Jailed Conway lawyer disbarred

Chief among reasons: Trying to hire a hit man

sjones@thesunnews.comJuly 12, 2011 

An S.C. Supreme Court ruling Monday disbarring a Conway attorney serving time for trying to hire someone to kill another attorney details eight legal wrongdoings that led to the revocation of his license to practice law.

The legal misconduct admitted to by Conway attorney Irby Walker included his trying to hire a hit man to murder Conway attorney Doug Thornton, according to Monday's ruling.

Walker pleaded guilty to the solicitation and was sentenced to three years in prison last year and ordered to undergo mental health counseling.

Walker and Thornton shared an office when they represented opposing sides in a divorce, the situation that at least contributed to Walker seeking someone to kill Thornton, according to testimony at Walker's trial.

Additionally, according to records from the Supreme Court, Walker and his client in the divorce went to Thornton's client and convinced her to fire Thornton and reach an agreement with her husband.

Walker told the wife not to tell anyone of their visit and prepared a quit claim deed for the husband to sign as part of the settlement, even though he no longer represented the husband, the ruling said.

Other misconduct included not representing clients adequately; guaranteeing a loan to a client; accepting a retainer from clients and not depositing it into his trust account and failing to quickly respond to a dying man, who hired Walker to pursue a divorce against his wife, who the client believed was poisoning him.

The man died before Walker filed anything or performed any work on the case, the ruling stated.

A forensic psychiatrist testified at Walker's trial that he believed Walker suffered from bipolar disease and was on the wrong medication at the time he tried to have Thornton killed.

His attorney said the solicitation was due to the disease and the fact that an employee had embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars from him.

The Supreme Court ruling also noted the embezzlement and said that it was at least partly due to Walker's lack of oversight of his business.

Walker was disbarred effective Sept. 18, 2009, the date of his interim suspension, the Supreme Court ruled.

The high court order forbids him from seeking reinstatement of his legal privileges until he has completed his criminal sentence, which includes five years supervised probation after his active time, and reimbursed parties affected by the misappropriation of funds from his trust account, the Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection, the Office of Disciplinary Counsel and the Commission on Lawyer Conduct.

Contact STEVE JONES at 444-1765.

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