Attorney disbarred for misusing client funds, state Supreme Court announces

The state Supreme Court voted last week to disbar a Charleston attorney accused of misusing a half-million dollars in client funds over the course of a decade.

Daniel A. Beck was placed on suspension in 2011 after spending dollars from his firm’s trust account to cover litigation costs for other clients, pay cash advances, cover office expenses, payrolls and personal expenses, according to a Wednesday Supreme Court ruling.

Beck ordered lower-level staff members to sign checks for the expenditures and failed to maintain proper records for the trust account over an 11-year period, the document said.

Beck’s “inadequate accounting practices” led to numerous mistakes in client transactions, the statement read, and resulted in overpayments of attorney fees, overpayments to clients and bank fees that weren’t covered by the firm.

He attempted to pay back some of the dollars with earned fees, but had accumulated $565,806.86 in negative client ledger balances as of Aug. 31, 2011, the document said.

The balance had been reduced to $439,042.30 by the time Beck was placed on suspension later that year. He has since reimbursed all clients and others known to be affected by the situation, the document said.

A hearing panel that convened in the case acknowledged that the violation of professional conduct was “serious” and indicative of a “pattern of misconduct.” The panel said, however, that a three-year, retroactive suspension would have been appropriate, considering Beck appeared “sincerely remorseful and regretful, and accepted full responsibility with honesty and candor.”

The Supreme Court disagreed.

“Like the Panel, we are moved by the depth and sincerity of (Beck’s) remorse and impressed by the level of cooperation he has demonstrated since self-reporting misconduct,” the document said. “We cannot, however, ignore that ... (Beck) took money that was not his from his trust account over the course of eleven years.”

In addition to being disbarred, the court ordered that Beck pay $1,450.07 in court costs. If he is reinstated, he must attend ethics and trust account classes.

Prior to being disbarred, Beck served as the principal shareholder of his law firm for 24 years and handled personal injury cases, the document stated.

Reach Christina Elmore at 937-5908 or at Twitter.com/celmorePC.