GRIFFIN, Ga. – Following 11Alive's “Beneath the law” investigation, Walter Moore has gone from "good standing" to disbarred from the Georgia State Bar for taking clients’ money and not showing up for court, among other accusations.
On Monday, March 5, the Supreme Court of Georgia decided that Spalding County, Ga., attorney Walter Moore, accused of “abandoning” his clients, should no longer practice law in the state of Georgia.
“Having reviewed the record, we conclude that disbarment is the appropriate sanction in this matter,” the court's decision read.
Moore, a self-admitted addict, filed a voluntary petition for an emergency suspension in January, just after divulging to the bar's disciplinary panel, that he had substance abuse issues.
That admission, along with six clients' grievances against Moore, were cited in the court's decision.
"…abandonment of six different clients, each of whom had retained Moore to represent him or her in a domestic relations proceeding. In these proceedings, Moore failed to pursue the clients’ matters diligently, failed to properly communicate with the clients, misled the clients, failed to respond to discovery, failed to appear at scheduled hearings, failed to refund unearned fees, and abandoned the clients to the clients’ detriment."In aggravation of discipline, the Investigative Panel found that Moore acted willfully and with a selfish motive; his actions demonstrate a pattern of misconduct and involve multiple offenses; and he has refused to acknowledge the wrongful nature of his conduct."
READ FULL DOCUMENT>>>Supreme Court of Georgia: Attorney Disbarred
Former intern files complaint, alleges substance abuse
One of Moore’s former clients, Tonya Scruggs, also interned for him between August-November 2017--giving her a front-row seat to Moore's “very chaotic and dysfunctional environment that consisted of patterns of unprofessionalism, dishonesty, rudeness.”
On Jan. 8, 2018, she filed a request to the bar, for an audit for cause, because of his actions. According to her, Moore had more than 210 clients and collected over $365,000 for unfinished cases.
“He is constantly impaired, stealing money from families and ruining their lives,” she wrote in her request to the bar. “Mr. Moore appears to be embezzling money from his clients and has an addiction to purchasing and consuming alcohol and drugs. Mr. Moore would hire clients and demand full payments, then there would be nothing further done with the cases.”
Moore, she said, “would purchase little bottles of alcohol from the liquor store down the road all throughout the day, stash them in his pockets and consume them, and often appearing in court impaired.”
Scruggs also said that he alternated between three different phone numbers, making it hard to reach him. He did not pay the bills, according to her, and therefore had the electricity turned off in the office.
Furthermore, she observed him, on a daily basis, arriving late to the office or court, or not showing up at all. And his appearance was in disarray most days.
“He would come into the office with his shirt halfway tucked in, pants undone, wearing shoes with holes in them and did not comb his hair,” she told the bar.
Moore suspended, admits to substance abuse
According to the bar documents, on Dec. 4, 2017, Moore’s notice of discipline for disbarment by the bar was filed. He had 30 days to respond, but did not.
The notice documented his failures to appear and failure to refund fees for not doing the work promised on numerous occasions. On March 31, 2017, Moore was turned over to the bar’s investigative panel, who determined that the appropriate disciplinary action should be disbarment.
The panel cited the following reasons:
- Respondent acted willfully in collecting a free from the complainants then abandoned their legal matters.
- Respondent acted with a selfish motive.
- Respondent demonstrated a pattern of misconduct.
- Respondent has multiple offenses.
- Respondent has refused to acknowledge the wrongful nature of his conduct.
On Jan. 5, 2018, the General Counsel filed a petition for an emergency suspension.
Three weeks later, on Jan. 26, Moore agreed to a voluntary suspension, admitting to a substance abuse issue to the bar, stating, “I am requesting a suspension pending the resolution of the disciplinary matters pending against me and understand that I may not return to the practice of law until further order of this court.”
“My competency as an attorney is currently impaired due to substance abuse,” Moore stated in the voluntary petition.
He continued, “I will cease the practice of law and notify my clients how they can obtain their files… I will see assistance for my addiction problems immediately.”
READ | Walter Moore Suspension
READ | Georgia Supreme Court File
11Alive’s Brendan Keefe attempted to interview Moore at the Spalding County courthouse in January, but he refused to talk on the record at the courthouse, and ultimately referred him to his office. (Watch video below.)
When 11Alive went to his office at the time he suggested, he did not show.