By Paul Gable
When I read a recent article about two rogue attorneys in the South Carolina who had stolen money from their clients, I immediately thought of the Southern Holdings case.
I have been reporting on the Southern Holdings case for a number of years including where an attorney has failed to account for over $100,000 entrusted to him by clients.
An accounting for expense funds in the Southern Holdings case provided Sep. 15, 2011, to James Spencer, former CEO of Southern Holdings, Inc., does not conform to S.C. reporting requirements for attorney trust funds.
The accounting, which, reportedly, comes from trust account records of attorney John Rakowsky, was provided to Spencer by attorney Stephanie Weissenstein of the Desa Ballard Law Firm. Weissenstein is representing Rakowsky in an interpleader action of the remaining Southern Holdings expense funds held in trust by Rakowsky. Rakowsky represented Spencer and his co-plaintiffs in the Southern Holdings case,
Under deposits, an amount of $67,500 is shown with no identification of who provided the funds or when they were provided. Rule 417 of the S.C. Judicial Department and Rule 1.15 of the South Carolina Rules of Professional Conduct require the date, source and description of each amount deposited to be included in the records.
Additionally, disbursements of various amounts are identified only by a name or purpose for each disbursement amount. The above referenced S.C. rules require the date, payee and purpose of each disbursement.
According to records of the Southern Holdings plaintiffs, provided to the court, three firms, LawMax, Lit Funding and Resolution Settlement Corporation, provided funds for expenses of the plaintiffs in the Southern Holdings case. The funds provided, according to these records, total considerably more than the $67,500 shown in Rakowsky’s records ($175,000).
Rakowsky acknowledged funds from LawMax and Lit Funding during a Sep. 15, 2011, court hearing on the interpleader case. He has not acknowledged, on the record, receiving any funds from Resolutions Settlement Corp.
However, Bruce Benson, CEO of RSC, sent a notarized, certified letter dated over one year earlier (July 10, 2010) to Weissenstein, Spencer and the court requesting an accounting of the RSC provided funds.
During a July 25, 2011, hearing on the interpleader case, Judge William Seals, of the S.C. 5th Judicial Circuit, quashed a subpoena prepared by Spencer requesting all records with regards to the Southern Holdings expense funds held in trust by Rakowsky. Seals signed an order, prepared by Weissenstein, calling the funds held in trust “privileged financial records” of Rakowsky.
It is unclear why a S.C. circuit court judge would rule funds held in trust for expenses incurred in litigating a case to be privileged financial records of an attorney, rather than require a full accounting of those funds, when requested, as required by law.
It is unclear why the limited accounting ultimately provided to Spencer does not conform to the requirements of S.C. rules cited above
It is unclear why Benson’s request for an accounting of the funds provided by RSC has been ignored. Third parties with interest in funds held in trust have a right to request an accounting of those funds according to the S.C. rules cited above.
It is especially unclear why the $67,500 listed as a deposit does not match the total amount of funds provided by LawMax, Lit Funding and Resolutions Settlement Corp.
Why, in this case, has the S.C. circuit court system not required sworn Officers of the Court to abide by the law? There’s obviously more than one way to be a rogue attorney in this state.