Leon Robert Coxe III of Jacksonville surrendered his law license and was disbarred by the Wake County Superior Court. Coxe admitted that entrusted funds totaling $123,689 were misappropriated from his trust account and used for his personal benefit. Coxe asserted that his wife transferred the misappropriated funds, but admitted that he abdicated to his wife the duty to manage those funds and admitted that his wife had a prior history of trust account mismanagement. Coxe also admitted that he “borrowed” $150,000 from settlement funds owed to a client without the client’s informed consent, without advising her to seek independent counsel, and without providing her a reasonable opportunity to do so.
Geoffrey Simmons of Raleigh was disbarred by the Disciplinary Hearing Commission. He misappropriated entrusted funds.
Nicholas A. Stratas Jr. of Raleigh pled guilty in Wake County Superior Court to felony embezzlement, felony forgery, felony obstruction of justice, misdemeanor larceny, and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle. As part of his plea agreement, he surrendered his law license and was disbarred by the Wake County Superior Court.
R. Danette Underwood of Clayton surrendered her law license and was disbarred by the State Bar Council. Underwood admitted that she misappropriated entrusted funds exceeding $22,000.
Suspensions & Stayed Suspensions
Sameka Bennerman of Rocky Mount did not deposit intact into her trust account mixed funds comprised of her attorney fee, court costs, and fines, and did not properly maintain entrusted funds. The DHC suspended her for one year. The suspension is stayed for one year upon Bennerman’s compliance with numerous conditions.
Jeffrey Berman of Greensboro brought a frivolous custody action, made a false representation to the court, and concealed material information from the court while requesting ex parte relief. The DHC suspended his license for one year.
Dujuan Brown of Philadelphia was convicted in Virginia of the felony of driving while intoxicated – third offense and of hit and run. The DHC suspended him for three years. After serving one year of active suspension, he will be eligible to apply for a stay of the balance upon compliance with numerous conditions.
Thomas Clements of Fayetteville did not properly wind down his law practice and did not inform his clients after he was administratively suspended for failure to comply with CLE requirements. Clements was suspended for two years. The suspension is stayed for two years upon compliance with numerous conditions.
Melissa Goldsmith of Hendersonville did not issue final title opinions, did not disburse title insurance premiums, mismanaged entrusted funds, did not identify clients on checks, and did not respond to the State Bar. The DHC suspended Goldsmith for five years. After serving two years of active suspension, she will be eligible to apply for a stay of the remaining three years upon compliance with numerous conditions.
Wilbur L Linton Jr. of High Point did not adequately monitor his trust account and did not maintain required trust account records. The DHC suspended him for two years. The suspension is stayed for three years upon Linton’s compliance with numerous conditions.
Victor H. Morgan Jr., who was practicing in Jacksonville, had a random audit that uncovered numerous trust account deficiencies. There was no evidence of misappropriation. The DHC suspended Morgan for three years. After serving 18 months of active suspension, Morgan will be eligible to apply for a stay of the remaining 18 months upon compliance with numerous conditions.
Michael C. Park, formerly of Belmont and now in Texas, did not timely record deeds, did not disburse entrusted funds, and committed trust account recordkeeping violations. The DHC suspended him for one year. The suspension is stayed for one year upon Park’s compliance with numerous conditions.
In a 2-to-1 decision, the DHC concluded that the State Bar did not prove violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct by clear, cogent, and convincing evidence and dismissed the complaint against Gary Scarzafava of Raleigh.
The chair of the DHC entered an interim suspension of the law license of Hickory lawyer David Shawn Clark. The chair found that Clark pled guilty in Catawba County Superior Court to two counts of misdemeanor communicating threats and one count of common law obstruction of justice; engaged in a sexual relationship with a client; 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 the client refused to lie, threatened her with losing custody of her children; threatened to kill his legal secretary after she refused to lie about her knowledge of the sexual relationship between Clark and his client; made false statements in the defamation lawsuit he filed against his client; revealed his client’s confidential information; and made false statements to the Grievance Committee.
The chair of the DHC entered an interim suspension of Lake Waccamaw lawyer Robert H. Melville Jr. Melville pled guilty in federal court to the felonies of conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud.
Wanda Daughtry of Greensboro was censured by the Grievance Committee. Daughtry did not timely file inventories and accountings for several estates. She did not provide an accounting during six years of service as trustee of an irrevocable trust. She did not clearly explain to her workers’ compensation client that she was withdrawing from the representation and continued to communicate with the client about the case for 11 years.
Colin P. McWhirter of Shelby was censured by the Grievance Committee. In a speeding case, McWhirter did not appear for a scheduled court date, did not notify his client that he failed to appear, and did not promptly refund the unearned fee.
Samuel Richardson III of Oak Ridge was censured by the Grievance Committee. Richardson submitted an order to the court that he knew incorrectly included an award for attorney fees. He also engaged in improper ex parte communication by failing to provide opposing counsel a copy of his letter to the judge.
Joseph Eric Altman of Rockingham was reprimanded by the Grievance Committee. Altman did not appear for a scheduled court date and was held in criminal contempt because of his chronic failure to timely appear in court. In another client’s case, he did not reply to a counterclaim and did not respond to a discovery request. In a third matter, he prepared estate planning documents for a client at the direction of a third party without the client’s knowledge and consent.
Kenneth R. Davis of Elizabethtown was reprimanded by the Grievance Committee for failing to respond to the State Bar.
Robert D. Floyd of Colorado Springs, Colorado, was reprimanded twice by the Grievance Committee. In the first case, Floyd neglected and failed to communicate with two clients and did not respond to a petition for mandatory fee dispute resolution. In the second, Floyd did not deposit mixed funds into his trust account and did not perform legal services he undertook to perform.
Thomas L. Kummer of Las Vegas, Nevada, was reprimanded by the Grievance Committee. Kummer disbursed escrowed funds without the agreement of all parties and held himself out as able to practice law in Nevada, where he is not licensed.
Ronnie C. Reaves of Weldon was reprimanded by the Grievance Committee. Reaves prepared estate planning documents and a deed at the direction of a third party without the client’s knowledge or consent.
In November 2010 Michael F. Easley of Raleigh pled guilty to the felony offense of certification of a false campaign finance report. In January 2012 the DHC suspended Easley for two years. He received credit for time served on interim suspension. The secretary entered an order reinstating Easley to active practice effective February 4, 2013.
In October 2012 the Massachusetts Supreme Court suspended Jame I. Durodola of Charlotte for two months because he did not maintain professional liability insurance as required to accept appointments to represent indigent criminal defendants and knowingly made a false certification that he was covered by such insurance. In November 2012 the chair of the Grievance Committee entered an order of reciprocal discipline suspending Durodola for two months. The secretary entered an order reinstating Durodola to active practice effective March 25, 2013.
V. Richard Hayes of Raleigh sought reinstatement from a 2009 disciplinary suspension. During a January 2013 hearing, the DHC concluded that because he did not keep required trust account records, Hayes cannot comply with the conditions of reinstatement contained in the order of discipline. The DHC reinstated Hayes subject to extensive conditions, including that he must transfer funds currently in his trust account to the State Bar, pay to publish notice of the availability of the funds formerly held in the trust account, and pay the cost of any trustee or administrator necessary to handle claims to those entrusted funds.
The DHC denied the petition of Edwin A. Peters of Garner for reinstatement. Peters was disbarred in 2007 for misappropriating entrusted funds totaling at least $8,281.85.
Notice 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 August 1, 2013 (60 days from publication).
In the Matter of John C. Stiles
Notice is hereby given that John C. Stiles intends to file a petition for reinstatement before the Disciplinary Hearing Commission of the North Carolina State Bar. Stiles surrendered his license and was disbarred on April 14, 2000, for misappropriating clients’ funds while suffering from a mental disability and for which restitution has been made. n
THE NORTH CAROLINA STATE BAR
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