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25027 - In the Matter of Rast, Jr.

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

THE STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA

In The Supreme Court

In the Matter of William

Yon Rast, Jr., Respondent.

Opinion No. 25027

Heard October 6, 1999 - Filed December 6, 1999

PUBLIC REPRIMAND

William Y. Rast, Jr. of West Columbia, Pro Se

Appellant.

Attorney General Charles M. Condon and Assistant

Deputy Attorney General J. Emory Smith, Jr., of

Columbia, for the Office of Disciplinary Counsel.





PER CURIAM: In this attorney grievance matter, William J. Rast Jr.,

Esquire, ("Attorney") is charged with engaging in misconduct in violation of

various provisions of the Rules of Professional Conduct contained in Rule 407,

SCACR, and the Rules for Lawyer Disciplinary Enforcement contained in Rule

413, SCACR.





FACTUAL/PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On September 23, 1998, the Commission on Lawyer Conduct (the

"Commission") served Attorney with a notice and complaint alleging: (1)



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THE MATTER OF RAST, JR.,





Attorney failed to timely prepare a court order for a client representing a

settlement agreement in a domestic case; (2) Attorney failed to take action on

a client's personal injury claim before the statute of limitations ran; and (3)

Attorney maintained only one bank account for all office matters, into which

client monies may have been deposited. Attorney failed to respond to these

formal charges and on November 5, 1998, the Office of the Attorney General

filed an affidavit of default with the Commission.





On January 7, 1999, a Commission sub-panel held a hearing on the

matter. The sub-panel concluded that Attorney defaulted on the formal charges

and that in the hearing Attorney actually admitted the charges to the sub-

panel. In addition to failing to respond to the formal charges, the sub-panel

found that Attorney had failed to respond to six letters from the Commission

and the Office of Disciplinary Counsel concerning the various charges. Based

on the default, the sub-panel accepted the charges as true and found that

Attorney:

(1) Failed to act with reasonable diligence and promptness in

representing a client (Rule 1.3, Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule

407, SCACR);

(2) Failed to represent a client competently (Rule 1.1, Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule

407, SCACR);

(3) Engaged in conduct that tends to pollute the administration of

justice, brings the legal profession into disrepute, and demonstrates

an unfitness to practice law (Rule 7(5), Rules on Lawyer

Disciplinary Enforcement, Rule 413, SCACR);

(4) Failed to properly cooperate with the investigations of the Board.

Matter of Treacy, 277 S.C. 514, 290 S.E.2d 240 (1982);

(5) Failed to maintain clients' funds in a separate and identifiable

account (Rule 1.15, Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule 407,

SCACR).

In consideration of the current charges and Attorney's prior disciplinary record,

the sub-panel recommended a temporary suspension of six-months and that

Attorney be required to implement an appropriate accounting system.

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THE MATTER OF RAST, JR.,





On May 6,1999, Attorney filed Exceptions to the sub-panel report. In his

exceptions, Attorney pointed out that none of his clients filed or instituted this

action. He further argued that it was his client's refusal to cooperate that led

him to miss the statute of limitations. Attorney also claimed that his office's

accounting system was not improper because it did not and does not maintain

money belonging to clients. He also disagreed with the punishment of a six-

month suspension. Despite the exceptions, the full panel adopted the sub-panel

report and recommendation. Neither party filed briefs with this Court.





SANCTION



Attorney's failure to answer the formal charges against him constitutes

default and the Commission properly deemed the charges against Attorney as

admitted. See Matter of Fennell, 324 S.C. 101, 477 S.E.2d 706 (1996). Since

Attorney does not make any arguments to this Court, the only issue is the

proper sanction for Attorney's neglect of his duties.





As this Court stated in Matter of Moore, 329 S.C. 294, 494 S.E.2d 804

(1997):

The appropriate sanction for neglect of several client matters generally

is a public reprimand provided the clients are not greatly prejudiced.

Matter of Alexander, 301 S.C. 212, 391 S.E.2d 254 (1990); Matter of Gates,

295 S.C. 516, 369 S.E.2d 841 (1988). However, when the client is

prejudiced and the attorney refused to cooperate with the Board's

investigation, the sanction imposed has been as great as a one year

suspension. See Matter of Acker, 308 S.C. 338, 417 S.E.2d 862 (1992) (six

month suspension); Matter of Palmer, 298 S.C. 324, 380 S.E.2d 813 (1989)

(one year suspension); Matter of Ballard, 312 S.C. 227, 439 S.E.2d 846

(1994) (one year suspension).





In the current case, Attorney's failure to comply with a statute of

limitations may have prejudiced his client. We find that in the matter of the

late court order, no clear prejudice to his client resulted. Furthermore, we find

it significant that there is no allegation that Attorney's bank records reflect any

injury to a client.





Although the recommendations of the Commission are persuasive, the

ultimate authority to discipline attorneys and the manner of discipline rests

with this Court. In re Dobson, 310 S.C. 422, 427 S.E.2d 166 (1993). We are

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THE MATTER OF RAST, JR.,





required after a thorough review of the record to administer the sanction we

deem appropriate. In re Kirven, 267 S.C. 669, 230 S.E.2d 899 (1976). In light

of the foregoing and Attorney's career as a public servant in the finest tradition

of the law, we find that the appropriate sanction is a public reprimand.





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