Disciplinary Actions from the Most Recent Journal

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Most Recent Actions

Disbarments

Donald Lively of Raleigh surrendered his law license and was disbarred by the State Bar Council. Lively was administratively suspended in 2010 for failing to attend mandatory continuing legal education. During the suspension he practiced law, collected fees, and misrepresented his professional status to the court, other attorneys, his clients, and third parties.

Susan E. Mako, formerly of Wilmington, was disbarred by the DHC. The DHC concluded that Mako misappropriated and grossly mishandled entrusted funds, did not pay taxes, and abandoned her law practice.

Richard Z. Polidi of Raleigh surrendered his law license and was disbarred by the Wake County Superior Court. Polidi received approximately $16,000 in settlement for a client. Although Polidi knew his client had assigned the right to those funds to a third party, he used the entrusted funds for his own benefit and for the benefit of the client without the third party's authorization.

Suspensions & Stayed Suspensions

The DHC suspended William T. Batchelor of Wilmington for three years. The DHC found that Batchelor charged and collected a clearly excessive amount for expenses and mismanaged his trust account in a variety of ways. After serving one year of the suspension, Batchelor may apply for a stay of the balance upon compliance with numerous conditions.

George Rexford (Rex) Gore of Shallotte is a former elected district attorney. Gore agreed to increase an assistant district attorney's compensation by approving false travel reimbursement claims the ADA submitted to the Administrative Office of the Courts. He approved 63 travel claims totaling over $14,000 for mileage the ADA did not incur. Gore pled guilty to the misdemeanor offense of Willful Failure to Discharge Duties. The DHC suspended Gore for four years. Gore received credit toward the satisfaction of the four-year suspension for the time since the court suspended his law license in August 2013. After serving two years of the suspension, Gore may apply for a stay of the balance upon compliance with numerous conditions.

In 2012, Roydera Hackworth of Greensboro was suspended by the DHC. Before she was suspended, Hackworth engaged in the unauthorized practice of law by representing her nephew in a personal injury case in Alabama, where she was not licensed. After she was suspended by the DHC, Hackworth continued representing her nephew. She also made misrepresentations to the Grievance Committee. The DHC suspended Hackworth for five years. The suspension runs concurrently with the suspension imposed in 12 DHC 3.

Mary Susan Phillips of Wallace neglected numerous clients and did not respond to notices from the clerk of court to file estate accountings. The DHC suspended her for three years. After serving nine months of the suspension, Phillips may apply for a stay of the balance upon compliance with numerous conditions.

Asheville attorney Julia Leigh Sitton pled guilty to misdemeanor obstruction of justice. Sitton was an employee of the Bev Perdue campaign. Sitton agreed that a campaign contributor could pay her an extra $2,000 per month through a purported consulting contract under which Sitton did not actually provide any consulting services to the contributor. This arrangement allowed the contributor to exceed the limit on allowable campaign contributions under N.C. Gen. Stat. § 163-278.13 and allowed the campaign to avoid reporting the payments on campaign finance reports required by N.C. Gen. Stat. § 163-278.8 and § 163-278.11. The DHC suspended Sitton's law license for three years. After serving one year of the suspension, Sitton may apply for a stay of the balance upon compliance with enumerated conditions. Sitton received credit for the time she voluntarily abstained from the practice of law following her conviction.

Censures

Ronald E. Cooley of Hillsborough was censured by the Grievance Committee. Cooley failed to attend a deposition for his client, did not communicate with his client about discovery requests, did not comply with discovery obligations, did not ensure proper service on an opposing party, and made false statements to his client.

The Rowan County District Court censured Tiffany Dawn Russell of Durham. The court concluded that Russell engaged in unprofessional behavior and willfully failed to comply with Rule 12 of the General Rules of Practice for the Superior and District Courts. Russell gave notice of appeal.

Reprimands

Thomas D. Blue Jr. of Raleigh was reprimanded by the Grievance Committee. Blue was assigned by his law firm to supervise a nonattorney assistant's trust account record keeping. Because Blue failed to ensure the assistant was conducting proper reconciliations, the firm did not discover an error on a client ledger that occurred in November 2010. As a result of the undiscovered error, the firm over disbursed to the client 14 months later. The firm finally discovered the original error and the overdisbursement in August 2013. The Grievance Committee recognized several mitigating factors.

The Grievance Committee reprimanded Kristen Comerford, formerly of Winston-Salem. Comerford made false entries in document review software and a timekeeping system to exaggerate her billable hours.

Mark Jetton of Raleigh was reprimanded by the Grievance Committee. Jetton's direct solicitation letters contained false and misleading statements, promised results that could not be guaranteed, and compared his services to those of other lawyers.

The Grievance Committee reprimanded Christopher Lane of Clemmons. Lane agreed to serve as "Of Counsel" to a foreign law firm and facilitated the firm's unauthorized practice of law in North Carolina. Lane also made false or misleading statements to a client of the foreign firm.

The Grievance Committee reprimanded Raleigh lawyer W. Andrew LeLiever. LeLiever did not timely comply with bankruptcy court orders, did not appear at court hearings regarding his noncompliance, and told the bankruptcy trustee that he would not pay over funds in his possession that belonged to the bankruptcy estate without a court order. LeLiever also committed a number of trust account violations, including failing to reconcile his trust account quarterly, failing to maintain client ledgers, commingling his own funds with entrusted funds, and using improper methods to disburse funds from his trust account.

Jennifer Moore of Asheville was reprimanded by the Grievance Committee. Moore made misleading statements to the State Bar, neglected her client's interests, and did not take appropriate steps to protect the client's interests when she withdrew from representation.

The Grievance Committee reprimanded Claire J. Samuels of Charlotte, who argued the merits of her client's case in emails to the judge and her clerk.

Antoinette Van-Riel of Winston-Salem was reprimanded by the Grievance Committee. Van-Riel charged clearly excessive fees, did not communicate with her client, did not participate in the State Bar's mandatory fee dispute resolution program, and did not respond to the Grievance Committee.

Karen Wright of Shelby was reprimanded by the Grievance Committee. Wright neglected her duty to settle the estates of her clients' parents, did not keep the beneficiaries reasonably informed about the statuses of the estates, and did not promptly comply with the beneficiaries' reasonable requests for information.

Reinstatements

Douglas T. Simons of Durham surrendered his law license and was disbarred by the State Bar Council on April 15, 2005. Simons admitted that he misappropriated at least $300,000. On March 27, 2014, a panel of the DHC recommended that his petition for reinstatement be denied. Simons' appeal to the State Bar Council is pending.

In November 2007, Ralph T. Bryant of Newport surrendered his law license and was disbarred by the DHC for misappropriating entrusted funds totaling $64,847. Bryant petitioned for reinstatement. On June 12, 2014, a panel of the DHC announced its finding that Bryant had reformed, but that his reinstatement would be detrimental to the integrity and standing of the bar, the administration of justice, or to the public's interest and recommended that his petition for reinstatement be denied. An order has not yet been entered.

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