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
William Y. Rast, Jr. of West Columbia, Pro Se
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
On September 23, 1998, the Commission on Lawyer Conduct (the
"Commission") served Attorney with a notice and complaint alleging: (1)
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
(1) Failed to act with reasonable diligence and promptness in
representing a client (Rule 1.3, Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule
(2) Failed to represent a client competently (Rule 1.1, Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule
(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,
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.
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.
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
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
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.