Ozark attorney Scott C. Hinote's has been disbarred following an Aug. 16 Missouri Supreme Court order handed down less than a year after Hinote was suspended for commingled personal and client funds in both his operating and trust accounts.
The high court handed down the disbarment after accepting a decision by a disciplinary hearing panel that found Hinote in violation of rules of professional conduct. Hinote also was ordered to pay a fee of $2,000 and other costs.
Hinote's disbarment comes less than nine months after the Missouri Supreme Court handed down an order Nov. 22 indefinitely suspending his law license followed an investigation by the Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel (OCDC). The OCDC found that Hinote deposited personal funds into his client trust account to pay client refunds, deposited most client funds into his operating account and then used those funds for personal or business expenses. Hinote also was alleged to have failed to keep adequate ledgers of his trust account and to have practiced law for several months after the bank closed his trust account.
Hinote was ordered to pay a $1,000 fine and complete a court-approved course on trust fund management and the handling of unearned fees before being considered for reinstatement.
An OCDC investigator testified during a hearing that almost all of Hinote's client funds during the period reviewed had been deposited directly into his operating account, rather than into his client trust account. The investigator also testified that his operating account often was depleted before he earned fees and that he frequently used client funds to pay his personal or business expenses.
While he was under investigation for client trust account overdrafts, Hinote faced two unrelated disciplinary complaints.
In his own response brief filed with the OCDC, Hinote described himself as a "poor bookkeeper and perhaps a poor businessman" and pleaded probation and education rather than suspension.
Hinote's previous history of discipline before the Missouri Supreme Court includes admonishments in March 2010 and May 2014, the first for waiting until three weeks before a trail to answer or serve discovery and the second for violating rules regarding fees, the safekeeping of property and improper withdrawals.