DATE OF JUDGMENT: 06/20/2013.
SUSPENDED FROM THE PRACTICE OF LAW FOR TWO (2) YEARS.
FOR APPELLANT: MELISSA SELMAN MARTIN.
SCOTT DAVID BEAL, APPELLEE, Pro se.
KITCHENS, JUSTICE. WALLER, C.J., DICKINSON AND RANDOLPH, P.JJ., LAMAR, CHANDLER, PIERCE, KING AND COLEMAN, JJ., CONCUR.
NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL - BAR MATTERS
[¶1] On June 20, 2013, the Mississippi Bar filed a formal complaint against Scott David Beal alleging that he " engaged in unprofessional and unethical conduct . . . evincing unfitness for the practice of law, which constitutes legal grounds for the imposition of discipline." Nine months before, on September 17, 2012, the Supreme Court of Illinois had entered an order suspending Beal from practice in that state for a total of two years. Beal currently is suspended from the practice of law in Mississippi
for nonpayment of dues, and was on suspension in this State at the time of the conduct giving rise to the present complaint.
[¶2] In light of the suspension of Beal's license to practice law in Illinois, the Mississippi Bar seeks reciprocal discipline in this state and also asks that Beal be required to pay the cost of its having filed and prosecuted the complaint against him.
[¶3] The Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission of the Supreme Court of Illinois (" ARDC" ) charged Beal with neglecting five client matters and settling two of those matters in the absence of client approval. After failing to appear at a hearing on June 7, 2011, the Hearing Board of the ARDC found that Beal had exhibited a " pattern of misconduct" which demonstrated " a repeated disrespect for his clients' legal rights" ; consequently, the Hearing Board recommended that he be suspended for two years. On appeal before the Review Board of the ARDC, Beal asserted through counsel that the recommendation of the Hearing Board was too harsh. Nevertheless, the Review Board affirmed the findings of misconduct of the Hearing Board and recommended to the Illinois Supreme Court that Beal be suspended for two years.
[¶4] According to the Review Board, Beal attested in a sworn statement that his wife had moved from Illinois to North Carolina in January 2007 for employment. Beal and the couple's children followed her to North Carolina in March 2007. Beal continued his Illinois law practice, commuting between Chicago and North Carolina, but he took a job with a North Carolina law firm in August 2008; however, he failed to inform his Illinois clients of his move to North Carolina. Beal also indicated that he had been suffering from " bouts of anxiety," some of which he stated were " debilitating" and prevented his going to his law office, in spite of his awareness of pressing client matters. At the time he provided the sworn statement, in February 2010, Beal had not sought treatment from a mental health professional, but was taking anxiety medication.
[¶5] The charges against Beal in Illinois included five counts of misconduct with regard to five separate client matters, each of which is set forth in turn.
[¶6] Count I. Beal agreed to represent John Yankura, who had been injured while driving his employer's truck in November 1999. After Beal filed a complaint in October 2001, the court dismissed Yankura's case for want of prosecution when Beal failed to appear for a status hearing. Beal's subsequent motion to vacate the dismissal resulted in reinstatement of the case. Following the completion of discovery in November 2005, the court set December 5, 2005, as the date for trial. Beal failed to inform Yankura of the trial date. Thereafter, Beal filed a voluntary motion to dismiss the case, which the court granted. Yankura was informed neither that Beal had filed the motion nor that the case had been dismissed. Beal filed a second complaint in June 2006, which was dismissed for want of prosecution in April 2007, following Beal's absence from another status hearing. The court again reinstated the case in July 2007, following a second motion to vacate the dismissal. The court quashed service of summons on the defendant in September 2007 and, in March 2008, the case again was dismissed for want of prosecution. Beal filed a motion to vacate the dismissal a third time,
but failed to appear to present it to the court. In August 2008, the court granted Beal's third motion to vacate the dismissal. In October 2008, Beal failed to appear a fourth time, and the court again dismissed for want of prosecution and subsequently granted Beal's fourth motion to vacate the dismissal.
[¶7] Beal attempted in October 2008 to serve the defendant, his only effort to do so since the court had quashed service in September 2007. In March 2009, the court granted the defendant's motion to dismiss, filed since the plaintiff had failed to exercise reasonable diligence with regard to service of process. Beal neither filed a response to the motion to dismiss nor did he inform the client of the defendant's motion or the dismissal of the case with prejudice. Yankura and his wife testified that they had attempted to contact Beal by telephone more than fifty times, and that their letters, sent by fax and certified mail, had gone unanswered. They eventually learned that Beal had moved to North Carolina, but he never informed them of that fact. Beal had assured the Yankuras that their lawsuit would provide them more than one million dollars; nevertheless, Yankura, who was completely ...