Beaufort News

Supreme Court disbars former Beaufort County clerk of court

A conviction last year on embezzlement and misconduct in office charges cost former Beaufort County Clerk of Court Elizabeth Smith her law license Tuesday.

The S.C. Supreme Court disbarred Smith, 47, and ordered her to surrender her license to the high court's clerk within 15 days.

Smith admitted to committing "professional misconduct" when she wrote checks worth $23,500 from public accounts to help pay for insurance premiums and a vacation home on Pawleys Island, according to a copy of the order. The order said Smith has reimbursed the accounts.

Smith declined to comment Tuesday.

Smith earned her law degree from the University of South Carolina in 1995 and was admitted to the state bar the same year, according to the S.C. Bar Association.

Smith had been on interim suspension since being charged in July 2009 with embezzlement of public funds and misconduct in office. She resigned from office the day 14th Circuit Solicitor Duffie Stone announced the charges.

A Beaufort County jury found Smith guilty in September, and she was sentenced to five years of probation and 200 hours of community service.

The day after she was convicted in state court, Smith was charged by the U.S. Attorney's Office for allegedly using $68,500 in federal child-support funds to pay her husband's salary while he oversaw the Beaufort County Drug Court.

The charges are pending. If convicted, she faces up to 10 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.

Smith's attorney, Lionel Lofton of Charleston, is scheduled to appear in a federal courtroom March 1 in Charleston for a pretrial conference before U.S. District Court Judge Sol Blatt, according to federal court records.

The outcome of the conference will help determine whether Smith is ready for trial or if she wants the case continued, said Winston Holliday, who is prosecuting the case for the U.S. Attorney's Office.