Today’s South Carolina Supreme Court Opinions

125px-SCSupreme_CourtSealToday, the South Carolina Supreme Court published two opinions: Wilds v. State and In the Matter of Douglas M. Schmidt.

In Wilds v. State, the Court dismisses certiorari as improvidently granted.

In the Matter of Douglas M. Schmidt, the Court publicly reprimands the Respondent for violations of the professional rules.  Respondent is barred in South Carolina and Lousiana, with his primary office in New Orleans. After the Norfolk Southern Railway train derailed in Graniteville, South Carolina, Respondent opened an office in the town for the purpose of representing clients in claims relating to the derailment.

Respondent represented more than one hundred clients that had signed releases in exchange for payment from the Railroad prior to Respondent’s presentation.  Respondent filed suit against the Railroad on behalf of these clients, but failed to advise the clients that South Carolina law requires plaintiffs that are attempting to set aside a release to return the funds received prior to filing suit. Respondent admits he was aware of the releases and should have known about the law regarding repayment. Subsequently, the Railroad filed a motion for summary judgment as a result of the failure to tender.

Respondent sent a letter to clients requesting the return of the settlement funds within four days from their money that had been paid by the Railroad four years earlier.  The Court upheld the releases and dismissed the lawsuits on several grounds, including the failure of the clients to tender the funds.

Respondent was found to have violated Rule 3.6 of the Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule 407, SCARCR for making misleading and inaccurate statements to the media regarding the Railroad.

Additionally, Respondent admitted to violating  provisions of the Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule 407, SCACR: Rules 1.1, 1.2, 3.6. Respondent also admitted to violating Rules for Lawyer Disciplinary Enforcement, Rule 413, SCACR: Rules 7(a)(1) and 7(a)(5). Accordingly, the Court found Respondent’s misconduct to warrant this public reprimand.

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