South Carolina

Suspended Rock Hill lawyer accepted clients and money, court records show

A Rock Hill lawyer, suspended since April from practicing law by the S.C. Supreme Court, is accused of accepting money and taking on new clients despite his suspension, court documents show.

Bradford Rawlinson was administratively suspended by the state Supreme Court from practicing law on April 18 for failing to complete continuing education requirements, according to the court order.

Rawlinson in 2017 targeted Rock Hill and York County drug units as “secret police.” He also made demands in 2016 that police stop targeting minority groups.

On July 24, Rawlinson’s license to practice law was “suspended until further notice” after the S.C. Office of Disciplinary Counsel filed a request to the state Supreme Court, according to a court order signed by S.C. Chief Justice Donald Beatty.

Both suspension orders against Rawlinson were posted publicly on the South Carolina court system website.

During May and June court hearings, testimony showed that Rawlinson accepted money from clients to represent them, and that lawyers and at least one judge knew that he was under suspension.

The Herald obtained a copy of the June 5 court transcript where York County prosecutors called the hearing in a pending murder case because the defendant had not filed a notice of having a lawyer, despite being in jail for about two months. The defendant told 16th Circuit Judge Dan Hall that his family had hired Rawlinson, the transcript shows.

Hall said in court, according the transcript: “Mr. Rawlinson for various reasons is unable to represent people right now. His license to practice law has been suspended. We’ve all been put on public notice of that in a notice from the supreme court.”

The next day, Hall, “out of an abundance of caution,” appointed a public defender to represent the defendant..

Willy Thompson, 16th Circuit Deputy Solicitor, said he was the prosecutor in court for the June 5 hearing. Thompson said testimony in open court showed the defendant had hired and paid Rawlinson.

In a May 21 hearing in York County a defendant represented by Assistant 16th Circuit Public Defender Jessica Russo produced a receipt to Judge Roger Henderson showing the defendant had hired Rawlinson, according to court officials.

Prosecutor Jenny Desch advised Henderson that Rawlinson was suspended from practicing law because of the April 18 supreme court order.

Russo and Desch confirmed to The Herald that the incident involving court testimony about Rawlinson being under suspension since April happened in court in May.

It is unclear who filed official complaints about Rawlinson to South Carolina’s judicial conduct staff. Both the April 18 and July 24 supreme court orders state “any lawyer who is aware of any violation of the suspension” must report it to state officials, or face sanction.

Judges also have a mandate to report any lawyer who violates a suspension.

John Nichols, chief disciplinary counsel for South Carolina’s court system, declined to comment on why his office sought to have the supreme court suspend Rawlinson’s law license. Nichols said complaints become public only if formal charges are filed against a lawyer.

However, Nichols did say Rawlinson was banned April 18 from accepting clients or money or representing clients, and it’s still in effect.

In Tuesday’s supreme court order, a legal “receiver” from the disciplinary counsel’s office was appointed to take responsibility for Rawlinson’s client files and handle legal financial accounts of those clients.

“That was done to protect the clients,” Nichols said. “When a lawyer is on suspension, he may not practice law. That means a lawyer cannot accept new clients, or handle the money of any client.”

Rawlinson claimed in late 2017 that police drug units are a covert police force lacking supervision and accountability. He created a group called “Operation Miobe” to find people who interacted with the York County drug unit as confidential informants. The organization offered a free appointment to help, according to Operation Miobe Facebook page.

Rawlinson and others presented a list of demands to Rock Hill police in 2016 about law enforcement tactics toward African-Americans and other groups. Rawlinson and others requested drug units wear body cameras and drive marked police cars. He then hosted several community forums.

Efforts to obtain comment from Rawlinson were unsuccessful.

Andrew Dys: 803-329-4065, @AndrewDysHerald
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