In an opinion released Monday, the Georgia Supreme Court disbarred Samuel W. Cruse.
Cruse began practicing law in May 1988. Less than a decade later, he was taken to task by federal judges for careless representation, poor judgment and unnecessary delaying tactics. The judges withheld punishment in April 1996, though.
In March 1998, the Supreme Court issued a private reprimand to Cruse, but just as in the actions by the federal court two years earlier, the public never knew of either event because the actions were done in private.
In 2007, Cruse's professional behavior was again under scrutiny in federal court after he filed an employee discrimination claim that the judge deemed to be the "most frivolous and least warranted suit" he had ever seen. He also charged his client $9,000, and later falsely claimed in federal court that the client paid him only $4,000.
In February 2007, then-U.S. District Court Chief Judge William T. Moore Jr. issued a rare public order of Cruse's disciplinary action: Cruse was barred from practicing in federal court. The record of the court's action was unsealed -- made public -- at that time.
The State Bar of Georgia's disciplinary arm began an investigation after the federal court rebuke. Cruse admitted he had failed to provide competent representation and had charged an unreasonable fee.
In the disbarment order, the Supreme Court said there was a second disciplinary investigation.
In that case, Cruse charged a client $4,000 to handle an appeal to the Federal Employees Compensation Appeals Board. Attorneys are required to report their fees to the secretary of Labor before proceeding with any claim. Cruse failed to do that.
The case was dismissed, and the client requested a refund of the $4,000. Cruse refused. The client sued Cruse in magistrate court and won, and later a federal bankruptcy court judge also ordered Cruse to repay the money. Cruse did not.
During Cruse's disciplinary investigation, he was given numerous chances to repay the $4,000 as part of an agreement that could have meant a temporary suspension of his law license instead of disbarment, according to the Supreme Court's opinion released Monday. Still, Cruse never has repaid the money.