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From the Fall 2021 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.

Disbarments

Martin M. Brennan of Huntersville withheld funds from his employees’ paychecks for health insurance premiums and state and federal taxes and instead used the funds for his own purposes. Brennan also did not file and pay his state and federal income taxes for five tax years. He surrendered his license to the Disciplinary Hearing Commission and was disbarred.

Janet Reed of Jacksonville embezzled money from her stepfather while serving as his attorney-in-fact. Her answer was stricken because she did not respond to discovery requests. Reed was disbarred.

While serving as attorney-in-fact for a client, Cabell J. Regan of Pittsboro breached his fiduciary duty, engaged in dishonest conduct, collected an excessive fee, entered into a business transaction with the client, misappropriated the client’s entrusted funds, did not properly maintain and disburse entrusted funds, and did not maintain required trust account records. He is enjoined from handling entrusted funds and from serving in any fiduciary capacity. He was disbarred by the DHC.

Hayley C. Sherman of Mayodan pled guilty to the felony offenses of possession of marijuana with intent to manufacture, sell, or deliver in violation of N.C. Gen. Stat. § 90-95(a) (three counts); sale or delivery of marijuana in violation of N.C. Gen. Stat. § 90-95(a) (two counts); conspiracy to sell or deliver marijuana in violation of N.C. Gen. Stat. § 90-98 (two counts); maintaining a store, dwelling, vehicle, boat, or other place for use, storage, or sale of controlled substances in violation of N.C. Gen. Stat. § 90-I08(a)(7) (three counts); and one count of possession of a Schedule IV substance with intent to manufacture, sell, or deliver in violation of N.C. Gen. Stat. § 90-95(a); and to two counts of the misdemeanor offense of possession of marijuana paraphernalia in violation of N.C. Gen. Stat. § 90-113.22(a). The State Bar sought imposition of discipline based upon the criminal convictions and the underlying misconduct. Sherman was disbarred.

Karen C. Wright of Shelby was disbarred by the DHC for conduct including embezzling entrusted funds, committing perjury, and making false statements.

Suspensions & Stayed Suspensions

Guangya Liu of Durham habitually over-disbursed her trust account in real estate transactions; continued to do so after representing to the State Bar that she had amended her practices; and habitually left earned fees in her trust account. The DHC suspended her license for two years. The suspension is stayed for three years upon her compliance with enumerated conditions.

Patrick Megaro of Orlando, Florida, represented two brothers with IQs in the 50s, both of whom were sentenced to death and imprisoned for decades after being wrongfully convicted of the rape and murder of a child. They have now been exonerated. The DHC found that Megaro entered into a contract with the clients when he knew they did not have the capacity to understand it, charged an “irrevocable” fee, charged an excessive fee, made misrepresentations to his clients and to tribunals, and made arguments against his clients’ interests in an effort to protect his own fee. The DHC suspended Megaro’s license for five years. He will be eligible to petition for a stay after serving three years’ active suspension upon satisfaction of all enumerated conditions, including the requirement that he reimburse $250,000 to the clients.

Kenneth Ording of Hampstead did not adequately supervise assistant(s) to whom he delegated trust account duties, did not conduct required monthly and quarterly trust account reviews and reconciliations, disbursed funds from his trust account for clients in excess of any funds held for the clients in the trust account, had bank charges paid with entrusted funds, did not promptly disburse entrusted funds, did not always create and maintain client ledgers, did not ensure client ledgers were accurate, submitted inaccurate client ledgers to the State Bar altered to make it appear that clients for whom he had over-disbursed funds had zero balances with no excessive disbursements, and engaged in several other violations of the trust account record-keeping rules. Ording took corrective action with respect to some but not all of the trust account issues. Ording was suspended for four years. The suspension is stayed for four years upon his compliance with enumerated conditions.

James E. Rogers of Durham commingled personal funds with entrusted funds, disbursed funds for the benefit of clients from his trust account in excess of funds held for those clients in the account, did not timely and properly conduct quarterly reconciliations, did not deposit entrusted funds into his trust account, did not maintain accurate trust account records, did not promptly disburse entrusted funds, did not send required annual accountings to clients, did not properly supervise staff, and gave inaccurate information to a client and to the Grievance Committee. Rogers was suspended for three years. The suspension is stayed for three years upon his compliance with enumerated conditions.

Wesley S. White of Charlotte did not communicate with his client, did not adequately respond to discovery, and did not appear at multiple scheduled hearings, which resulted in his client’s arrest for contempt. He was suspended for two years. After serving three months of the suspension, White will be eligible to petition for a stay of the balance upon demonstrating compliance with enumerated conditions.

Petitions for Reinstatement

In April 2019, James Goard of Gaston County was suspended for five years for his conviction of two counts of driving while intoxicated and for engaging in the unauthorized practice of law, for failing to communicate with a client, and for misrepresenting information to a client and to the Grievance Committee. After serving two years of active suspension, Goard petitioned for a stay of the balance. The State Bar did not contest the petition because Goard had satisfied all conditions for a stay. A stay was entered on June 16.

In October 2020, Charles L. Morgan Jr. of Charlotte was suspended for three years for trust account mismanagement and violating the injunction prohibiting him from handling entrusted funds. After serving six months of active suspension, Morgan petitioned for a stay of the balance. The State Bar did not contest the petition because Morgan had satisfied all conditions for a stay. A stay was entered on June 29.

In June 2018, Julie A. Parker of Mocksville was suspended for five years for failing to truthfully account for and timely remit employment taxes to the IRS. After serving 18 months of active suspension, Parker petitioned for a stay of the balance. The State Bar did not contest the petition because Parker had satisfied all conditions for a stay. A stay was entered on July 1.

Completed Grievance Noncompliance Actions before the DHC

The DHC suspended Christi Misocky of Monroe for noncompliance with the investigation of several grievance files.

Censures

Eric Applefield of Charlotte was censured by the Grievance Committee. While serving as in-house counsel for real estate development companies, Applefield used the companies’ client records and other proprietary information acquired in his capacity as in-house counsel to divert business to his own LLC.

Jody P. Mitchell of Dobson was censured by the Grievance Committee. He presented an unfiled, facially defective, fictitious complaint to a judge to wrongfully subpoena unnecessary records of the opposing party in a domestic action, thereby engaging in abuse of process. Mitchell also did not serve the complaint on the opposing party.

Reprimands

The Grievance Committee served Raymond Godfrey of Fairmont with a letter of notice to which he was required to respond within 15 days of service. Godfrey did not respond to the letter of notice. The Grievance Committee reprimanded Godfrey for knowingly failing to respond to a lawful demand for information from a disciplinary authority.

R. Steve Monks of Raleigh did not comply with notice requirements before seeking an ex parte child custody order and did not disclose material facts to the court. In another case, Monks communicated with a represented party without opposing counsel’s consent. Monks was reprimanded by the Grievance Committee for failing to comply with known local customs of courtesy or practice of the bar, knowingly disobeying an obligation under the rules of a tribunal, failing to inform the tribunal in an ex parte proceeding of material facts that would enable the tribunal to make an informed decision, communicating with a represented party, and conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.

Peter Romary of Hillsborough communicated with various City of Greenville officials in an effort to obtain law enforcement surveillance video footage of then-ECU Interim Chancellor Dan Gerlach allegedly engaging in inappropriate behavior while intoxicated. During these communications, Romary asserted that he was representing members of the UNC Board of Governors and the ECU Board of Trustees, members of the North Carolina General Assembly, and the State (and National) Police Benevolent Association. These assertions were misrepresentations in that a reasonable lawyer under the circumstances would not have formed the opinion that these individuals and entities were his clients. During these communications, Romary also alleged without basis in fact that the law firm investigating the matter for the UNC system had potentially engaged in misconduct. Romary later filed a petition with the court to obtain the video footage in which he purported to represent an organization that was not his client. Romary was reprimanded by the Grievance Committee for, among other things, making false statements of material fact to a third party and to a tribunal. In determining that reprimand was the appropriate discipline, the committee took into consideration Romary’s lack of prior discipline and the isolated nature of this incident.

Robert G. Spaugh of Winston-Salem was reprimanded by the Grievance Committee. The committee concluded that Spaugh did not diligently represent his client, did not respond promptly to his client’s requests for information, and did not respond promptly to the Grievance Committee. The Grievance Committee found as an aggravating factor that Spaugh was reprimanded in 2009 for neglect, failing to keep his client reasonably informed, and failing to respond timely to the Grievance Committee.

Dismissals

It was alleged that Melvin L. Wall of Charlotte did not communicate with his client, did not perfect an appeal, and did not respond timely to the Grievance Committee. The DHC entered a default order establishing the allegations of misconduct and the rule violations. Wall died on May 8, before an order of discipline was entered. The State Bar filed a notice of voluntary dismissal.

Notice of Intent to Seek Reinstatement

In the Matter of Demetrius G. Rainer

Notice is hereby given that Demetrius G. Rainer of Charlotte, NC, intends to file a petition for reinstatement before the Disciplinary Hearing Commission of the North Carolina State Bar. Demetrius G. Rainer was disbarred in 2009 pursuant to a Consent Order of Disbarment filed on March 5, 2009.

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 of The North Carolina State Bar. 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 either petition should file written notice with the secretary of the State Bar, PO Box 25908, Raleigh, NC 27611-5908, before November 1, 2021.

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