Disciplinary Actions from the Most Recent Journal

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Orders entered since publication of the last Journal can be found on the Disciplinary Orders page.


Most Recent Actions

Disbarments

Reid James of Gastonia neglected his clients, did not properly wind down his practice after he was suspended by the DHC, and did not respond to the State Bar. He was disbarred by the DHC.

David Kirkbride of Raleigh pledged the funds in his trust account to a casino to secure his gambling debts. He surrendered his license and was disbarred by the DHC.

Edward L. McVey III of Greensboro surrendered his license and was disbarred by the Wake County Superior Court. Between 2010 and 2014, McVey intentionally falsified documents purporting to show that he maintained legal malpractice insurance. McVey had actually not maintained such insurance for at least 15 years. He provided the false information to at least one mortgage lender to satisfy the lender’s requirements that approved closing lawyers must maintain malpractice insurance.

Matthew J. Ragaller of Greensboro, formerly of Nags Head, surrendered his license and was disbarred by the Wake County Superior Court. Ragaller misappropriated approximately $21,500 he held in trust for an estate and filed two false accountings.

In March 2013 the DHC concluded that High Point lawyer Wilbur Linton did not properly manage his trust account. The DHC entered an order suspending Linton’s law license but stayed the suspension on numerous conditions. The DHC activated the suspension in October 2013 because Linton did not comply with the conditions of the stay. Linton neglected and ultimately abandoned his clients during the stayed suspension and did not respond to the State Bar. He surrendered his license and was disbarred by the State Bar Council.

Thomas F. Foster of High Point acknowledged that he misappropriated entrusted funds and did not pay income taxes. He surrendered his license and was disbarred by the State Bar Council.

Suspensions & Stayed Suspensions

Robert Gray Austin III of Indian Trail violated numerous rules, including failing to properly reconcile his trust account, failing to keep client ledgers, and failing to promptly remove earned fees. The DHC suspended his license for two years. The suspension is stayed for two years upon Austin’s compliance with numerous conditions.

Keith Henry of Asheville was affiliated with a business that purported to offer estate and tax planning services and was closed when its principal was indicted for operating a Ponzi scheme. Henry shared fees with a nonlawyer, had a conflict of interest, and facilitated the unauthorized practice of law. The DHC suspended him for two years.

Paul Jackson, an assistant district attorney in Johnston County, made inaccurate statements of material fact to the court that he had contacted the SBI Lab to obtain results of DNA testing. As a result, a criminal defendant did not receive timely disclosure of exculpatory evidence and spent over 500 days in custody before charges against him were dismissed. The DHC suspended Jackson for one year. The suspension is stayed for two years upon his compliance with enumerated conditions.

David Lloyd of Spindale used entrusted funds for his own benefit and for the benefit of third parties without authorization to do so, did not report to the State Bar misappropriation of entrusted funds by his law partner, who has since been disbarred, commingled personal and entrusted funds, and did not safeguard entrusted funds. The DHC suspended him for three years. The suspension is stayed for three years upon Lloyd’s compliance with numerous conditions.

James Thompson of Morehead City violated several trust account rules and did not properly supervise nonlawyer assistants in connection with real estate closings. The DHC suspended him for three years. The suspension is stayed for three years upon Thompson’s compliance with numerous conditions.

James Garfield Williams of Archdale self-reported employee theft from his trust account. He had not properly supervised his employee, reconciled the trust account, ensured that reconciliations were performed, or kept appropriate client ledgers. The DHC suspended him for two years. The suspension is stayed for two years upon Williams’ compliance with numerous conditions.

Clarke Wittstruck of Asheville neglected and/or did not communicate with clients in 13 cases, did not timely respond to the State Bar, did not deposit entrusted funds in a trust account, and did not participate in the State Bar’s mandatory fee dispute resolution process. The DHC suspended Wittstruck for five years. After serving three years of the suspension, Wittstruck may petition for a stay of the balance upon showing compliance with numerous conditions.

Censures

Cynthia Mills of Greenville was censured by the Grievance Committee for failing to appear at a court conference, filing a frivolous and misleading motion to recuse a judge, abandoning a client’s case, and failing to communicate to the client her intent not to continue the representation.

Reprimands

Eric Ellison of Winston-Salem was reprimanded by the Grievance Committee. The committee found that Ellison did not appear in court on behalf of his client, did not adequately communicate with his client, violated several advertising rules, and did not respond promptly to the State Bar.


S. Wayne Patterson of Winston-Salem was reprimanded by the Grievance Committee. Patterson is licensed to practice law in Georgia but not in North Carolina. In an action before the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Patterson held himself out as being able to practice law in North Carolina. Patterson also used a misleading firm name.


Maynard Harrell of Plymouth was reprimanded by the Grievance Committee. Harrell did not timely deliver a client file. The committee found that Harrell’s failure to turn over the file was potentially prejudicial to the client and to the administration of justice.

Transfers to Disability Inactive Status

Reid G. Hinson of Charlotte was transferred to disability inactive status by the chair of the Grievance Committee.

Robert Bell of Fayetteville was transferred to disability inactive status by the chair of the Grievance Committee.

Jesse B. Rouse III of Fayetteville was transferred to disability inactive status by the Chair of the Grievance Committee.

In 2011 the DHC suspended Laura G. Johnson of Fayetteville for two years for mishandling client funds and for trust account mismanagement. The suspension was stayed for three years upon Johnson’s compliance with numerous conditions. The State Bar filed a motion alleging that Johnson violated the conditions and requiring Johnson to show cause why the stay should not be lifted and the suspension activated. Upon investigation, it was established that Johnson is disabled. The DHC transferred her to disability inactive status.


Reinstatements

In 2009 the DHC suspended Robert Brown of Durham for five years for sexually harassing his former employees at the Durham County Public Defender’s Office. The DHC reinstated him on February 5.

In November 2007 Ralph Bryant of Newport surrendered his law license and was disbarred by the DHC for misappropriating entrusted funds totaling $64,847. In August 2014 the DHC recommended that his petition for reinstatement be denied. The DHC found that Bryant had reformed but that his reinstatement would be detrimental to the integrity and standing of the bar, to the administration of justice, or to the public’s interest. Bryant appealed to the council. The council reinstated Bryant.

In February 2014 the DHC suspended Allan De Laine of Clayton for two years. De Laine forged a client’s name on a civil complaint, dismissed the action without the client’s knowledge or authorization, and neglected the cases of two clients, causing their civil claims to be time-barred. After serving one year active, he was eligible to petition for a stay of the balance upon showing compliance with numerous conditions. He was reinstated by the Secretary on April 6.

In 2012 the DHC suspended Gary Kivett of Spruce Pine for four years after concluding that he had and attempted to have sex with several clients. The order of discipline permits Kivett to apply for a stay after serving one year active. In June 2013 Kivett’s first petition for a stay was denied. On March 13 the DHC reinstated Kivett after a hearing on his second petition.

 

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