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Keywords: Michelle T. Shepherd

Volume 13, Number 3 (September 2008)


Thomas P. Heller, who practiced in Oak Island, surrendered his law license and was disbarred by the Disciplinary Hearing Commission. Heller acknowledged that he had misappropriated $17,046.00 of entrusted client funds.

Michelle V. Mallard, who practiced in Charlotte, was disbarred by the DHC. Mallard misappropriated entrusted funds and failed to reconcile her trust accounT.

Michelle T. Shepherd of West Jefferson surrendered her law license to the Wake County Superior Court and was disbarred. Shepherd acknowledged that she had misappropriated at least $3,397,805.18 in entrusted funds.

Adam M. Tyson of Matthews submitted his affidavit of surrender to the Council and was disbarred. Tyson admitted that he misappropriated entrusted funds totaling $28,000.

Dennis A. Whitling of Durham submitted his affidavit of surrender to the council and was disbarred. Whitling admitted that he converted funds belonging to the law firm where he was employed and from a trust of which he was trustee.

Suspensions & Stayed Suspensions

Paul L. Erickson of Asheville filed frivolous pleadings and made false representations to the court in multiple cases, thereby facilitating mortgage and credit card "elimination" scams. The DHC imposed a five year active suspension.

The DHC dissolved a stay of the two-year suspension imposed in 2006 against Robert C. Howes, formerly of Statesville and now of Chapel Hill. The suspension had been stayed for five years conditioned upon Howes' compliance with numerous conditions. Howes failed to comply.

Thomas L. Nesbit of Mocksville is on interim suspension pending the outcome of a disciplinary action to be filed with the DHC. Nesbit pled guilty in Davie County Superior Court to one count of obtaining property by false pretenses, a felony.

Barry G. Roberts, of Atlanta, GA, is on interim suspension based upon his guilty plea in the Northern District of Texas to the felony of making a false statement to the IRS.

Amanda S. Smith of Winterville was suspended for five years. Smith neglected clients, failed to communicate, failed to return unearned fees, failed to participate in the fee dispute resolution process, failed to properly account for entrusted funds, and failed to respond to the State Bar.

Robert M. Talford of Charlotte was found by the DHC to have charged an illegal or clearly excessive fee, engaged in a conflict of interest, and failed to turn over his client's file. Talford was suspended for one year. After 60 days, the remainder of the suspension can be stayed upon compliance with enumerated conditions.

C. Gary Triggs of Morganton was suspended for five years. The suspension is stayed upon Triggs' compliance with numerous conditions. The DHC found that Triggs failed to promptly deliver to the IRS funds withheld from employee paychecks, failed to properly identify, hold, and maintain the separate identity of funds held in trust, utilized entrusted funds for an unauthorized purpose, entered into business transactions with a client, failed to transmit the terms of the transactions in writing to the client, failed to advise the client in writing of the desirability of independent legal advice, failed to afford the client a reasonable opportunity to obtain such advice, and failed to obtain the client's informed consenT.

Disability Inactive Status

Peter K. Gemborys of Wilmington was transferred to disability inactive status.


The DHC censured Ernest C. Dummit, who practices primarily in Winston-Salem, for sending a direct mail solicitation letter implying ability to improperly influence a government official; failing to remove a district court judge's former law office sign for six months when he leased the judge's former law office, implying the existence of an ongoing professional relationship with the judge; and signing and sending a remittal of disqualification containing false statements.

Rhonda R. Hipkins, who practices in Stallings, was censured by the DHC for making a false representation to a law enforcement officer.


Michael P. Caviness of Chadbourn was reprimanded for submitting fee applications for court-appointed representation that contained misrepresentations concerning time expended and fees due.

Mark I. Farbman of Charlotte received two reprimands. The first was for sending a direct mail solicitation containing extraneous information on the envelope. The second was for charging an unreasonable or clearly excessive fee and for making false or misleading communications about his fees and services.

Benita Gibbs of Cary was reprimanded for her negligence in searching a title. Gibbs also failed to make it clear to an interested party that Gibbs did not represent any party at mediation, failed to make Gibbs' personal interest known in the matter, and failed to inform an interested party of the option of hiring independent counsel. Gibbs was also slow to respond to the State Bar.

Robert J. Lane of Raleigh was reprimanded for failure to file an EEOC complaint timely and for failure to communicate effectively with his clienT.

Eric D. Levine of Charlotte received two reprimands. The first was for filing an affidavit purportedly but not actually signed by his clienT. Levine instructed his secretary/notary to make a false jurat indicating that the client appeared before the secretary, signed the affidavit, and attested to the  truthfulness of the affidaviT. The Grievance Committee found as a mitigating factor that the client had given Levine permission to sign her name to the affidavit and later affirmed the truthfulness of the affidaviT. The second reprimand was for directly contacting a represented party after being specifically instructed by opposing counsel not to do so.

Roy H. Patton of Canton was reprimanded for failing to communicate with his client and failing to take reasonable steps to protect his client's interests.

John Reitzel Jr. of High Point was reprimanded for communicating with constituents of an entity known to be represented by counsel without the knowledge or consent of that counsel.

Robert Trobich of Charlotte was reprimanded for failure to respond timely to the  State Bar.

Karen Zaman of Chapel Hill received a reprimand from the Grievance Committee for her conduct in two matters. In one, she neglected her client's case and failed to communicate significant information to her clienT. In the other, she drafted and filed pleadings for a purportedly pro se client in a case pending in a jurisdiction in which Zaman was not licensed to practice law.

Petitions for Reinstatement

The license of Mark Anthony Key was reinstated on May 19, 2008. Key's license had been suspended for 90 days for his failure to comply with a condition of the Order of Discipline imposed upon him by the DHC on May 12, 2003.

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