THE STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA
In The Supreme Court
In the Matter of C. Lenoir
Opinion No. 24688
Submitted July 29, 1997 - Filed September 2, 1997
C. Lenoir Sturkie, Pro se, of Columbia.
Henry B. Richardson, Jr., Disciplinary Counsel, of
PER CURIAM: In this attorney disciplinary matter,
respondent has admitted the allegations against him and the parties have
entered into an agreement for disbarment. We accept the agreement and
disbar respondent from the practice of law.
Respondent admits that he grossly mismanaged his law office
and financial matters. He failed to adequately supervise his staff to ensure
that client matters and funds were handled properly and efficiently, and
commingled and misappropriated client funds during a five year period.
Additionally, respondent admits that he engaged in a continuous pattern of
using the funds of one client to pay money owed to another client.
Specifically, respondent failed to properly supervise Patricia
Shaw, a paralegal in his office, who misappropriated over $30,000 from a
client and respondent's escrow account. When he discovered Shaw's
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actions, respondent failed to timely remedy a shortfall on a loan caused by
Respondent misappropriated $99,178.23 of client funds to
further a business relationship with Scott Salter. He also commingled
Salter's funds with his trust account funds.
In addition, $52,250 of client funds from respondent's escrow
accounts were misappropriated by respondent to support a second business
known as Atlantic Media Group. On one occasion, $285,432.82 in client
funds was improperly deposited in an Atlantic Media Group account, but
was subsequently returned to respondent's escrow accounts.
Respondent also placed money he had borrowed in his escrow
account to cover the shortages. During a three year period, fifty-four
checks from respondent's trust accounts were returned for non-sufficient
funds. In addition, there were thirteen overdrafts on the accounts and
twelve incidents of accounts with negative balances.
Finally, respondent's wife, an employee of the law firm,
misappropriated $5,154.75 of client funds from an escrow account. These
funds were used to pay personal debts.
By his actions, respondent has misappropriated client funds for
his own use; failed to promptly deliver funds to clients or third persons who
were entitled to the funds; failed to act with reasonable diligence and
promptness in representing clients by failing to maintain the integrity of
client accounts; failed to render a proper accounting regarding property of
clients or third persons; and failed to make reasonable efforts to ensure
that the conduct of a nonlawyer over whom he had direct supervisory
authority was compatible with the respondent's professional obligations. In
addition, respondent has committed acts reflecting adversely on his honesty,
trustworthiness, and fitness as a lawyer; engaged in conduct involving
moral turpitude; engaged in conduct involving dishonesty, deceit, and
misrepresentation; engaged in conduct that is prejudicial to the
administration of justice; engaged in conduct tending to pollute the
administration of justice or to bring the courts or legal profession into
disrepute; and engaged in conduct demonstrating unfitness to practice law.
Accordingly, we disbar respondent from the practice of law.
Within fifteen days of the date of this opinion, respondent shall file an
affidavit with the Clerk of Court showing that he has complied with Rule
30 of the Rule for Lawyer Disciplinary Enforcement contained in Rule 413,
SCACR. In addition to all other requirements respondent must meet to be
reinstated under Rule 413, SCACR, no petition for reinstatement shall be
accepted until respondent had filed proof that he has made full restitution
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to all institutions and individuals who have lost money as a result of his
misappropriation or mishandling of trust funds, to include restitution to the
Lawyer's Fund for Client Protection for any payment it may make.