By Stan Welch
A Williamston lawyer, Philip Earle Williams, has been suspended from practicing law by an order of the South Carolina Supreme Court. Williams was placed on interim suspension, and another attorney, Stephen G. Potts, has been assigned to handle Williams’ current cases.
According to the order, issued on March 15, Williams was suspended from practicing law under two provisions of Rule 17B and 17C of the Rules for Lawyer Disciplinary Enforcement (RLDE) which appears in Rule 413 of the South Carolina Appellate Court Rules (SCACR).
Those two sections allow for the suspension based on receipt of sufficient evidence “that a lawyer poses a substantial threat of serious harm to the public or to the administration of justice.” Additionally, those sections address the failure of a respondent to officially and adequately respond to an investigation or to formal charges.
Williams apparently failed to provide subpoenaed information, since the suspension order includes mention that he sought a delay of suspension because he was “in the process” of providing the subpoenaed documents.
The original circumstances that lead to the suspension occurred in a case dated November 23, 2010. Williams was handling the estate of James C. Saylors, Jr. at that time. Saylors died in August of that year. He left no children or widow, but he bequeathed various assets to several family members, as well as to the Williamston Presbyterian Church.
The events leading to the suspension allegedly center around the manner in which those bequests were handled by Williams. Court documents indicate that Williams was appointed primary personal representative for Saylors’ estate.
Williams graduated from Mercer Law School in 1986 and was admitted to the S.C. Bar that same year. His membership entry on the S.C. Bar Association’s website reflects his suspension. That suspension is in force until further order of the court.
Potts is authorized to assume responsibility for Williams’ clients’ files, trust accounts, escrow accounts , operating accounts and any other law office accounts in place. Potts is instructed and authorized to take any actions necessary to protect the interests of Williams’ clients.
He is also authorized to receive Williams’ mail, and to seal the appropriate bank accounts to prevent any further activity by Williams. The appointment of Potts will expire in no more than nine months, unless extended by court order.
Calls to Williams’ office for comment went to voice mail.