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From the Sunner 2022 Journal

NOTE: More than 29,000 people are eligible 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.

Suspensions & Stayed Suspensions

Beverly Berniece Cook of Murphy pled guilty in 2019 to failing to file her North Carolina income tax returns for 2014, 2015, and 2016. She also failed to timely file and pay her federal income tax obligations for the same time period. The DHC suspended her license for three years. The suspension is stayed for three years upon compliance with enumerated conditions.

Robin Dale Fussell of Charlotte engaged in misconduct and a conflict of interest in connection with real estate closings. His license was suspended for one year. The suspension is stayed for one year upon compliance with enumerated conditions.

William Morgan of Elizabeth City did not conduct quarterly trust account reviews and reconciliations, did not maintain records sufficient to identify the owners of funds in his trust account, did not adequately supervise assistants to whom he delegated trust account duties, did not ensure entrusted funds were deposited into his trust account, did not promptly correct the resulting deficiencies in his trust account, and did not promptly disburse entrusted funds. The DHC suspended his license for four years. The suspension is stayed for four years upon compliance with enumerated conditions.

Daniel Rufty of Charlotte aided in the criminal practice of debt adjusting, did not supervise his nonlawyer assistants, and made false statements to his clients. He was suspended by the DHC for five years. After serving six months of the suspension, Rufty will be eligible to petition for a stay of the balance upon demonstrating compliance with enumerated conditions.

Scott Shelton of Hendersonville neglected and did not communicate with numerous clients; did not respond to the Grievance Committee; released escrow funds without authority to do so; did not return a client file; did not deposit entrusted funds into a trust account; did not provide required accountings of entrusted funds; engaged in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation; disbursed funds from his trust account on behalf of a client for whom no funds were in the account; and handled entrusted funds when he was enjoined by the Wake County Superior Court from doing so. He was suspended for five years. The suspension begins to run upon expiration of the three-year suspension imposed upon him in 17 DHC 1. At the end of the five-year suspension, Shelton must satisfy numerous conditions before he will be eligible for reinstatement.

Petitions for Reinstatement

In August 2019, Susan Lynch of Raeford was suspended for five years by the DHC for failing to communicate with clients, failing to disclose a conflict of interest, making false statements, and engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice. After serving 18 months of active suspension, Lynch petitioned for a stay of the balance of her suspension. Her petition was granted. The State Bar did not contest the petition because Lynch satisfied all conditions for a stay.

Censures

Richard L. Cox of Asheboro was censured by the Grievance Committee. He did not communicate to the borrowers and the lender when he discovered a deed of trust not contained in the loan application or documentation, did not take action necessary to clear title of an encumbrance in a refinance, engaged in representation with a concurrent conflict of interest when he continued to represent the borrowers and lender in the refinance without full disclosure to them and without obtaining informed consent, and engaged in an impermissible business transaction with the borrowers.

Tamara Lee of Hendersonville submitted orders in two child support cases to a judge ex parte, falsely representing to the court that opposing counsel had consented to entry of the orders. Lee was censured by the Grievance Committee for failing to inform the court in an ex parte proceeding of all material facts that would enable the tribunal to make an informed decision, failing to comply with known local customs of courtesy or practice of the bar, knowingly making a material false statement of fact to the tribunal, and engaging in conduct involving dishonesty that was prejudicial to the administration of justice.

Rebecca Moriello of Raleigh was convicted of two federal misdemeanors for failing to comply with a posted regulation and the directives of a court official regarding use of her cell phone during an immigration court proceeding. Moriello was censured by the Grievance Committee for engaging in criminal conduct reflecting adversely on her fitness as a lawyer and for behavior that was disruptive to the court and thereby prejudiced the administration of justice.

Reprimands

David Ahmadi of Raleigh demanded that a realtor provide him a rebate on a home sale although he was not a party to the sale and he did not have a legitimate claim for a rebate. In his communications regarding the demanded rebate, Ahmadi used expletives and made threats regarding the realtor’s professional future. Ahmadi filed a motion for a restraining order against the realtor and made a material misrepresentation to the court when he included two other parties as plaintiffs without their knowledge and consent. He was reprimanded by the Grievance Committee.

The Grievance Committee reprimanded Clarence V. Mattocks of High Point. Mattocks was appointed successor guardian of an estate in 2012. He sent one letter to the former guardian attempting to obtain possession of the property of the estate. The former guardian did not respond to his letter and Mattocks made no further attempts to obtain possession of the property of the estate. Between 2013 and 2018, the clerk’s office sent to Mattocks 24 notices to file an inventory and/or annual accountings. Mattocks ignored those notices until an order to file accounting was served upon him by the sheriff, over six years after his appointment.

Andre T. McDavid of Raleigh represented a party in a child custody and support case. McDavid invited the opposing party to attend a “mediation” at his office and sent a text message thanking the opposing party for choosing his firm for answers to his legal questions. The opposing party attended the “mediation” with his current wife. McDavid later filed a motion to compel against the opposing party’s current wife and complimented her appearance for no purpose other than to harass her when she appeared at the hearing on his motion. McDavid falsely represented to the State Bar that he did not know who the opposing party’s current wife was when he complimented her on her appearance and did not know why she was in the courtroom. While the opposing party was represented by counsel in pending child support litigation, McDavid went to the opposing party’s home during a custodial exchange, approached the opposing party, engaged in a verbal altercation with the opposing party, and made derogatory remarks about him and his failure to pay child support. The Grievance Committee reprimanded him.

The Grievance Committee reprimanded Kathleen G. Sumner of Hampstead. In a case before the North Carolina Industrial Commission, Sumner made false statements of material fact or law to a tribunal and did not correct false statements of material fact or alaw previously made to the tribunal.

James Zellinger of Greensboro was reprimanded by the Grievance Committee. Zellinger filed a civil action against a couple that he claimed had caused damage to his home. His civil complaint included a claim for legal fees allegedly owed to him for legal services he provided to the couple, but he had not previously notified the couple of the State Bar’s Fee Dispute Resolution Program. Zellinger demanded that the opposing party dismiss the grievance they had submitted to the State Bar as a condition of settlement.

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