Supreme Court agrees to reprimand for Speaker Ralston

[private]The Georgia Supreme Court has agreed to a light punishment for House Speaker David Ralston’s admitted violation of two rules of professional conduct for attorneys.

Ralston will receive a reprimand for violations that could have resulted in a maximum penalty of disbarment, the Supreme Court noted.

“We accept the petition for voluntary discipline and hereby order that David Edmund Ralston receive a Review Panel reprimand in accordance with Bar Rules 4-102 (b) (4) and 4-220 (b) for his admitted violations of Rules 1.8 (e) and 1.15 (II) (b),” the court said in a decision released Thursday afternoon.

The State Bar of Georgia filed a complaint against Ralston in June 2014 that alleged Ralston had dragged his feet in a case where he represented a client seeking damages from an auto accident.

The State Bar also alleged that Ralston “used funds belonging to his other clients or third persons, or out of his personal funds comingled in his trust account with those belonging to his other clients or third persons” to advance $22,000 to his client.

The Supreme Court said in its decision:

“Ralston states that he was unaware of that rule when he made the advances and did not intentionally violate it; he was forthcoming with the State Bar in disclosing the advances and providing evidence of them; he obtained no financial gain from advancing the funds at no interest; he is not seeking reimbursement for the $22,000 advanced; and he has released any claim to a fee from the settlement of the case. . . .

“Ralston admits that he made the advances to his clients from earned fees in his trust account and states that he was unaware that his actions violated Bar Rules, but he has since established safeguards to prevent any commingling of client and personal funds or retention of earned fees in his trust account. . . .

“In light of all of these circumstances and mitigating factors, and in particular the absence of any apparent harm to a client or benefit to Ralston from the violations of Rules 1.8 (e) and 1.15 (II) (b), we agree with the special master that a Review Panel reprimand is the appropriate sanction in this matter.”

© 2016 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: David Ralston , Georgia Supreme Court , rules of professional conduct , State Bar of Georgia