SC Lawyer, Nov. 2003, #3. Ethics Watch November 2003 False swearing: lawyers beware.

AuthorBy John Freeman

South Carolina Lawyer


SC Lawyer, Nov. 2003, #3.

Ethics Watch November 2003 False swearing: lawyers beware

South Carolina LawyerNovember. 2003Ethics Watch November 2003 False swearing: lawyers bewareBy John FreemanNext time you send in your report of CLE hours to the Commission on Continuing Legal Education and Specialization, notice the need to have your report notarized. This requirement was not an afterthought. Requiring notarization was a decision driven by S.C. Code Ann. § 16-9-30, which makes it a felony knowingly "to swear falsely in taking any oath required by law that is administered by a person directed or permitted by law to administer such oath."

Lawyers who file false CLE reports are flirting with disaster. See In re Diggs, 344 S.C. 397, 544 S.E.2d 628 (90-day suspension for false swearing on CLE report); In re Iseman, 290 S.C. 391, 350 S.E.2d 922 (1986) (90-day suspension for misrepresentation in connection with reported attendance at a CLE seminar); In re Pridgen, 288 S.C. 96, 341 S.E.2d 376 (1986) (public reprimand for submitting a false CLE compliance report signed under oath).

Busy, short-sighted lawyers may tend to think that the formalities attendant to executing notarized documents are trivial obligations that can be ignored or faked at will. The problem is that our Supreme Court thinks otherwise. See, e.g., Matter of Celsor, 330 S.C. 497, 499 S.E.2d 809 (1998) (public reprimand for improper signing and notarizing document); Matter of Powell, 325 S.C. 21, 22, 478 S.E.2d 685, 686 (1996) (public reprimand for improperly signing and notarizing clients' application for title in mobile home closing); Matter of Edwards, 323 S.C. 3, 9, 448 S.E.2d 547, 550 (1994) (lawyer notarized probate knowing the representations made by an affiant were false; disbarment was ordered for this and numerous other wrongs); Matter of Allen, 285 S.C. 489, 331 S.E.2d 349 (1985) (lawyer indefinitely suspended for forging wife's name and obtaining false notarization of property records); Matter of McGuinn, 272 S.C. 366, 252 S.E.2d 122 (1979) (lawyer publicly reprimanded for falsely signing secretary's name as notary); In re Bishop, 263 S.C. 289, 210 S.E.2d 235 (1974) (attorney publicly reprimanded for submitting a false affidavit).

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