APPOINTMENT OF ATTORNEY
TO PROTECT CLIENTS' INTERESTS
(a) Appointment of Attorney. If a lawyer has been transferred to incapacity inactive status, has disappeared or died, or has been suspended or disbarred, and no partner, personal representative or other responsible party capable of conducting the lawyer's affairs is known to exist, disciplinary counsel shall petition the Supreme Court for an order appointing an attorney or attorneys to inventory the files of the inactive, disappeared, deceased, suspended or disbarred lawyer and to take action as appropriate to protect the interests of the lawyer and the lawyer's clients. If the Supreme Court determines that a lawyer suffers from a physical or mental condition that adversely affects the lawyer’s ability to practice law but decides that a transfer to incapacity inactive status is not warranted, it may appoint an attorney to protect clients’ interests. The order of appointment shall be public.
(b) Duties of Appointed Attorney. The appointed attorney shall:
(1) Take custody of the lawyer's files and trust or escrow accounts. The chair or vice chair may issue such orders as may be necessary to assist the appointed attorney in obtaining custody over such files and accounts, to include orders compelling the lawyer or a third party to take specific action regarding the files and accounts. The willful failure to comply with such an order may be punished as a contempt of the Supreme Court. A party who wishes to challenge such an order must immediately seek review of the order by petition to the Supreme Court.
(2) Notify each client in a pending matter, and in the discretion of the appointed attorney, in any other matter, at the client's address shown in the file, by first class mail, of the client's right to obtain any papers, money or other property to which the client is entitled and the time and place at which the papers, money or other property may be obtained, calling attention to any urgency in obtaining the papers, money or other property;
(3) Publish, in a newspaper of general circulation in the county or counties in which the lawyer resided or engaged in any substantial practice of law, once a week for three consecutive weeks, notice of the discontinuance or interruption of the lawyer's law practice. The notice shall include the name and address of the lawyer whose practice has been discontinued or interrupted; the time, date and location where clients may pick up their files; and the name, address and telephone number of the appointed attorney. The notice shall also be mailed, by first class mail, to any errors and omissions insurer or other entity having reason to be informed of the discontinuance or interruption of the law practice;
(4) Release to each client the papers, money or other property to which the client is entitled. Before releasing the property, appointed counsel shall obtain a receipt from the client for the property;
(5) With the consent of the client, file notices, motions or pleadings on behalf of the client where jurisdictional time limits are involved and other legal counsel has not yet been obtained; and
(6) Perform any other acts directed in the order of appointment.
(c) Period of Appointment. An appointment shall be for a period of no longer than 9 months. Upon application by the appointed attorney, the Supreme Court may extend the period of appointment as necessary.
(d) Representation of Clients. Clients should be encouraged to engage other counsel as soon as possible but nothing in this paragraph shall be construed as preventing the appointed attorney from accepting employment by any client of the lawyer.
(e) Termination of Appointment. When the provisions of (b) above and the order of appointment have been complied with, the appointed attorney shall apply to the Supreme Court for termination of the appointment. The application shall contain the written releases of clients to whom files and other property were returned, information regarding the efforts made to contact the lawyer's remaining clients, an inventory of the files and other property remaining in the appointed attorney's possession and an itemized account of the expenses incurred in carrying out the order of the Supreme Court appointing the attorney. Upon approval of the application by the Supreme Court, all files and property remaining in the appointed attorney's possession shall be deposited with the Commission. Unless otherwise ordered by the Supreme Court, the files shall be retained by the Commission for a period of 3 years at which time they shall be destroyed in a manner which protects their confidentiality. Other client property remaining in the possession of the Commission after 3 years shall be disposed of in a manner as ordered by the Supreme Court.
(f) Compensation and Expenses. With the exception of reasonable and necessary expenses, such as postage, telephone bills, copies, supplies and the cost of publishing legal notice in the newspaper, an appointed attorney shall serve without compensation as a service to the legal profession. However, the Supreme Court may order that the appointed attorney be reimbursed a reasonable amount for other expenses, such as the appointed attorney's time or the time of support staff, when it determines that extraordinary time and services were necessary for the completion of the required duties or when the appointment has worked a substantial hardship on the appointed attorney's practice. The Supreme Court shall determine the reasonableness of necessary expenses and other expenses.1 Expenses which are approved and awarded by the Supreme Court shall be paid from funds remaining in the lawyer's accounts. If no such funds exist, payment shall be made from the Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection under Rule 411, SCACR. If the appointed attorney's expenses are paid by the Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection, the Supreme Court may order the lawyer to reimburse that Fund.
(g) Protection of Client Information. An appointed attorney shall not be permitted to disclose any information contained in the files inventoried without the consent of the client to whom the file relates, except as necessary to carry out the order of appointment.
Last amended by Order dated January 17, 2013, effective immediately.
1 In an effort to balance the need to preserve the Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection with the need to, in certain situations, reimburse attorneys appointed pursuant to Rule 31, RLDE, Rule 413, SCACR, the following rates are currently established for reimbursement of the appointed attorney's fees, support staff costs and the cost of copies, but are subject to change at the discretion of the Court.
|Appointed Attorney's Fees||$50.00 per hour|
|Support Staff||$10.00 per hour|
|Copies||$0.15 per page|