THE STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA
In The Supreme Court
In the Matter of John
Evander White, Respondent.
Opinion No. 24679
Heard July 8, 1997 - Filed August 18, 1997
Attorney General Charles M. Condon and Senior Assistant Attorney
General James G. Bogle, Jr., both of Columbia, for complainant.
Clifford O. Koon, Jr., of Rogers Townsend & Thomas, PC, of
Columbia, for respondent.
PER CURIAM: Respondent was charged with misconduct in this
attorney grievance matter because he removed a mortgage from the Lexington
County R.M.C. Office without permission. In addition to this act, respondent
admitted at the Panel Hearing1 that after removing the mortgage, he altered its
property description without notice to or the permission of the mortgagor or
mortgagee, and then filed the altered mortgage in Richland County. At the
hearing before this Court, respondent asked that we consider his misconduct in
altering the mortgage along with his misconduct in removing it. We have done
so, and now impose upon respondent a 60 day suspension from the practice of
The facts are essentially undisputed. A mortgage company prepared
and executed a mortgage, and delivered the mortgage to respondent for filing in
Richland County. In some parts, the mortgage described the property as being
in Richland County, and at other points as being in Lexington County.
Respondent filed the mortgage in Richland County. The Richland County
R.M.C. Office noted the discrepancies in the property description, and notified
respondent's office that the mortgage should be filed in Lexington County.
Respondent picked up the mortgage and delivered it to the Lexington County
1This case is governed by the Rule on Disciplinary Procedure, Rule 413,
SCACR (repealed effective January 1, 1997).
IN THE MATTER OF WHITE
R.M.C. Office on December 30, 1993.
On January 4, 1994, the mortgage company contacted respondent
and demanded the mortgage be refiled in Richland County. Respondent went to
the Lexington County R.M.C. Office to retrieve the mortgage, but was informed
that Lexington's policy was to retain all documents filed with the R.M.C. Office,
even if it were discovered that the property lay in a different county.2 The
R.M.C. employees therefore refused to allow respondent to remove the mortgage.
Despite their refusal, respondent took the mortgage and returned to his office.3
There, he noticed the erroneous property description in the mortgage, and took it
upon himself to mark through that description, write on the mortgage "See
Exhibit A," and attach to the mortgage a separate page marked Exhibit A,
which included a description of a completely different property than that
described in the mortgage. Respondent then filed the altered mortgage in
The removal of the mortgage was discovered when the Lexington
County R.M.C. Office was preparing documents for microfilming and discovered
the mortgage was missing. The employees contacted respondent, who readily
admitted taking the mortgage.
As we noted above, the complaint charged respondent with
misconduct based on his removal of the mortgage. Considering only this act, the
Panel recommended a private reprimand; the Interim Review Conunittee adopted
the Panel's findings of fact and conclusions of law, but 4-1 recommended
respondent receive a public reprimand. The dissenting Committee member
recommended a private reprimand be imposed. With respondent's consent, we
also consider at this time his misconduct in altering the property description in
the mortgage. Compare In the Matter of Rothwell, 278 S.C. 391, 296 S.E.2d 870
(1983) (public reprimand imposed for surreptitiously altering a deed).
We find respondent has violated Rule 8.4(c), of Rule 407, SCACR,
by engaging in conduct involving moral turpitude; Rule 8.4(d), of Rule 407,
SCACR, by engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or
misrepresentation; Paragraph 5(D) of Rule 413, SCACR, by engaging in conduct
tending to bring the legal profession into disrepute; and Paragraph 5(E) of Rule
413, SCACR, by engaging in conduct demonstrating a lack of professional
competence. We therefore order respondent suspended from the practice of law
for 60 days. He shall, within fifteen (15) days of the filing of this opinion, file
2 It is undisputed that R.M.C. Office policies concerning misfiled documents
vary greatly from county to county.
3 Respondent was unaware of S.C. Code Ann. § 30-5-100(1976) which
establishes a procedure to transfer misrecorded documents.
IN THE MATTER OF WHITE
an affidavit with the Clerk of this Court stating he has complied with
Paragraph 30 of Rule 413, SCACR.