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In re Davis

Supreme Court of South Carolina

February 27, 2019

In the Matter of Jonathan L. B. Davis, Respondent. Appellate Case No. 2018-002251

          Submitted February 7, 2019

          John S. Nichols, Disciplinary Counsel, and Ericka M. Williams, Senior Assistant Disciplinary Counsel, both of Columbia, for the Office of Disciplinary Counsel.

          Jonathan L.B. Davis, of Columbia, pro se.

          PER CURIAM.

         In this attorney disciplinary matter, respondent and the Office of Disciplinary Counsel (ODC) have entered into an Agreement for Discipline by Consent (the 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 or a definite suspension of not more than two years. We accept the Agreement and suspend respondent from the practice of law in this state for one year, retroactive to respondent's interim suspension.[1] The facts, as set forth in the Agreement, are as follows.

         Facts

         Matter I

         In 2015, respondent was retained to represent a husband and wife (Complainants) in a Chapter 11 bankruptcy matter. Respondent had never handled a Chapter 11 bankruptcy case. Respondent filed a petition on Complainants' behalf; however, the United States Trustee pointed out multiple inaccuracies in the documents filed by respondent. Respondent acknowledged the errors and promptly amended the filings.

         Forty-one days after filing the bankruptcy petition, respondent filed an application for employment as the primary attorney for Complainants. The bankruptcy court granted respondent's application but the delayed filing meant respondent was acting without the required authority for the first six weeks of the case in violation of the rules of the United States Bankruptcy Court.

         Respondent did not have an active trust account at the time Complainants began paying respondent pursuant to a retainer agreement. Respondent deposited the retainer funds into his general operating account in violation of Rules 1.15(a) and 1.15(c), RPC, Rule 407, SCACR (safekeeping of client property). Respondent later opened a trust account and transferred the funds.

         Respondent held Complainants' retainer, less disbursement for the filing fee and transcript cost, from the time it was paid prior to the filing of the petition until respondent filed his first fee application with the court. Because respondent was owed fees for pre-petition work, he was not a disinterested party, and the bankruptcy court disqualified him from representing Complainants. That fact also barred respondent from receiving any compensation whatsoever and required he disgorge the remaining balance of the retainer.

         Matter II

         In May 2013, respondent filed for relief on behalf of Complainant B pursuant to Chapter 13 of the United States Bankruptcy Code. In September 2013, Complainant B's vehicle was totaled in an accident, and Complainant B asked respondent to file various motions on her behalf related to her payment for the totaled vehicle and the purchase of a replacement. Despite Complainant B's calls and emails, respondent failed to file the requested motions for over a month. Even after respondent finally filed a motion to incur debt, he had to amend the filing twice and failed to file any other pleadings addressing Complainant B's remaining issues.

         A hearing was held in bankruptcy court to address Complainant B's concerns regarding respondent's failure to file the appropriate motions related to her totaled vehicle. At the hearing, the United States Trustee noted additional amendments to respondent's filings were needed before an amended bankruptcy plan could be confirmed. The court continued the hearing to ensure respondent filed all amended pleadings. Respondent filed an amended plan but failed to use the forms required by the court. A deficiency notice was issued. Days later, respondent filed the necessary amendments, but again failed to use the proper ...


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