Columbus attorney disbarred after accusations of stealing money from clients

Published: Jul. 19, 2023 at 6:04 PM EDT
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COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - A Columbus attorney has been disbarred by the Georgia Supreme Court after a client complained about him stealing money, having inadequate communication, and not doing his job.

According to the Supreme Court of Georgia, 37-year-old Keith Chance Hardy is stripped of his authority to practice law in the state of Georgia. Three client matters played a part in the high court’s decision. Possibly the most shocking allegation, in December of 2019, the supreme court said Hardy stole more than $21,000 from one client’s savings account while she sat in jail on murder charges. He is also accused of stealing $3,500 worth of jewelry the client had on when she was arrested.

The 19-page document states the following:

“With regard to SDBD No. 7623, the record shows that Hardy was appointed as a “conflict defender” to represent a client who was charged with murder, tampering with evidence, and other charges. On or about September 5, 2019, Hardy had his first meeting with the client and told her that he believed he could get a bond on her charges, but that she would need money to pay the bondsman. When the client advised that she had some money but did not know how to access it from jail, Hardy offered to access the client’s bank account for her. The client provided Hardy with the information necessary 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 bond, but Hardy began taking money out of the client’s account and, by December 10, 2019, Hardy had initiated six withdrawals or transfers from his client’s account, taking a total of $20,000 and incurring $120 in wire transfer fees. In addition, the client had specifically authorized Hardy to receive the property she had in her possession when she was arrested, which included approximately $3,500 worth of jewelry. Although the client directed Hardy to turn the jewelry and other items over to her family, he instead kept the jewelry and other items. Hardy entered an appearance in the client’s matter and filed a motion for bond, but he failed to take any other action on the client’s behalf, and never filed a motion asking to withdraw from the representation. The client’s family hired a new lawyer to assist the client in cooperating with the State. New counsel was able to get the client a bond, which she was only able to post with the help of her family because Hardy had depleted her savings. The client reported Hardy’s thefts to the State Bar, but she was fearful to report them to the local police and district attorney because of Hardy’s connections to local law enforcement and because the local district attorney was still prosecuting her. Hardy has made no attempt to refund the stolen funds to the client, who ultimately filed a grievance with the Bar in November 2021. Hardy did not respond to the grievance or to the Bar’s subsequent Notice of Investigation.”

It also mentions hardy being hired by a separate client client to represent her in a suit to recover for injuries she suffered in an automobile accident in 2017. Over the next two years Hardy failed to adequately communicate with that client. It goes on to say, Hardy eventually received a check for $15,000 dollars from the insurance company involved and never informed the client about the money.

In regard to that matter, the document says the following:

“With regard to State Disciplinary Board Docket (“SDBD”) No. 7622, the record shows that Hardy admitted that in 2020 a client paid him $1,500 for representation in a case in which the client had been charged with a criminal misdemeanor, and Hardy told the client that he would waive arraignment without the client needing to appear. The arraignment was rescheduled multiple times, but Hardy failed to inform the client about the progress of the case or to respond to the client’s repeated inquiries as to the status of, or upcoming hearings in, the case. At the arraignment, Hardy failed to appear or advise the client that he needed to appear, and, as a result, the court forfeited the client’s bond and issued a bench warrant for the client’s arrest. Afterwards, the client emailed Hardy, terminating the representation and demanding the return of his client file and a full refund. Hardy did not respond, and, on October 4, 2021, the client filed a grievance with the Bar. Hardy never responded to the grievance or to the Bar’s Notice of Investigation despite being given multiple opportunities to do so by the Bar”

Former District Attorney Mark Jones hired Hardy when he took office in 2021. Current D.A. Stacey Jackson says he fired him in 2022 after Hardy’s license was suspended that year.

The full document can be found below:

Hardy_D by Jatavia O'Neal on Scribd