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In re Moak

Supreme Court of South Carolina

May 15, 2019

In the Matter of Ronald Wade Moak, Respondent. Appellate Case No. 2019-000202

          Submitted April 17, 2019

          John S. Nichols, Disciplinary Counsel, and Sabrina C. Todd, Senior Assistant Disciplinary Counsel, both of Columbia, for the Office of Disciplinary Counsel.

          George W. Speedy and Zack Owen Atkinson, both of Speedy, Tanner, Atkinson & Cook, LLC, of Camden, 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 (the Agreement) pursuant to Rule 21, RLDE, Rule 413, SCACR. In the Agreement, respondent admits misconduct and consents to the imposition of a definite suspension of not more than one year. We accept the Agreement and suspend respondent from the practice of law in this state for one year from the date of this opinion. The facts, as set forth in the Agreement, are as follows.


         Matter I

         Respondent agreed to represent D.D. on seven drug charges and one count of financial identity theft for a flat fee. D.D. was arrested on a bench warrant several months before respondent's representation began and remained in jail throughout the representation, as respondent's efforts to have the bench warrant lifted were unsuccessful. Respondent shared important developments in the case with D.D., but did not write D.D. and did not recall receiving the numerous letters D.D. reports having sent respondent. Frustrated by D.D.'s failure to make payments as promised, respondent eventually stopped visiting D.D. in jail.

         When respondent ceased contact, D.D. wrote to the clerk of court and a circuit judge regarding the lack of progress in his case. Over a two-month period, the judge responded to four of D.D.'s letters. Each time, the judge emailed respondent and the solicitor, including D.D.'s letter and the judge's response. D.D.'s first two letters concerned evidence in his case. In the third letter, D.D. complained about respondent and requested the public defender's office be reappointed. The judge responded by asking respondent and the solicitor to have D.D. brought to court so his request could be heard. D.D. was not brought to court and wrote to the judge again two weeks later, advising he had not had any contact with respondent despite writing respondent several letters.

         Respondent made no attempt to contact D.D. after learning D.D. was contacting the judge and, instead, moved to be relieved after receiving the judge's fourth response to D.D. By the time of the hearing on respondent's motion to be relieved, it had been at least six months since respondent communicated with D.D. The court relieved respondent and reappointed the public defender.

         Matter II

         K.F. sought respondent's assistance with enforcing a child support order. Respondent agreed to pursue a contempt action for a $600 fee. He received a down payment and K.F.'s child support order. Respondent showed K.F. a copy of the contempt complaint before he filed it, but did not provide her with a filed copy. Respondent notified K.F. of the hearing date and asked one of his friends to serve K.F.'s ex-husband. However, respondent's friend failed to serve the ex-husband. Respondent could not reach the friend prior to the scheduled hearing and never learned why service did not occur. Respondent told K.F. he would have the hearing rescheduled and the documents served; however, he did not request a new hearing date.

         Respondent failed to respond to K.F.'s texts and/or communicate with her family members.[1] In one text, K.F. asked respondent to return her documents and withdraw from the case so she could hire new counsel. Respondent admits he never fully read the text. K.F. also sent respondent a certified letter with the same requests; however, respondent never collected the letter from the post office.

         One month after the contempt hearing was scheduled to occur, K.F. filed a complaint with ODC. Approximately six weeks after learning of the investigation and after receiving multiple status inquiries from ODC, respondent returned K.F.'s file and had her execute a consent order relieving him. The clerk of court does not have a copy of the consent order and respondent did not retain a copy; however, K.F. was able to hire new counsel who pursued a contempt action on her behalf.

         K.F. filed both a disciplinary complaint and a fee dispute. Believing the fee dispute was part of the disciplinary investigation, respondent did not cooperate with the fee dispute investigator. The Resolution of Fee Disputes Board (the Board) decided K.F. was entitled to a refund of the $200 she paid respondent. Respondent did not appeal the ...

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