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24925 - In the Matter of Perkins

Shearouse Adv. Sh. No. 12
S.E. 2d



THE STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA

In The Supreme Court



In the Matter of Alice

Jefferies Perkins, Respondent.



Opinion No. 24925

Submitted February 23, 1999 - Filed March 22, 1999



PUBLIC REPRIMAND



Attorney General Charles M. Condon and Senior

Assistant Attorney General James G. Bogle, Jr., both

of Columbia, for the Office of Disciplinary Counsel.



John P. Freeman, of Columbia, for respondent.





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 a public reprimand, participation in the South Carolina Bar's

Law Office Management Assistance Program (LOMAP), and completion of

special conditions for some of the matters discussed below. We accept the

agreement.





Arlene Johnson Matter



Arlene Johnson, a widow, retained respondent to title Mrs.

Johnson's home in her name and paid respondent a flat fee of $500 to

accomplish that task. While representing Mrs. Johnson, respondent filed a

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IN THE MATTER OF PERKINS





summons and petition in the Richland County Probate Court and

represented Mrs. Johnson at a hearing to establish the heirs at law of Mrs.

Johnson's husband. Prior to the hearing, Mrs. Johnson gave her husband's

death certificate and the birth certificates for each of her three children to

respondent.







After the probate court issued an order naming Mr. Johnson's

heirs at law, respondent took no further steps to title the home in Mrs.

Johnson's name. Mrs. Johnson mailed respondent at least two certified

letters, but respondent failed to retrieve or respond to these letters. In at

least one of her letters, Mrs. Johnson asked respondent to return the death

certificate and the birth certificates. Respondent did not return those

documents.





Mrs. Johnson then wrote a letter of complaint to the Office of

Disciplinary Counsel. The Office of Disciplinary Counsel mailed a copy of

Mrs. Johnson's letter to respondent and requested a reply within fifteen -

days. Respondent failed to reply to this letter, to a second letter from the

Disciplinary Counsel, and to a Notice of Full Investigation.





Carolyn A. Medlin Matter



Carolyn Medlin, hired respondent to represent her in a zoning

matter and agreed to pay a $200 legal fee and $100 for costs, $55 of which

were spent for a filing fee. Approximately two years after hiring respondent,

Ms. Medlin sent a letter of complaint to the Commission of Lawyer Conduct.

The Commission mailed two letters of inquiry in connection with this matter

to respondent but received no response. Respondent indicates that, at the

time in question, she had difficulty with the postal service forwarding her

mail.





Teresa Smith Matter



Teresa Smith hired respondent to settle the estate of Ms. Smith's

father. Through respondent's efforts, Ms. Smith was appointed as personal

representative of the estate; however, respondent failed to determine, within

a two-year period, how to partition a tract of land so the estate could sell its

interest in that land.

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IN THE MATTER OF PERKINS





Cynthia G. Bair Matter



Respondent performed legal services for Cynthia G. Bair in

connection with a Family Court matter. Ms. Bair subsequently hired

Frederick I. Hall, III, as her attorney and asked respondent to transfer her

file to Mr. Hall. Despite repeated efforts on the part of Ms. Bair and Mr.

Hall, respondent did not turn over Ms. Bair's file. In addition, respondent

failed to respond to two letters and a Notice of Full Investigation from the

Commission on Lawyer Conduct. Respondent has since delivered Ms. Bair's

file to the Office of the Attorney General, who released the file to Mr. Hall.





John A. Hutchinson Matter



After his wife's death in 1993, John A. Hutchinson opened an

estate file with the Richland County Probate Court; however, in November,

1996, he retained respondent to handle the estate file. Mr. Hutchinson

provided respondent with documents she had requested and then attempted

to call respondent so the estate file could be closed. Mr. Hutchinson was not

able to contact her.





In September or October 1997, respondent told Mr. Hutchinson

that she had filed the necessary documents with the Probate Court. Mr.

Hutchinson then arranged to meet respondent at the Probate Court;

however, on the morning of their meeting, respondent told Mr. Hutchinson

she had an emergency and canceled the meeting. Mr. Hutchinson went to

the Probate Court and learned that respondent had not requested the estate

be closed.





In mitigation, respondent submits that while she was handling

all of the above discussed matters, she was suffering from depression, which

started during the final trimester of her first pregnancy, and was the main

care giver for her newborn child.





Conclusion



By her conduct in these matters, respondent failed to provide

competent representation, failed to act with reasonable diligence and

promptness in representing clients, failed to abide by a client's decision

regarding scope of representation, failed to keep her clients reasonably

informed about the status of their matters, failed to comply promptly with

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IN THE MATTER OF PERKINS





reasonable requests for information, and failed to account for or return

property. Rules 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, and 1.15, Rule 407, SCACR.





Furthermore, respondent violated provisions of Rule 7(a), RLDE,

by violating a Rule of Professional Conduct, failing to respond to a lawful

demand from a disciplinary authority, engaging in conduct tending to pollute

the administration of justice or bring the Courts or legal profession into

disrepute or conduct demonstrating an unfitness to practice law, and

violating her oath of office as an attorney. Rule 7(a)(1), (a)(3), (a)(5), and

(a)(6), RLDE, Rule 413, SCACR.





Accordingly, respondent is hereby publically reprimanded.

Respondent is also ordered, within six months of this opinion, to participate

in LOMAP and to complete the following special conditions relating to some

of the specific matters discussed above: (1) the Johnson matter - return the

death certificate and birth certificates or, if the original documents are not

available, certified copies thereof and refund $150 in attorney fees to Mrs.

Johnson; (2) the Medlin matter- refund $200 in attorney fees and $45 in

costs to Ms. Medlin; and (3) the Hutchinson matter - return Mr. Hutchinson's

client file to the Office of the Attorney General and refund $200 in attorney

fees to Mr. Hutchinson. Finally, respondent is directed to provide the

Disciplinary Counsel with proof that she participated in LOMAP and

completed the special conditions within the time frame established by this

opinion.



PUBLIC REPRIMAND.



C.J.

A.J.

A.J.

A.J.

A.J.

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