THE STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA
In The Supreme Court
In the Matter of Michael
L. James, Respondent.
Opinion No. 25175
Submitted July 11, 2000 - Filed July 24, 2000
Michael L. James, pro se.
Henry B. Richardson, Jr., of Columbia, for the Office
of the Disciplinary Counsel.
PER CURIAM: By way of the attached Opinion and Order of
the Supreme Court of Kentucky dated May 23, 2000, respondent was
suspended from the practice of law in that state for one year. 1 Letters from
the Clerk of this Court, dated May 5, 2000, and June 7, 2000, notifying
respondent that he had thirty (30) days in which to inform this Court of any
reason the imposition of the identical discipline should not be imposed on
respondent in this state were sent to respondent via certified mail at two
addresses listed with the South Carolina Bar, Kentucky State Bar, Supreme
Court of Kentucky, and the Office of Bar Counsel for the Kentucky State
Supreme Court on September 3, 1998. This Court imposed reciprocal
discipline of thirty days' suspension on November 6, 1998. In the Matter of
James, 333 S.C. 59, 508 S.E.2d 28 (1998).
Bar. A copy of the June 7, 2000, letter was also sent to Timothy Denison,
counsel for respondent in the matter before the Supreme Court of Kentucky,
via first class mail after speaking with Mr. Denison via telephone and
receiving assurances from Mr. Denison that if the letter was sent to him he
would see that respondent received it. See Rule 29(b), RLDE, Rule 413,
SCACR. The May 5, 2000, letter was returned unclaimed. The June 7,
2000, letter to respondent was claimed by someone other than respondent.
The Court has not received a response from respondent.
Finding a sufficient attempt has been made to serve notice on
respondent, and finding none of the factors in Rule 29(d), RLDE, Rule 413,
SCACR, present in this matter, we hereby suspend respondent from the
practice of law in this state for one year, retroactive to May 23, 2000, the
date of the Opinion and Order of the Supreme Court of Kentucky. Within
fifteen (15) 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,
Rule 413, SCACR.
Supreme Court of Kentucky
MICHAEL L. JAMES, MOVANT
KENTUCKY BAR ASSOCIATION, RESPONDENT
IN SUPREME COURT
OPINION AND ORDER
Michael L. James of Louisville, Kentucky, moves this Court, pursuant to SCR
3.480(3), for an order suspending him from the practice of law in Kentucky for a period
of one year from the date of the order and for sixty days, to run concurrently with the
one-year suspension. James acknowledges his misconduct in the following pending
KBA Charge 7125
The Inquiry Commission on September 18, 1999, issued a three-count charge
against James arising from his representation of a client and her claim for personal
injury sustained in an accident. On September 24, 1993, James filed a complaint in
circuit court and on October 20, 1994, the circuit court filed a notice to dismiss for lack
of prosecution. No action was taken by James and the order dismissing for lack of
prosecution was entered November 23, 1994. On November 25, 1994, he filed a
motion to continue, which was denied on December 7.
James failed to inform his client that her case had been dismissed for lack of
prosecution and that a motion to continue it was also denied. In May of 1995, he
advised the client that the case was ongoing and would likely go to trial in August of that
year. In May, the client discovered from another attorney that the case had been
dismissed in November of 1994. She dismissed James and hired a successor attorney
who filed an Entry of Appearance and Motion for Relief from an Order of Dismissal
which was denied.
In Count I of KBA File 7125, the Inquiry Commission charges James with a
violation of SCR 3.130-1.3 which provides that a lawyer shall act with reasonable
diligence and promptness in representing a client. In Count II of KBA File 7125, the
commission charges James with a violation of SCR 3.130-1.4(a) which provides that a
lawyer should keep a client reasonably informed about the status of a matter and
promptly comply with the reasonable request for information.
Count III of KBA File 7125 recites the Inquiry Commission charge against James
for a violation of SCR 3.130-8.3(c) which provides that it is professional misconduct for
a lawyer to engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud. deceit or misrepresentation.
James admits that he violated the above mentioned Supreme Court Rules by
failing or refusing to take necessary steps to avoid the dismissal of the case; by failing
to inform the client that her case was dismissed for lack of prosecution; by failing to
inform her that the motion to continue was denied and by falsely advising her in May
1995 that her case was going to trial in August 1995, when it had already been
dismissed in November 1994.
On December 14, 1999, the Inquiry Commission issued a one-count charge
against James which arose from his representation of a client while he was under a 30-
day suspension by order of this Court. James has not been reinstated to the practice of
law by this Court pending a determination of an objection to automatic reinstatement
upon the expiration of 30 days.
In Count I of File 7282, the Inquiry Commission charges James with a violation of
SCR 3.130-5.5(a), which provides that "a lawyer shall not practice law in a jurisdiction
where doing so violates the regulation of the legal profession in that jurisdiction." James
admits that he violated the rule by appearing at a mediation conference representing a
client in a case in the Jefferson Circuit Court while he was suspended from the practice
of law in Kentucky.
James desires to terminate the disciplinary proceedings by consenting to a
suspension from the practice of law for one year and 60 days, with the 60 days to run
concurrent with the one-year suspension. He acknowledges that his conduct alleged in
Counts I, II and III of KEA File 7125 and Count I of KEA File 7282 constitutes unethical
and unprofessional conduct.
James was admitted to the practice of law in Kentucky in 1985. He was
suspended from the practice of law for 30 days on September 3, 1998, and suspended
from the practice of law again by order of this Court for six months beginning on
October 21, 1999.
It is hereby ORDERED that:
1) The motion of James for suspension from the practice of law for a period of
one year from the date of this order and for 60 days to run concurrent with that year is
2) James shall not be permitted to engage in the practice of law as defined by
SCR 3.020 in Kentucky for at least one year and until such time as the Supreme Court
of Kentucky enters an order reinstating his membership in the Kentucky Bar
3) James may seek reinstatement after one year from the date of this order, only
under the terms of the rules of court in effect at the time readmission is sought, as well
as any other terms ordered by this Court.
4) In accordance with SCR 3.450 and SCR 3.480(3), James is directed to pay all
costs associated with this disciplinary proceeding against him in the amount of $42.03.
Upon finality of this Opinion and Order, execution may issue from this Court for said
5) Pursuant to SCR 3.390, James is ORDERED to provide notice to all clients
that he currently represents, if applicable, of his inability to perform legal services and to
notify all courts in which he has matters pending of his suspension and to provide the
Director of the Kentucky Bar Association with a copy of all such letters simultaneous to
Lambert, C.J., Cooper, Johnstone, Keller Wintersheimer and Stumbo, JJ.,
concur. Graves, J., dissents and would impose greater discipline. __ ..:
Entered: March 23, 2000
COUNSEL FOR MOVANT:
730 West Main Street
Louisville, KY 40202-2640
COUNSEL FOR RESPONDENT:
Bruce K. Davis
Kentucky Bar Association
514 West Main Street
Frankfort, KY 40601
Jay R. Garrett
Kentucky Bar Association
514 West Main Street
Frankfort, KY 40202