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From the Summer 2022 Journal

NOTE: More than 30,500 people are licensed to practice law in North Carolina. Some share the same or similar names. All discipline reports may be checked on the State Bar’s website at ncbar.gov/dhcorders.

Disbarments

H. Trade Elkins of Hendersonville pled guilty in the US District Court for the Western District of North Carolina to one felony count of wire fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1343. He was sentenced to 24 months in prison followed by supervised release and was ordered to pay restitution of $545,738.90. Elkins tendered an affidavit of surrender of his law license and was disbarred by the Disciplinary Hearing Commission.

Brian Love of Durham submitted an affidavit of surrender of his law license. Love used the personal information of victims to falsely register online accounts in their names, impersonated victims in sexually explicit communications with others, obtained and transmitted sexually explicit images of victims to others without their consent, and used fraudulent online accounts to repeatedly text victims, with the intent to harass them and cause them substantial emotional distress. Love pled guilty to the federal felony offenses of Aggravated Identity Theft and Stalking. He was disbarred by the Wake County Superior Court.

Nikita V. Mackey of Charlotte collected legal fees and engaged in the unauthorized practice of law while his law license was administratively suspended, neglected and did not communicate with two clients, did not refund unearned fees, made a false representation in his petition for reinstatement, did not participate in good faith in the mandatory fee dispute resolution process, and did not respond to the Grievance Committee. In a separate case, Mackey neglected and did not communicate with a client, vandalized cars owned by his former spouse and her father by discharging a firearm into them, negotiated a check upon which he forged his former spouse’s endorsement, and slept during a substantial portion of a client’s federal criminal trial. Mackey did not appear at the hearing and was disbarred by the DHC.

Suspensions & Stayed Suspensions

After participating in the Trust Account Compliance Program, Victoria Block of New Bern did not properly reconcile her trust account. She did not file a responsive pleading and default was entered. The DHC suspended her for two years. The suspension is stayed upon Block’s compliance with enumerated conditions.

Thomas O. Harper III of Atlanta did not file federal income tax returns from 2013 to 2017. He was suspended by the DHC for two years. The suspension is stayed for two years upon Harper’s compliance with enumerated conditions.

James Landivar of Charlotte assisted out-of-state entities in the unauthorized practice of law, shared fees with nonlawyers, made false or misleading statements about his services, engaged in conduct involving dishonesty or misrepresentation, neglected and did not communicate with clients, and did not properly supervise nonlawyer assistants. Landivar was suspended by the DHC for two years. The suspension was stayed upon his compliance with enumerated conditions.

Meg Sohmer Wood of Charlotte assisted out-of-state entities in the unauthorized practice of law, shared fees with nonlawyers, made false or misleading statements about her services, engaged in conduct involving dishonesty or misrepresentation, neglected and did not communicate with clients, and did not properly supervise nonlawyer assistants. The DHC suspended her for three years. The suspension is stayed upon Wood’s compliance with enumerated conditions.

Interim Suspensions

The chair of the DHC entered an order suspending the law license of Brian R. Harwell of Mooresville on an interim basis pending conclusion of disciplinary charges. Harwell pled guilty in Iredell County Superior Court to felony possession of methamphetamine, misdemeanor harboring a fugitive, and misdemeanor resisting a public officer. Harwell made one or more false statements to police officers regarding a client’s whereabouts when the officers arrived at Harwell’s home seeking to serve a warrant for the client’s arrest.

Censures

Justice H. Campbell of Charlotte was censured by the Grievance Committee. He did not make reasonable efforts to ensure his associate conformed to the Rules of Professional Conduct and did not take reasonable remedial action to avoid the consequences of his associate’s failure to communicate with a client, denying the client the opportunity to make informed decisions about his case. He demonstrated a lack of legal knowledge to competently represent the client and a lack of diligence in pursuing the client’s case. He made false statements to his client and to the Grievance Committee.

Ralph DiLeone of Raleigh was censured by the Grievance Committee. DiLeone hired Journey, a North Carolina resident who was licensed in California but not in North Carolina, to work as an attorney at his law firm. He permitted Journey to provide legal services to North Carolina residents in North Carolina legal matters and charged and collected fees from them for Journey’s work. He sponsored Journey for pro hac vice admission to North Carolina courts despite the fact that she was ineligible for such admission as a North Carolina resident. The motions for pro hac vice admission contained false statements about Journey’s eligibility for pro hac vice admission. DiLeone reported that he relied upon Journey to ascertain the legal requirements for pro hac vice admission and did not familiarize himself with applicable law. He reported to the State Bar that he therefore did not realize that the motions contained false statements. When he learned that the statements were false he did not promptly correct them and did not notify the court of Journey’s ineligibility for pro hac vice admission. The court discovered these facts independently and revoked the pro hac vice admissions with Journey’s consent. In issuing a censure, the Grievance Committee considered DiLeone’s refusal to acknowledge the wrongful nature of his conduct, lack of remorse, lack of efforts to rectify the consequences of the misconduct, and lack of prior discipline.

John Snyder of Matthews was censured by the Grievance Committee. Snyder represented the defendant in a civil lawsuit. After the plaintiff filed a voluntary dismissal with prejudice, Snyder filed an answer and motion for summary judgment, which had no basis in law or fact, and billed his client for doing so. Snyder did not communicate adequately with his client and did not respond to the district bar Grievance Committee. Although the misconduct specific to this client occurred before the DHC suspended him in 19DHC13, Snyder did not respond to the district bar Grievance Committee after his license was suspended for misconduct that included failing to respond to the State Bar Grievance Committee.

Ryan A. Spencer of Raleigh diverted a fee received from a client to himself, rather than to his law firm employer, which was entitled to the fee. Spencer was censured by the DHC.

Reprimands

Michele English of Chapel Hill was reprimand by the Grievance Committee. English undertook to sponsor an Ohio lawyer, Banks, for pro hac vice admission in multiple cases in two tribunals. English did not attend all hearings as she was required to do, did not properly register the pro hac vice admissions with the State Bar, and did not pay the required registration fees. When she was notified by the State Bar twice of the deficiencies and of what she must do to cure them, English forwarded the information to Banks and asked her to cure the deficiencies but took no action herself to cure the deficiencies.

David W. Hands of Charlotte was reprimanded by the Grievance Committee. He did not adequately supervise his paralegal, who wired a payoff pursuant to changed wire instructions without verifying the wire instructions beforehand. As a result, the payoff proceeds were wired to a fraudster’s account, and Hands incurred claims against his insurers, a lawsuit from his client, and loss of a significant portion of the payoff proceeds.

William Shilling of Murphy was reprimanded by the Grievance Committee. He solicited foster parents, through their attorney, to “tell the district attorney that they will not allow the child to testify” in exchange for his client, who was charged with criminal offenses regarding the child, agreeing not to oppose guardianship and agreeing to sign a relinquishment of her parental rights.

Charles Kunz of Durham was reprimanded by the Grievance Committee. Kunz filed incomplete immigration paperwork for a client and did not attach any of the necessary documentation. In a separate representation, Kunz made arrangements for the opposing party to travel to North Carolina to receive personal property without disclosing that he did not intend to deliver all of the personal property to the opposing party. After the opposing party made a fruitless trip to North Carolina, Kunz promised to mail the property to him but did not do so.

Kayce C. Staehle of Denver was reprimanded by the Grievance Committee. She made duplicate disbursements from her trust account in a real estate transaction because she did not maintain accurate client ledgers and did not properly reconcile her trust accounts. She also did not show substantive improvement in her trust account management after participation in the State Bar’s Trust Account Compliance program.

Completed Petitions for Reinstatement/Stay - Contested

Kenneth Irek of North Hills, California, was disbarred by the DHC in 1993 for misappropriating entrusted funds. The DHC denied Irek’s 2022 Rule 60 motion seeking to vacate the disbarment order on grounds that the State Bar allegedly did not exercise due diligence before serving him by publication and allegedly did not maintain complete records of the proceeding.

Ertle K. Chavis of Lumberton was disbarred in 2015 for misappropriating entrusted funds. The DHC granted the State Bar’s motion to dismiss his petition for reinstatement.

Transfers to Disability Inactive Status

Patricia W. Harvey of Asheville was transferred to disability inactive status by the DHC.

Notice of Intent to Seek Reinstatement

In the Matter of Harry L. Southerland

Notice is hereby given that Harry L. Southerland of Raeford intends to file a petition for reinstatement before the Disciplinary Hearing Commission. Southerland was disbarred effective August 9, 2004, by The North Carolina State Bar for misappropriating client funds for his own use.

Individuals who wish to note their concurrence with or opposition to this petition should file written notice with the secretary of the State Bar, PO Box 25908, Raleigh, NC 27611-5908, before August 1, 2022.
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