SC legislator suspended from practicing law following malpractice accusation

A South Carolina state representative has been suspended from practicing law following a lawsuit alleging he committed legal malpractice.

The South Carolina Supreme Court issued an order Friday suspending state Rep. Marvin Pendarvis’ law license until further order of the court.

Pendarvis, 35, D-Charleston, was suspended after he was accused in a lawsuit of legal malpractice and of committing “unfair and deceptive practices” under the South Carolina Unfair Trade Practices Act. The lawsuit — filed last month by attorneys Eric Bland and Ronnie Richter on behalf of Adrian Lewis, Pendarvis’ former client — claims that Pendarvis forged a client’s signature in order to secure a settlement for a amount far smaller than was promised.

When the alleged duplicity was discovered, Pendarvis used funds from his law firm’s trust account to try to pay off his client, according to the lawsuit.

The Supreme Court’s order did not specify why the license was suspended, including whether it was connected to the lawsuit.

The State has reached out to Pendarvis, who took office in 2017 after winning a special election in District 113 in Charleston. He took office just three years after graduating from University of South Carolina Law School in 2014, the same year he was admitted to the South Carolina Bar. He received his undergraduate degree from USC in 2011.

His legal practice, Pendarvis Law LLC, in North Charleston specializes in personal injury and criminal defense.

The order was signed by Chief Justice Donald Beatty for the court.

Attorney Eric Bland, who filed the malpractice lawsuit against Pendarvis with his colleague Ronnie Richter, said of the Supreme Court’s Friday action, “It’s about time. Quite frankly, I’m shocked it took this long to get him temporarily suspended.”

The lawsuit, with numerous specific allegations, was filed April 11. Among its numerous allegations was that Pendarvis diverted client funds and forged a client’s signature.

Bland said, “The first thing we do when we file a legal malpractice complaint is that we notify the Bar of this type of conduct.”

Bland and Richter played a key role, along with several other lawyers, in exposing the thefts of client funds by now-disbarred lawyer, convicted killer and fraudster Alex Murdaugh of Hampton County. Bland’s lawsuit against Murdaugh and other parties alleged they stole millions. The lawsuit contained the first sweeping revelations of financial thefts committed by Murdaugh over a multi-year span.

“This is the kind of action (by Pendarvis) that pollutes our Bar and sets us back years,” Bland said. “Whatever goodwill we get from lawyers coming forward and taking down Murdaugh, .... something like this sets us back years.”