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
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
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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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
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
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
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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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
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.
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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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