Georgia attorney was disbarred from practicing law after depleting client’s bank account in prison

COLUMBUS, Georgia (WRBL) — A Columbus attorney has been disfellowshipped by the state Supreme Court on three counts, including withdrawing money from a client’s bank account while the client was incarcerated.

The court’s decision to revoke Keith Chance Hardy’s license to practice law came late last week. Hardy’s wrongdoing was detailed in a 19-page Supreme Court order.

Hardy has practiced law since 2014, including with the Muscogee County District Attorney’s Office, hired by former district attorney Mark Jones, and the Chattahoochee Circuit District Attorney’s Office. He was fired by prosecutor Stacey Jackson after Jackson was appointed to the post following Jones’ conviction on public corruption charges in November 2021.

The recommendation for Hardy’s expulsion was made by Special Counsel Delia Tedder Crouch.

“The filings show that prosecutors filed the formal complaint on September 23, 2022 and personally served it on Hardy on November 20, 2022,” the order reads. “Hardy failed to provide a response within 30 days or to request an extension of time. Therefore, in January 2023, the Bar Association filed a motion to have Hardy defaulted. Hardy did not respond to the request, and in March 2023 the Special Counsel issued her report and recommendation, stating that the alleged facts and violations charged in the formal complaint were deemed to be admitted because Hardy defaulted .”

Here are the specific findings of the Master and the Court:

According to the findings, Hardy was appointed “conflict defense attorney” to represent a client accused of murder, evidence tampering and other charges.

The command is:

“On or about September 5, 2019, Hardy had his first meeting with the client and told her that he believed he could obtain bond for her allegations, but that she needed money to pay the bond officer. When the client said she had some money but didn’t know how to access it from prison, Hardy offered to access the client’s bank account for her. The client provided Hardy with the information needed to access her bank account after Hardy allowed her to use his computer to digitally transfer $21,600 from her savings account to her checking account.

“The court did not immediately grant bail, but Hardy began withdrawing funds from the customer’s account, and as of December 10, 2019, Hardy had initiated six withdrawals or transfers from his customer’s account, totaling $20,000 withdrawn and $120 Dollars per wire transfer.” Fees. In addition, the client had specifically authorized Hardy to take back property she was in possession of when she was arrested, including approximately $3,500 worth of jewelry. Although the customer instructed Hardy to give the jewelry and other items to her family, he instead kept the jewelry and other items.”

The family eventually hired another attorney. Her family had to raise the money to get her bail out of jail.

“The client reported Hardy’s thefts to the district attorney’s office, but she was afraid to report them to the local police and district attorney because Hardy had ties to local law enforcement and because the local district attorney was still prosecuting her,” the report reads .

According to the report, Hardy made no attempt to return the stolen funds to the client, who eventually filed a complaint with the Bar Association in November 2021.

– “Hardy admitted that in 2020 a client paid him $1,500 to represent him in a case in which the client was accused of a criminal offense, and Hardy told the client that he would refrain from prosecuting without the client having to appear,” the report said. “The arraignment hearing was postponed several times, but Hardy failed to update the client on the progress of the case or respond to the client’s repeated inquiries about the status of or upcoming hearings in the case.

“Hardy did not show up for the arraignment, nor did he tell the client that he had to show up. As a result, the court forfeited the client’s bond and issued an arrest warrant for the client. The client then emailed Hardy ending the representation and requesting the return of his client file and a full refund. Hardy did not respond, and on October 4, 2021, the client filed a complaint with the Bar Association. Hardy never responded to the complaint or to the Bar Association’s investigative notice, although the Bar Association had given him several opportunities to do so.”

– The latest lawsuit comes after Hardy was hired to represent a woman in a trial to recover from injuries she sustained in a car crash on Aug. 24, 2017.

According to the report, Hardy failed to communicate adequately with her for the next two years. The customer had made several unsuccessful attempts to reach Hardy.

“The client did not hear from her case until November 4, 2019, when she received a letter from an insurance company stating that the case had been settled on October 10, 2019. The client immediately attempted to contact Hardy, who responded as follows: She informed her (falsely) that the insurance company had only submitted a “proposed draft of dismissal and dismissal” and informed her that when she was ready, accepting between $7,000 and $10,000 for their case could receive a check within days.

The client then contacted the insurance company herself and was told that Hardy had already received and negotiated a check that was ordered to be paid to both her and Hardy for a total of $15,000.

The customer did not authorize Hardy to sign her name or otherwise negotiate the check, the order said. The client continued to attempt to contact Hardy, threatening via email that the check would be traced and checked for forgery and contacting the DA’s office to have Hardy negotiate the check and withhold the proceeds.