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Georgia Lawyer Accused Of Fraud Seeks To Halt Legal Malpractice Suit

Attorney Wilson Randolph Smith, who faces both a legal malpractice suit and criminal charges, has asked a judge to halt discovery in the lawsuit.

The action by Smith’s attorneys is joined by his co-defendants, Smith’s law partner, attorney Robert L. Jenkins, and Smith and Jenkins, their law firm.

Missouri couple Heather and Dewey Mallette, represented by Savannah attorney Bart Turner, sued Smith on Dec. 23 alleging that he settled a medical malpractice case for $500,000 without their consent and did not remit the settlement sum. Smith is accused of

legal malpractice, breach of fiduciary duties and fraud.

“We’re definitely going to oppose (the motion). Absolutely,” Turner said Tuesday.

The civil case remains pending before Chatham County State Court Judge Hermann W. Coolidge Jr. Discovery would include such actions as taking depositions of the parties as well as obtaining documents and other materials for use in the main case.

Meanwhile, U.S. District Senior Judge Dudley H. Bowen Jr. in Augusta on Thursday ordered Smith indefinitely suspended from “all and any rights and privileges as an attorney” in federal court for the Southern District of Georgia.

Bowen also ordered Smith to appear on Feb. 10 before U.S. District Chief Judge Lisa Godbey Wood in Brunswick to show reason why he should not be “disbarred, suspended or otherwise disciplined” by the court.

“The fact of arrest and the alleged underlying conduct evoke grave concern,” Bowen said in his order. “The full extent of Mr. Smith’s improprieties remains under a full and active investigation. The prospect of an attorney being effective in the practice of law under the shadow of such accusations is doubtful.”

Bowen also directed the U.S. Attorney’s office to investigate the allegations “and to represent the interests of the public and the bar” of the district.

The judge’s actions came as Smith last week filed a motion to voluntarily surrender or indefinitely suspend his practice in federal court for the Southern District of Georgia in wake of the pending criminal-civil cases.

Smith, 63, was arrested Jan. 13 on three felony charges — theft by conversion and two counts of forgery — and remains in custody at the Toombs County Detention Center without bond. He has not entered a plea.

On Jan. 20, the Toombs County District Attorney’s office seized the client/matter file for the Mallettes and closed Smith’s Vidalia office as an alleged crime scene, the motion read.

“Mr. Smith, confronted with both criminal and civil cases, cannot possible defend himself adequately in both cases under the current circumstances of his incarceration,” the motion by Smith’s lawyer, Eric Frisch of Atlanta, said.

In addition, “he faces the material risk of jeopardizing his defense in one case in order to protect his interests in the other.”

The motion contends that Smith is incarcerated and cannot get to his files or even his attorneys.

“He is completely cut off from the outside world, including his defense counsel,” the motion said.

Originally posted by Jan Skutch on Savannahnow.com.

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