16, 2016

In the Matter of Abigail Scudder Duffy, Respondent. Appellate Case No. 2016-001742

          Submitted October 31, 2016

          Lesley M. Coggiola, Disciplinary Counsel, and Ericka M. Williams, Assistant Disciplinary Counsel, both of Columbia, for Office of Disciplinary Counsel.

          Stephanie Nichole Weissenstein, of McDonnell & Associates, P.A., of Lexington, for Respondent.

          PER CURIAM.

         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 confidential admonition or public reprimand. We accept the Agreement and issue a public reprimand. The facts, as set forth in the Agreement, are as follows.

         Matter A

         Respondent represented clients in a pending family court matter. On February 5, 2016, respondent sent a letter regarding the case to the family court judge (Judge A) but failed to copy opposing counsel. In the letter, respondent notified Judge A that her clients had filed a complaint against the judge with ODC. Consequently, respondent requested Judge A issue an order of permanent recusal on any case in which her clients might appear as litigants or where respondent would be attorney of record. Respondent further stated there were concerns of serious "home cooking" in the case and requested Judge A issue an order transferring venue.

         On February 17, 2016, a hearing in the case was conducted before another family court judge (Judge B). During the hearing, respondent stated: "Unfortunately [Judge A] and I no longer interact with each other. We have been recused from each other." At the time respondent made this statement, Judge A had not issued an order of recusal and no motion for recusal was pending. Upon questioning, respondent admitted she did not know whether Judge A had issued an order of recusal.

         On February 22, 2016, Judge A emailed a letter to the attorneys of record in the family court matter. Judge A advised that she had neither recused herself from the case nor from hearing any matters regarding any attorney or law firm involved in the case.

         Respondent admits she has violated the following provisions of the Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule 407, SCACR: Rule 1.1, (a lawyer shall provide competent representation to a client which requires the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation); Rule 3.5(b) (a lawyer shall not communicate ex parte with a judge during a proceeding unless authorized to do so); Rule 8.4(a) (it is professional misconduct to violate the Rules of Professional Conduct); and Rule 8.4(e) (it is professional misconduct to engage in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice). Respondent has also violated Rule 402(k), SCACR (according to the Lawyer's Oath, lawyers will maintain respect and courtesy due to courts of justice and judicial officers, treat opposing parties with integrity and civility in all written communications and will maintain the respect due to courts of justice and judicial officers).

         Respondent also admits the facts described constitute grounds for discipline under Rule 7(a) of the RLDE (it shall be ground for discipline for lawyer to violate Rules of Professional Conduct).

         Matter B

         Respondent represented clients in a domestic action. On January 7, 2016, respondent sent an email to opposing ...


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