South Carolina Lawyer
SC Lawyer, January 2005, #1.
More HUD-1 misery
South Carolina LawyerJanuary 2005Ethics Watch More HUD-1 miseryBy John FreemanLast issue's Ethics Watch column focused on the disciplinary mess closing lawyers Ray Lathan and Ron Barbare created for themselves by closing loans papered with false HUD-1s. The discussion noted the Supreme Court's obvious concern that residential real estate closings in this state be handled with scrupulous attention to detail and memorialized by completely accurate HUD-1s.
More evidence showing the Court's unwillingness to tolerate slack closing practices comes in the form of two new disciplinary decisions filed on November 8, 2004, Matter of Brown, Op. No. 25895, and Matter of Nevill, Op. No. 25888. Both cases involve misconduct in connection with residential real estate closings.
Lawyer Brown's misconduct fell into two categories that were the subject of separate agreements for discipline and were considered separately by the Court. The first grouping concerned a long-running spree of real estate closing misconduct that occurred after Brown graduated from law school but, for the most part, before he was admitted. This wrongdoing consisted of a pattern of misbehavior featuring acts of unauthorized practice, false witnessing and false notarizations.
Much of the misconduct occurred before Brown became a member of the Bar. Once he was admitted to practice, Brown's pattern of misbehavior did not change.
"[R]espondent ... continued the practices of witnessing and notarizing documents that were executed outside his presence and soliciting witnesses and notary signatures from individuals in the firm not present during execution." Featured in this part of the order was one closing where Respondent Brown performed an unethical trifecta: he forged his supervising lawyer's signature on closing papers and then witnessed and notarized the forgery using his own name.
For these shenanigans, largely occurring in the post-law school, pre-admission time period, Brown received a two-year suspension. That the Rules of Professional Conduct do not expressly reach acts of pre-admission misbehavior aside from fraudulent statements on bar applications was no defense to lawyer discipline. Citing cases from other jurisdictions, the Court held it had inherent authority to...