Family court attorney gets public reprimand for inaccurate client affidavit

In what should put chills in my fellow family law attorneys’ spines, on July 2, 2014, a South Carolina family law attorney was publicly reprimanded by the South Carolina Supreme Court in the case of In Re. Massey, 408 S.C. 483, 759 S.E.2d 433 (2014), for submitting an inaccurate affidavit of his client at a temporary hearing. This attorney’s mistake seems pretty innocent to me.

It appears the attorney prepared an affidavit for his client for a hearing scheduled for July 8, 2013. In that affidavit the client represented that the child had been living with him since June 6, 2013. The child resumed living with mother on July 4, 2013 and the July 8, 2013 hearing was continued to September 3, 2013 when the mother could not be served in time. This attorney believed his client had modified the affidavit before the new hearing date but he was mistaken.

I’d like to know the date the client executed his affidavit. If it was executed before July 4, 2013, the affidavit was accurate when executed and the court could look at the date of execution to determine whether this attorney had submitted an inaccurate affidavit to the court. If father’s affidavit was executed prior to July 4, 2013, I don’t see the representation as a misstatement, so much as a statement that was true at the time it was made but was no longer true when subsequent events occurred.

Attorneys collect affidavits days, even weeks, before they are submitted to the court at temporary hearings. If attorneys are going to be publicly reprimanded for inaccurate submissions in temporary hearing affidavits, it should be due to a clear and material inaccuracy at the time of the affidavit’s execution and not due to a failure to insure facts hadn’t changed between the date of the affidavit and the date of the hearing.

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