The Supreme Court of South Carolina
On several occasions, an attorney appointed to protect the interests of another lawyer's clients pursuant to Rule 31, RLDE, Rule 413, SCACR, has notified the Court that the lawyer's client files are not maintained in a sanitary and safe condition. In some cases, the attorney to protect has advised the Court that the lawyer's client files are moldy and/or infested with rodents and insects. As a consequence, the attorney to protect clients' interests is hesitant to inventory the lawyer's client files, to remove original documents from the client files, and to relinquish control of the files to the lawyer's clients upon client request.
Where an attorney to protect clients' interests petitions the Court for authorization to destroy the lawyer's client files and provides the Court with photographs or other sufficient documentation establishing that contact with the lawyer's client files poses a health hazard, the Court will determine the procedure which shall be followed in the matter and may, if appropriate, order the destruction of some or all of the lawyer's client files without first inventorying and removing original documents.
The Court may assess the costs and attorney's fees incurred in filing the petition and complying with the Court's order against the lawyer as provided by Rule 31(f), RLDE. Nothing herein shall relieve a lawyer from safekeeping client files in an appropriate manner. See Rule 1.15, Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule 407, SCACR.
IT SO ORDERED.
s/Jean H. Toal C.J.
FOR THE COURT
Columbia, South Carolina
September 8, 2011