THE STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA
In The Supreme Court
In the Matter of Susan
E. Shibley, Respondent.
Opinion No. 25011
Submitted September 13, 1999 - Filed November 8, 1999
Attorney General Charles M. Condon and Assistant Deputy
Attorney General J. Emory Smith, Jr., both of Columbia,
for the Office of Disciplinary Counsel.
Susan E. Shibley, of Cherokee County, pro se.
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 she has committed
misconduct and consents to a definite suspension for two years. We accept
Mattie and Lowell Manning Matter
Respondent represented the Mannings in a mortgage foreclosure
action. Respondent failed to provide the Mannings with material in their file
as requested by them.
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Anthony B. Huskey Matter
Respondent represented Mr. Huskey in a proceeding against him
for contempt related to a visitation action and in a change of custody action.
Mr. Huskey paid respondent the agreed five hundred dollar fee for the
contempt matter. At the conclusion of the contempt matter, Mr. Huskey was
awarded attorney's fees. Respondent claimed that she was owed additional
fees, and therefore, she kept the fees in contravention of their agreement.
Mr. Huskey also paid respondent $3,776.25 in attorney's fees for
the custody action. This amount was in excess of the agreed fee of $1,200.00
and was excessive in relation to the amount of work performed in the case.
Respondent denies that she owes Mr. Huskey any fees or other
money in connection with this matter because she alleges that she did work
Pete Zimmerman Matter
Mr. Zimmerman retained respondent in September of 1996 in a
child custody matter. He paid her a $1,000.00 retainer. Respondent
misrepresented that she had ordered a transcript for his case. Respondent
did little or no work on the matter and only refunded him $160.65. Further,
respondent failed to respond to communications made by Mr. Zimmerman.
Thomas and Elsie Reep Matter
Respondent was retained by the Reeps in July of 1997 to correct
a deed to their property, located in Blacksburg, South Carolina. Although
respondent performed some work for the Reeps, she failed to respond to their
inquiries, which they made over a period of several months.
The Reeps also paid respondent to do work on other property.
Respondent failed to complete the work and failed to return deeds and a plat
of the property. Therefore, although respondent was paid, respondent did
not earn the fees.
James Peterson Matter
Mr. Peterson retained respondent in October of 1996 to perform
a title search on property which his aunts had inherited from his
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granddaughter. Respondent was to prepare deeds to Mr. Peterson from his
aunts. Respondent's title search on one of the parcels was incomplete. She
failed to check the aunts' interests, and thereby missed federal taxes owed by
one of them.
Willard D. Hall Matter
Mr. Hall retained respondent on two matters. In the first
matter, respondent failed to supply Mr. Hall with a copy of the court's order,
and she failed to communicate with him about the status of his case.
In the second matter, Mr. Hall retained respondent to appeal a
$500.00 judgment against him in magistrate's court. Respondent failed to
inform him about the status of the matter and failed to appear at the time
the appeal was heard. Respondent did not perform work sufficient to earn
Failure to Cooperate
Respondent failed to respond to letters requesting a response on
the above entitled complaints and failed to respond to the related Notices of
Full Investigation with one exception. She responded in a November 17,
1997 letter to the Manning Matter. In that letter, respondent stated that
she had closed her practice due to family needs. Respondent did not respond
to any other matters including a subsequent Notice of Full Investigation in
the Manning Matter.
Respondent was sent a letter dated May 21, 1998. The letter
requested responses to the pending complaints, information a's to the
location of the files, and copies of bank records. Respondent did not respond
to the letter. Respondent also failed to respond to a subpoena mailed to her
on June 2, 1998, by the Attorney General's Office.
This Court, by order dated August 26, 1998, placed respondent
on interim suspension. This Court also found respondent in contempt for
failing to cooperate with the investigation. The Court directed respondent to
cooperate with the Office of Disciplinary Counsel and "immediately turn over
to that Office any and all files and other materials that Disciplinary Counsel
seeks." Respondent failed to respond to a letter from Disciplinary Counsel,
dated August 27, 1998, which requested that she send Disciplinary Counsel
the files for the Manning and Reep matters. In August of 1998, the Office of
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Disciplinary Counsel asked an attorney to assist to contact respondent.
Respondent failed to provide files and bank records that were requested by
the attorney to assist. Respondent failed to respond to a letter dated October
15, from Disciplinary Counsel, that requested that she produce the Manning
and Reep files no later than October 22.
Pattern and Practice of Misconduct
The above allegations demonstrate that respondent has engaged
in a pattern and practice of misconduct that is detrimental to her clients and
In 1995, respondent received a sixty day suspension from the
practice of law for similar conduct, repeated neglect of client matters and
failure to cooperate with the former Board of Commissioners on Grievances
and Discipline. Matter of Shibley, 320 S.C. 362, 465 S.E.2d 356 (1995).
Respondent also received a letter of caution on June 28, 1997, which
concluded four matters pending against her.
Respondent has violated numerous provisions of the Rules of
Professional Conduct contained in Rule 407, SCACR. She failed to represent
a client competently. Rule 1.1. She failed to act with reasonable diligence
and promptness in representing a client. Rule 1.3.. She failed to keep a
client reasonably informed about the status of a matter and promptly comply
with reasonable requests for information. Rule 1.4(a). She terminated
representation without taking steps to protect client interests. Rule 1.16.
She made a false statement of material fact or law to a third person. Rule
4.1(a). She violated the Rules of Professional Conduct. Rule 8.4(a). She
engaged in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, and
misrepresentation. Rule 8.4(d). She engaged in conduct that is prejudicial to
the administration of justice. Rule 8.4(e).
In addition, respondent has violated provisions of the Rules for
Lawyer Disciplinary Enforcement, Rule 413, SCACR. She willfully violated
a valid court order issued by a court of this state or of another jurisdiction.
Rule 7(a)(7), RLDE. She willfully violated a valid order of the Supreme
Court in a proceeding under these Rules, willfully failed to appear personally
as directed, willfully failed to comply with a subpoena issued under these
Rules, and knowingly failed to respond to a lawful demand from a
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disciplinary authority to include a response or appearance under Rule
19(b)(1), (c)(3), or (c)(4). Rule 7(a)(3), RLDE. She violated the oath of office
taken upon admission to practice law in this State. Rule 7(a)(6), RLDE; Rule
1402(g), SCACR. She engaged in conduct tending to pollute the
administration of justice or to bring the courts or the legal profession into
disrepute and engaged in conduct demonstrating unfitness to practice law.
Rule 7(a)(5), RLDE.
Further, respondent failed to cooperate with investigations of the
Commission. Matter of Treacy, 277 S.C. 514, 290 S.E.2d 240 (1982).
Accordingly, we impose a two year definite suspension.
Additionally, respondent must meet the following conditions prior to
applying for readmission: (1) she must repay all attorney's fees to all clients
named in the formal charges except for Anthony B. Huskey in case number
97-DE-L-876; (2) she must repay any judgment or fee dispute award
against her as to attorney's fees or other money owed to a client; (3) she must
have medical and psychological evidence of her fitness to practice law; and
(4) she must have completed at least six (6) hours of continuing legal
education credit in law office management or some similar program in
addition to any other continuing legal education credits that she must
complete to regain her license to practice law.
Within fifteen days of the date of this opinion, respondent shall
file an affidavit with the Clerk of Court showing that she has complied with
Rule 30, RLDE.