On January 3, 2024, Kelo Land reported that Attorney Gina Ruggieri was publicly censured by the Supreme Court of South Dakota. The action came in response to a complaint filed against Ruggieri in October 2023 by the Disciplinary Board of the State Bar regarding her mishandling of client funds held in her trust account.
According to the formal complaint, Ruggieri acknowledged during a June disciplinary hearing that she failed to maintain proper records of her trust account as required by state law. A review found she did not keep original deposit slips identifying the source and client for funds received, nor did she maintain a separate trust account journal or individual client records. Without complete documentation, Ruggieri could not reconcile her bank statements.
While Ruggieri was able to reconstruct receipts and disbursements with legal assistance, the complaint stated this underscored her violation of duties. No client funds were determined to be misappropriated, but her account commingled personal and client money by retaining earned fees.
The Supreme Court order censuring Ruggieri required she provide verification her solo practice trust account was closed and any remaining client funds transferred to attorney J. Scott James’ account. As Ruggieri is now an associate at James’ firm, the order mandates she comply with record-keeping laws and obtain James’ approval of annual certifications.
Ruggieri was also ordered to reimburse $3,036.34 to the State Bar for investigation and prosecution costs. The censure signifies the most lenient penalty short of a suspension or disbarment that the Supreme Court is authorized to issue.
Source: Kelo Land