THE STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA
In The Supreme Court
In the Matter of Stephen
English Hunter, Respondent.
Opinion No. 24815
Submitted June 9, 1998 - Filed July 13, 1998
Stephen English Hunter, of Greenville, pro se
Henry B. Richardson, Jr., of Columbia, Disciplinary
PER CURIAM: In this attorney disciplinary matter, respondent
and disciplinary counsel have entered into an agreement under Rule 21 of the
Rules for Lawyer Disciplinary Enforcement (RLDE) contained in Rule 413,
SCACR. In the agreement, respondent admits misconduct and consents to be
disbarred from the practice of law. We accept the agreement and disbar
Cynthia Schaaf Matter
Respondent represented Cynthia Schaaf regarding a real estate
refinancing transaction beginning in February 1998. The refinancing plan called
for the payoff of certain debts, including a $21,259.61 payoff of a mortgage or
home equity loan held by First Union Mortgage Corporation ("First Union"). On
March 2, 1998, respondent received $70,000.00 relating to this transaction into
his law firm trust account. Although respondent was supposed to use these
funds in part to pay the debt owed to First Union, this payment was not made.
Instead, respondent misappropriated $20,000.00 and used the money to purchase
personal investments such as stocks and bonds through an online investing
company. A check dated March 30, 1998 in the amount of $376.92 was
apparently paid to First Union to cover one or two monthly payments on the
loan. It was not until May 5, 1998 that respondent paid off Schaaf's debt to
First Union with a check for $20,976.04. Additionally, respondent admits that
he misappropriated $20,557.76 of an unidentified client's funds to pay most of
the debt to First Union. In response to inquiries by Schaaf during this time
period, respondent intentionally gave Schaaf false and misleading information.
Darrell Hodges Matter
Respondent misappropriated $13,000.00 belonging to his client
Darrell Hodges. By redeeming stock through his online investment account,
respondent paid back this amount on May 11, 1998.
Respondent also admits that to pay back the $20,557.76 he
misappropriated from the unidentified client discussed above in the Schaaf
matter, respondent redeemed stock through his online investment account.
Additionally, he misappropriated and converted yet another unidentified client's
funds in the amount of $10,000.00 to pay back the first unidentified client.
In sum, respondent misappropriated client trust funds in an
approximate amount of $64,000.00 and converted these funds for his own
personal gain by investing the money in various securities. This improper
conduct regarding client funds demonstrates a pattern of violating the Rules of
Professional Conduct. Rule 407, SCACR. Respondent has failed to act with
reasonable diligence and promptness in representing clients. Rule 1.3. He
failed to keep his clients reasonably informed about the status of their matters
and failed to comply with reasonable requests for information. Rule 1.4. He
has repeatedly misappropriated client funds and failed to promptly deliver to a
third party funds it was entitled to receive. Rule 1.15. Respondent has engaged
in morally reprehensible conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit and
misrepresentation. Rule 8.4(d). Through this misconduct, respondent has
clearly demonstrated his 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, RLDE. In
addition to all other requirements respondent must meet to be reinstated under
Rule 33, RLDE, no petition for reinstatement shall be accepted until respondent
has filed proof he has made full restitution to all individuals and institutions
who have lost money as a result of his fraudulent acts or mishandling of trust
funds, to include restitution to the Lawyer's Fund for Client Protection for any
payment it may make.