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South Carolina Lawyer Who Misled on Bar Application Disbarred (1)

June 24, 2020, 8:01 PMUpdated: June 25, 2020, 5:37 PM

A South Carolina lawyer found to have provided numerous false statements and incomplete answers on her application for admission to practice law in the state was disbarred by the state high court.

Margaret Lanier Brooks admitted to violating ethics rules prohibiting lying on a bar application and not responding to information requests from a disciplinary authority or bar admissions committee, which warrants the sanction, the South Carolina Supreme Court said June 24.

It noted that she consented to any sanction, including disbarment.

The day after Brooks was sworn into the state bar in February 2019, the office of bar admissions discovered that she’d lied on her application, the court said.

Brooks didn’t initially admit the reason for withdrawing her application for admission to the Wyoming bar in 2016, the court said. She first said it was because she didn’t want to practice there, but during her interview with the Office of Disciplinary Counsel, she said she omitted the fact that there had been “resistance” from the character and fitness board in that state, it said.

She also didn’t include that her driver’s license had been suspended after being arrested for driving under the influence in 2005, the court said.

Although Brooks disclosed a 2014 DUI arrest on her South Carolina Bar application, she didn’t include a citation relating to the arrest for failing to cooperate with the police, it said.

She also stated on her application that she never acted in a way that would call into question her ability to practice law ethically, the court said.

But during her disciplinary counsel interview, she said that she submitted an altered document on her application to the Wyoming Bar, which was going to hold a hearing into her conduct.

Brooks also knowingly provided false statements on applications to the North Carolina and Idaho bars, the court said.

In light of her admissions, the court accepted Brooks’s agreement for discipline by consent and her request to disbar her retroactive to the date of her interim suspension, which was in October 2019.

One year before filing for reinstatement, she will have to complete an ethics course, it said.

Commenting on the sanction, Brooks said in an email that “We all know that people make mistakes, as I did, and we will be judged by how we react to them.”

“It’s important to step up and admit your mistakes and accept responsibility for them, which is why I admitted my negligent misconduct, so I can start over again when the Supreme Court will allow me to seek admission to practice law again,” she added.

The case is In re Brooks, 2020 BL 233455, S.C., No. 27983, 6/24/20.

(Added Brooks's comments in last two paragraphs.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Melissa Heelan Stanzione in Washington at mstanzione@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Seth Stern at sstern@bloomberglaw.com; John Crawley at jcrawley@bloomberglaw.com

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