In the Matter of Stephen A. Yacobi, Respondent. Appellate Case No. 2017-002324
Submitted February 21, 2018
S. Nichols, Disciplinary Counsel, and Kelly B. Arnold,
Assistant Disciplinary Counsel, both of Columbia, for Office
of Disciplinary Counsel.
M. Watson, III, of Ballard & Watson, Attorneys at Law, of
West Columbia, for Respondent.
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 a public reprimand or a definite suspension not to exceed
nine months. As a condition of discipline, respondent
agrees to complete the Legal Ethics and Practice Program
Ethics School, Trust Account School, and Law Office
Management School within nine months of being disciplined.
Respondent also agrees to submit his monthly bank statements,
reconciliation reports, and trial balance reports for his
trust accounts to the Commission on Lawyer Conduct for a
period of two years after being disciplined. Finally,
respondent agrees to pay the costs incurred in the
investigation of this matter by ODC and the Commission on
Lawyer Conduct within thirty days of being disciplined. We
accept the Agreement and issue a public reprimand. The facts,
as set forth in the Agreement, are as follows.
December 6, 2011, respondent was retained to represent Client
A in a workers' compensation matter. Respondent maintains
that on December 7, 2011, his paralegal mailed a Form 50 to
the Workers' Compensation Commission; however, the
Commission never received the form. Respondent further
maintains his paralegal mailed a copy of the form to the
Commission in February 2012. The paralegal used a certificate
of mailing dated December 7, 2011 for the February 2012
November 6, 2012, Client A signed a settlement statement
prepared by respondent which set forth gross settlement
proceeds of $75, 000 and deductions for attorney fees and
litigation costs in the amounts of $25, 000 and $197,
respectively. However, respondent had waived his claim to
recover the latter. The settlement statement did not include
a deduction for Client A's existing debt of $4, 671.63 to
a litigation loan company or a deduction of $15, 453.50
Client A had directed respondent pay to a car dealer for a
new vehicle. Respondent did not revise the settlement
statement to reflect an accurate accounting of
respondent's actual disbursements from Client A's
November 6, 2012, respondent deposited the settlement check
in the amount of $75, 000 into respondent's trust
account. Between November 7, 2012 and November 15, 2012,
respondent wrote checks on the trust account to pay attorney
fees, Client A, the car dealer, and the litigation loan
company. All of the checks had cleared the trust account by
November 19, 2012. However, at the time the disbursements
were made, the settlement funds were neither collected funds
pursuant to Rule 1.15(f)(1), RPC, nor "good funds"
pursuant to Rule 1.15(f)(2), RPC.
did not respond to a Notice of Investigation from ODC nor a
subsequent Treacy letter,  and he did not appear for an
interview with ODC as required by a Notice to Appear. When
contacted by ODC, respondent indicated his non-lawyer staff
had not made him aware of mail or notices sent by ODC.
acknowledges he failed to supervise his non-lawyer staff and
failed to make reasonable efforts to ensure the conduct of
his non-lawyer staff was compatible with respondent's
October 2013, Clients B retained respondent to represent them
in a family court matter. Clients B executed a fee agreement
which provided for an attorney fee of $4, 310, and which they
believed covered certain legal services, including preparing,
filing, and serving a complaint to initiate proceedings on
their behalf. Having heard nothing from respondent
thereafter, Clients B attempted to contact ...