Henry V. (“Van”) Barnette III of Raleigh surrendered his license and was disbarred by the Wake County Superior Court. Barnette falsely reported to his law firm billable time for legal services he did not perform. The false entries, which occurred in at least 15 different client matters, amounted to approximately $10,000 in billable hours, some of which was collected from Barnette’s clients.
J. Lee Carlton Jr. of Raleigh surrendered his license and was disbarred by the Wake County Superior Court. Carlton knowingly prepared HUD-1 Settlement Statements that did not accurately show the disbursements in FHA insured real estate transactions. He pled guilty in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina to making false statements to HUD in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1012.
David Shawn Clark of Hickory pled guilty in Catawba County Superior Court to two counts of misdemeanor communicating threats and one count of common law obstruction of justice. The DHC concluded that he engaged in a sexual relationship with a client who was a victim of domestic violence; asked the client to lie and deny the sexual relationship so Clark could defend against an alienation of affection lawsuit threatened by the client’s husband; when she refused to lie, threatened the client with using information he had obtained during the attorney-client relationship to cause her to lose custody of her children; threatened to kill his legal secretary after she refused to lie about her knowledge of the sexual relationship; filed a verified complaint in support of a frivolous lawsuit against his client alleging falsely that he did not have a sexual relationship with the client and alleging that the client defamed him by saying otherwise; revealed confidential client information in the defamation lawsuit; and made false statements to the Grievance Committee. The DHC announced its decision to disbar Clark.
David Duke of Raleigh misappropriated entrusted funds, neglected multiple clients, and did not respond to the State Bar. He surrendered his license and was disbarred by the DHC.
Phillip Gilfus of Fayetteville misappropriated funds belonging to a civic organization while serving as its treasurer. He was disbarred by the DHC.
Matthew J. Lester of Charlotte surrendered his license and was disbarred by the Wake County Superior Court. Lester misappropriated funds from his trust account.
Suspensions & Stayed Suspensions
William Belk, a former district court judge from Charlotte, was removed from office by the Supreme Court for making false statements to the Judicial Standards Commission. The DHC announced its decision to suspend Belk for three years. After one year, Belk may petition for a stay of the balance upon compliance with conditions.
Ashley Cannon of Winston-Salem did not provide a candid statement of fact in her application for a domestic violence protective order against her former boyfriend. She also did not testify candidly in the hearing on that order. The DHC suspended Cannon for two years. The suspension is stayed for two years upon her compliance with numerous conditions.
Marshall Dotson III of Asheboro neglected three clients. He was suspended by the DHC for five years. After serving one year active suspension, Dotson may petition for a stay of the balance upon compliance with numerous conditions.
Jason Gold of Raleigh represented a couple in a loan transaction. After the closing, Gold discovered that one of the clients had not signed all closing documents. With her consent, he signed her name on five documents and notarized or acknowledged her purported signature. Gold made false statements to the Notary Enforcement Section of the Secretary of State’s Office and signed an affidavit containing false statements that his clients’ adversary used in support of summary judgment. The DHC suspended Gold for five years. After serving two years active suspension, Gold may petition for a stay of the balance upon compliance with numerous conditions.
In 2005 Rex Gore of Shallotte was the elected district attorney in the 13th prosecutorial district. He entered into an agreement to hire Elaine Kelley of Linden to serve as a senior assistant district attorney. In addition to salary, Gore and Kelley agreed that Kelley would be compensated by reimbursement of mileage she did not incur. After entering into this agreement, Kelley submitted 63 expense reports containing false certifications of mileage and received purported reimbursement of $14,190.39 for mileage she had not driven. Gore pled guilty to the criminal charge of willful failure to discharge the duties of his office. As part of his plea agreement, he was suspended for six months by the Brunswick County Superior Court.
After Scott David Beal of Winston-Salem was suspended for two years by the Illinois Supreme Court, the Grievance Committee entered an order of reciprocal discipline suspending his license to practice law in North Carolina for two years. Beal’s misconduct included lack of diligence and failure to deliver entrusted funds promptly. Beal’s reinstatement in North Carolina is conditioned on his reinstatement in Illinois.
Show Cause Orders
In February 2013 the DHC suspended Thomas Clements of Fayetteville for two years because he did not inform his clients that he was administratively suspended and did not properly wind down his law practice. The suspension was stayed for two years upon compliance with numerous conditions. Clements violated several conditions. The DHC entered a consent order activating the two-year suspension.
In March 2013 the DHC suspended Wilbur Linton of High Point for two years because Linton did not maintain required trust accounting records. The suspension was stayed for three years upon compliance with numerous conditions. Linton violated several conditions. The DHC entered a consent order activating the two-year suspension.
The chair of the DHC entered an order of interim suspension in the case of Kia Narissa Scott of Concord. Scott pled guilty to common law obstruction of justice, a criminal offense showing professional unfitness.
Camilla J. Davis of Durham was censured by the Grievance Committee. Davis’ fee agreement improperly indicated that she had an absolute right to withdraw. Davis did not give notice of appeal for her client and did not take steps to protect her client’s interests when she withdrew.
Clarke K. Wittstruck of Asheville was censured by the Grievance Committee. Wittstruck charged an improper fee, did not participate in the State Bar’s mandatory fee dispute process, and did not timely respond to the State Bar.
The Grievance Committee reprimanded William E. Brown of Fayetteville because he did not respond to the committee.
Luther A. Douglas III of Laurinburg was reprimanded by the Grievance Committee. The clerk of court held him in contempt for willful failure to perform his duties as administrator of three estates.
The Grievance Committee reprimanded John F. Hanzel of Cornelius. Hanzel engaged in a conflict of interest by representing two clients with opposing interests and failing to withdraw immediately when he became aware of the conflict.
Barry Kempson of Asheville was reprimanded by the DHC. Kempson did not supervise his staff, resulting in an employee stealing entrusted funds from a client for whom Kempson served as attorney-in-fact.
William W. Noel III of Henderson was reprimanded by the Grievance Committee. Noel repeatedly undertook to represent clients and failed to provide the promised legal services. The Grievance Committee noted that it did not refer Noel to the DHC for trial because Noel was already serving an active suspension of his law license.
James P. Sledge of Durham was reprimanded by the Grievance Committee. Sledge prepared a will for his client leaving a substantial bequest to himself, included in the will a method for calculating his executor’s commission that was contrary to the best interest of the estate, and did not advise his client to seek independent legal advice before signing the will.
Clarke K. Wittstruck of Asheville was reprimanded by the Grievance Committee. Wittstruck neglected and did not adequately communicate with his client and did not participate in the State Bar’s mandatory fee dispute resolution process.
Transfers to Disability Inactive Status
The New Hanover Superior Court transferred Sam Drewes Ryan of Carolina Beach to disability inactive status.
In September 2009 the DHC suspended Tolly Albert Kennon of Charlotte for three years. Kennon improperly advised unrepresented persons who were potential witnesses against his clients in two criminal cases and whose interests were potentially in conflict with those of his clients. His advice, if followed, had the potential to obstruct the government’s access to these witnesses. He complied with all requirements for reinstatement and was reinstated by the secretary on August 12.
The Fall 2013 Journal included a summary that disbarred lawyer Matthew Nestor knowingly facilitated fraudulent real estate transactions. The specific conduct admitted by Mr. Nestor in his affidavit of surrender is that he knowingly prepared HUD-1 Settlement Statements that did not accurately show the disbursements in certain real estate transactions at the direction of a third party and thus enabled others to use his services to facilitate fraud. This is published to correct any inconsistency between the summary and Mr. Nestor’s admission.
Notices of Intent to Seek Reinstatement
Individuals who wish to note their concurrence with or opposition to these petitions should file written notice with the secretary of the State Bar, PO Box 25908, Raleigh, NC 27611, before February 1, 2014 (60 days from publication).
In the Matter of Ralph Bryant Jr.
Notice is hereby given that Ralph Bryant Jr. intends to file a petition for reinstatement before the Disciplinary Hearing Commission of the North Carolina State Bar. Bryant surrendered his license in November 2007 as a result of allegations of misappropriation of client funds held in an IOLTA account.
THE NORTH CAROLINA STATE BAR
217 E. Edenton Street • PO Box 25908 • Raleigh, NC 27611-5908 • 919.828.4620
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