Justia Professional Malpractice & Ethics Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in South Carolina Supreme Court
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Respondent Municipal Court Judge Sheryl Polk McKinney's sister, who was the Clerk of the Town of Varnville, was arrested and charged with embezzlement of public funds, forgery, and misconduct in office.  Respondent's sister was accused of issuing checks in Respondent's name, forging respondent's name to the checks and converting the money for her personal use over an eight year period. Upon review, the Supreme Court found that by her misconduct, Respondent violated multiple Canons of the Code of Judicial Conduct (Rule 501, SCACR). The Court found Respondent’s misconduct warranted a suspension from judicial duties.  Respondent was suspended for thirty days.  View "In the Matter of Municipal Court Judge Sheryl Polk McKinney" on Justia Law

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After Appellant Donald Brandt produced a fraudulent document in a civil proceeding, a circuit court held Appellant in civil and criminal contempt.  In turn, the court dismissed Appellant's legal malpractice action with prejudice and ordered him to serve six months in jail and pay the defendants' attorneys' fees. In 1998, Appellant sued Elizabeth Gooding and her law firm Gooding & Gooding, P.A. for legal malpractice based on Gooding's representation of him in a real estate transaction.  During the course of discovery, Appellant presented to his attorney a document which appeared to have been sent the lender in the transaction to Appellant on September 18, 1995.  Appellant also provided the letter to his malpractice expert.  The letter was then introduced in the expert's deposition and used by him to opine that Gooding had committed malpractice. The document, if authentic, would have imputed knowledge to Gooding of a conflict of interest related to the representation of Appellant in the real estate transaction.  Gooding, however, claimed the document was fraudulent.  As a result, Gooding requested a hearing to determine whether the document was authentic.  Additionally, Gooding requested the court hold Appellant in contempt and award costs if such authenticity could not be established. Subsequently, based on the fraudulent document, the State indicted Appellant for forgery.  After a jury found Appellant guilty of the indicted offense, the trial judge sentenced Brandt to ten years' imprisonment, suspended upon the service of four years, followed by five years' probation and payment of restitution. On appeal to the Supreme Court, Appellant contended that the trial judge erred in failing to dismiss the forgery indictment and in failing to grant his motion for a directed verdict on the ground that Double Jeopardy barred the forgery prosecution.  Upon review, the Supreme Court found that the State presented sufficient evidence to support a forgery conviction.  Because the forged document did not involve a dollar amount and the State did not present evidence of a definitive dollar amount, the Court held that the trial judge erred in sentencing Appellant for felony forgery. The Court remanded the case back to the circuit court for resentencing. View "South Carolina v. Brandt" on Justia Law