Articles Posted in Legal Ethics

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The Supreme Court ordered that Respondent Ronald L. Chapman be suspended without compensation from office as a Judge of the General Court of Justice, District Court Division Twenty-Six, for thirty days for conduct violating Canons 1, 2A, 3A(5), and 3B(1) of the North Carolina Code of Judicial Conduct and for conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice that brings the judicial office into disrepute, in violation of N.C. Gen. Stat. 7A-376, holding that the Judicial Standards Commission’s recommended thirty-day suspension without compensation was appropriate. The Commission Counsel filed a statement of charges against Respondent, alleging that he had engaged in inappropriate conduct by failing to issue a ruling for more than five years on a motion for permanent child support. Based on its findings of fact and conclusions of law, the Commission recommended that the Supreme Court suspend Respondent without pay for a period of thirty days. The Supreme Court concluded that the recommended sanction was appropriate and ordered that Respondent be suspended without compensation for thirty days. View "In re J.C." on Justia Law

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Based upon the findings and conclusions and the recommendation of the Judicial Standards Commission, the Supreme Court concluded that Respondent Gary L. Henderson, a Judge of the General Court of Justice, District Court Division 26, be publicly reprimanded for violations of Canons 1, 2A, 3A, and 3B of the North Carolina Code of Judicial Conduct amounting to conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice that brings the judicial office into disrepute, in violation of N.C. Gen. Stat. 7A-376. The Supreme Court then ordered that Henderson be publicly reprimanded, holding that the Commission’s findings of fact were supported by clear, cogent, and convincing evidence in the record and that the Commission’s findings of fact supported its conclusions of law. View "In re Henderson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court ordered that Respondent William Henry Shipley, a deputy commissioner of the North Carolina Industrial Commission, be publicly reprimanded for violations of Canons 1 and 2A of the North Carolina Code of Judicial Conduct and for conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice that brings the judicial office into disrepute in violation of N.C. Gen. Stat. 7A-376. The Judicial Standards Commission recommended that Respondent be publicly reprimanded for engaging in conduct inappropriate to his office by wrecking his vehicle while driving under the influence of an impairing substance. The Supreme Court held (1) the Commission’s findings of fact were supported by clear, cogent, and convincing evidence in the record and supported the Commission’s conclusions of law; and (2) based upon these findings and conclusions and the Commission’s recommendation, Respondent should be publicly reprimanded. View "In re Inquiry Concerning a Deputy Commissioner, William Henry Shipley" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the trial court disqualifying Defendants’ counsel under North Carolina Rule of Professional Conduct 1.9(a), which balances an attorney’s ethical duties of confidentiality and loyalty to a former client with a party’s right to its chosen counsel. Rule 1.9(a) permits disqualification of an attorney from representing a new client if there is a substantial risk that the attorney could use confidential information shared by the client in the former matter against that same client in the current matter. The Supreme Court held (1) rather than applying an objective test as to the scope of the representation and whether the matters were substantially related, the trial court disqualified Defendants’ counsel based on the former client’s subjective perception of the past representation, which Rule 1.9(a) prohibits, as well as the now replaced “appearance of impropriety test”; and (2) therefore, the trial court applied the incorrect standard under Rule 1.9(a) in disqualifying Defendants’ counsel. View "Worley v. Moore" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court ordered that David Q. LaBarre, an Emergency Judge of the General Court of Justice, be censured for violations of Canons 1 and 2A of the North Carolina Code of Judicial Conduct and for conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice that brings the judicial office into disrepute in violation of N.C. Gen. Stat*. 7A-376(b). After careful review, the Court accepted and adopted the findings and conclusions of the Judicial Standards Commission. The censure stemmed from Judge LaBarre’s act of driving while substantially impaired and engaging in belligerent and offensive behavior towards law enforcement officers and emergency personnel. View "Inquiry Concerning a Judge, No. 15-222" on Justia Law

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The Judicial Standards Commission (JSC) imposed a public reprimand on Judge Jerry R. Tillett (Defendant), a judge in Judicial District One of the General Court of Justice, Superior Court Division, for misconduct while in public office. Defendant accepted the reprimand, and the JSC’s official filing constituted the Commission’s final action on the matter. Two years after Defendant accepted the reprimand, the State Bar commenced a disciplinary action against Defendant by filing a complaint with the North Carolina State Bar Disciplinary Hearing Commission (DHC). Defendant filed a motion to dismiss the complaint. The DHC denied the motion to dismiss, arguing that the DHC infringes upon the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction by initiating attorney disciplinary proceedings against a sitting member of the General Court of Justice for conduct while in office. The Supreme Court reversed the DHC’s denial of Defendant’s motion to dismiss, holding that the DHC lacks the authority to investigate and discipline Defendant for his conduct while in office. View "North Carolina State Bar v. Tillett" on Justia Law

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The Judicial Standards Commission entered a recommendation that Respondent James T. Hill, a judge of the General Court of Justice, District Court Division, be publicly reprimanded for conduct in violation of the North Carolina Code of Judicial Conduct and for conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice that brings the judicial office into disrepute in violation of N.C. Gen. Stat. 7A-376 for engaging in inappropriate conduct while presiding over divorce proceedings. The Supreme Court concluded that the Commission’s findings of fact were supported by clear, cogent, and convincing evidence in the record and that the Commission’s findings of fact supported its conclusions of law. Based upon these findings and conclusions, which the Court adopted as its own, the Supreme Court concluded and adjudged that Respondent should be publicly reprimanded. View "In re Judge James T. Hill" on Justia Law

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The North Carolina Judicial Standards Commission recommended that Brenda G. Branch, a judge of the General Court of Justice, District Court Division, Judicial District 6A, should be publicly reprimanded for conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice that brings the judicial office into disrepute and which violates the North Carolina Code of Judicial Conduct. The recommendation was based on the Commission’s findings that Branch engaged in misconduct that resulted from insufficient inquiry into her obligations regarding a certain case and her insufficiently-based conclusions regarding the parties. The Supreme Court adopted the Commission’s findings and concluded that Branch be publicly reprimanded. View "In re Inquiry Concerning a Judge" on Justia Law

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The Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) charged Twin County Motorsports, Inc. with violating N.C. Gen. * Stat. 20-183.7B(a)(3) for allowing a person not licensed as a safety inspection mechanic to perform safety inspections. Lance Cherry, an officer and shareholder of Twin County, requested a hearing before the DMV and appeared at the hearing on behalf of Twin County. After concluding that sufficient evidence sustained the finding that Twin County violated section 20-183.7B(a)(3), the hearing officer levied a civil penalty and suspended Twin County’s inspection license. The Commissioner of the DMV upheld the hearing officer’s order. Twin County appealed, arguing that Twin County, as a corporation, should not have been represented by Cherry, a nonattorney, at the DMV hearing. The trial court agreed and remanded the matter for a new hearing. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that a nonattorney’s appearance on behalf of a corporate entity before an administrative hearing officer does not constitute the unauthorized practice of law, and therefore, the trial court erred in reversing the DMV’s final agency decision in this case. View "In re Twin County Motorsports, Inc." on Justia Law

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The North Carolina Judicial Standards Commission recommended that Respondent John Totten, a district court judge, be censured for conduct in violation of the North Carolina Code of Judicial Conduct and conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice that brings the judicial office into disrepute in violation of N.C. Gen. Stat. 7A-376(b). Respondent had suppressed the breath alcohol concentration test taken by a defendant charged with driving while impaired and careless and reckless driving without a motion to suppress and a hearing as required by law. The Supreme Court ordered that Respondent be censured for violating the Code of Judicial Conduct and section 7A-376(b). View "In re Totten" on Justia Law