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From the Spring 2018 Journal

Disbarments

Johnny S. Gaskins of Raleigh surrendered his law license and was disbarred by the Wake County Superior Court. Gaskins acknowledged that he forged signatures on the back of a settlement check with the intent to defraud the bank, failed to deposit the check into a trust account, and embezzled the proceeds of the check.

Mital M. Patel of Raleigh surrendered his law license and was disbarred by the council at the October 2017 meeting. He acknowledged that he misappropriated entrusted funds totaling at least $3,300. 

Carlos B. Watson of Charlotte embezzled entrusted funds and violated multiple other trust accounting rules. He was disbarred by the Disciplinary Hearing Commission.

Suspensions & Stayed Suspensions

Cowles Liipfert of Winston-Salem willfully failed to file state income tax returns and to timely pay state tax obligations for 2012, 2013, and 2014. The DHC suspended him for two years. The suspension is stayed for two years upon compliance with numerous conditions.

Darin P. Meece of Durham forged the name of a former client to a corrective deed and notarized his forgery of the signature. The DHC concluded that Meece’s conduct was dishonest and deceitful but that he acted without a selfish motive. He was suspended for one year.

Darnell Parker of Greenville violated multiple trust accounting rules. The DHC suspended him for two years. The suspension is stayed for two years upon compliance with numerous conditions.

The Lincoln County Superior Court suspended Blair M. Pettis of Lincolnton until further order of the court. The court concluded that Pettis did not comply with a Consent Interim Order and Recovery Program. 

Judicial Action

Charles R. Gurley of Goldsboro was held in contempt by the Wake County Superior Court for failing to comply with the court’s order to deliver trust account records to the State Bar. The court enjoined Gurley from practicing law until he fully complies with all State Bar requests for information.

Interim Suspensions

The chair of the DHC entered an interim suspension of the law license of Matthew A. Smith of Raleigh. Smith was convicted in Wake County of taking indecent liberties with a child, a felony, in violation of N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-202.1.

Reprimands

John Mansfield of Cary was reprimanded by the Grievance Committee. He did not properly safeguard entrusted funds and did not supervise his nonlawyer staff.

Transfers to Disability Inactive Status

The chair of the Grievance Committee transferred Michael A. Schlosser of Greensboro to disability inactive status.

Reinstatements

Tracey Cline was the elected district attorney of Durham County until she was removed from office pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7A-66. In June 2015, Cline was suspended by the DHC for five years for filing pleadings containing false and outrageous statements about a judge and making false representations in court filings in an attempt to obtain confidential prison visitation records. After she served two years of the suspension, Cline was eligible to petition for a stay of the balance upon demonstrating compliance with enumerated conditions. Cline did not petition for a stay. She petitioned for reinstatement but did not appear at the hearing on that petition. The DHC denied the petition. 

Stayed Suspensions Activated

In January 2016 the DHC suspended Nicholas S. Ackerman of Greensboro for one year. Ackerman did not communicate with his client, did not respond promptly to the Grievance Committee, and did not participate in mandatory fee dispute resolution. The suspension was stayed for two years. The DHC concluded that Ackerman did not comply with conditions of the stay relating to a practice monitor, CLE requirements, communication with the State Bar, and payment of costs and administrative fees of the disciplinary action. The DHC lifted the stay and activated the suspension. After serving six months of the suspension, Ackerman may apply for a stay of the balance.

In July 2015 the DHC suspended Robert M. Gallant of Charlotte for two years because he did not timely file federal and state income tax returns in 2007 through 2013. The suspension was stayed for two years. In October 2017 the DHC concluded that Gallant did not comply with conditions of the stay requiring him to execute releases authorizing the IRS and NC Department of Revenue to communicate with the State Bar, timely file tax returns, pay his 2015 tax liability, comply with treatment recommendations of an evaluating mental health professional, and fulfill State Bar membership and CLE requirements. The DHC lifted the stay and activated Gallant’s suspension. 

In March 2015 the DHC suspended David A. Lloyd of Spindale for three years. Lloyd violated trust accounting rules and did not report misappropriation of entrusted funds by his law practice associate. The suspension was stayed for three years. The DHC concluded that Lloyd did not comply with conditions of the stay requiring him to fulfill CLE requirements, pay costs and administrative fees of the disciplinary action, and engage a CPA to conduct semi-annual audits of his trust account. The DHC lifted the stay and activated the suspension.

In September 2015 the DHC suspended Jeffrey D. Smith of Charlotte for two years for violating trust accounting rules. The suspension was stayed for three years. The DHC concluded that Smith violated multiple conditions of the stay, including conditions requiring him to demonstrate proper trust accounting procedures. The DHC imposed additional conditions and extended the length of the stay. 

In December 2016 the DHC suspended Michael S. Williamson of Goldsboro for three years for violating trust accounting rules. The suspension was stayed for three years. The DHC concluded that Williamson violated several conditions of the stay, including requirements that he submit CPA audits of his trust account and pay costs and administrative fees of the disciplinary action. The DHC announced that it will lift the stay and activate the suspension. 

Orders of Reciprocal Discipline

The chair of the Grievance Committee issued an order of reciprocal discipline censuring Kahiel R. Barlow of Huntsville, Alabama. He was censured by the Board of Professional Responsibility of the Supreme Court of Tennessee in October 2016 for practicing law while he was administratively suspended. 

The chair of the Grievance Committee issued an order of reciprocal discipline suspending Joel M. Bresler of Lakeland, Florida, for 91 days. The Supreme Court of Florida suspended Bresler for 91 days in January 2015. Bresler was a witness in the federal prosecution of his former employer and was granted immunity. Bresler drafted a false promissory note for the former employer, destroyed his own bank records at the direction of the former employer, and exaggerated to law enforcement the extent of his attorney/client relationship with the former employer. 

Notices of Intent to Seek Reinstatement

In the Matter of Theodore G. Hale 

Notice is hereby given that Theodore G. Hale of Wilmington intends to file a petition for reinstatement before the Disciplinary Hearing Commission of The North Carolina State Bar. Hale executed an affidavit of tender of surrender of license on October 13, 2004, and he filed said affidavit in the offices of the State Bar on October 14, 2004. Based on the affidavit, the chair found that Hale had misappropriated money from his former law partner, charged and collected money from the parents of a criminal defendant whom he was appointed to represent without telling them that he was obligated to represent their son at State expense due to the court appointment, and represented a woman in a divorce/equitable distribution case and collected and converted to his own use the proceeds of an annuity contract in the amount of $15,287.09, most of which belonged to her. An Order of Disbarment was issued against Hale on October 14, 2004, and was effective immediately. 

In the Matter of James E. Ferguson III 

Notice is hereby given that James E. Ferguson III intends to file a petition for reinstatement before the Disciplinary Hearing Commission of the North Carolina State Bar. On July 28, 2005, Ferguson entered a plea of guilty in US Federal Court to one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud, mail fraud, and wire fraud. This conviction provided the substance of a grievance filed against Ferguson by the Grievance Committee of the North Carolina State Bar. On or about August 23, 2005, Ferguson tendered an Affidavit of Surrender of his license. On October 21, 2005, the tender of the surrender was accepted by the State Bar and Ferguson was disbarred 

Individuals who wish to note their concurrence with or opposition to these petitions should file written notice with the secretary of the North Carolina State Bar, PO Box 25908, Raleigh, NC, 27611, before May 1, 2018 (60 days after publication). 

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