Justia Legal Ethics Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in North Carolina Supreme Court

By
The Judicial Standards Commission (JSC) imposed a public reprimand on Judge Jerry R. Tillett (Defendant), a judge in Judicial District One of the General Court of Justice, Superior Court Division, for misconduct while in public office. Defendant accepted the reprimand, and the JSC’s official filing constituted the Commission’s final action on the matter. Two years after Defendant accepted the reprimand, the State Bar commenced a disciplinary action against Defendant by filing a complaint with the North Carolina State Bar Disciplinary Hearing Commission (DHC). Defendant filed a motion to dismiss the complaint. The DHC denied the motion to dismiss, arguing that the DHC infringes upon the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction by initiating attorney disciplinary proceedings against a sitting member of the General Court of Justice for conduct while in office. The Supreme Court reversed the DHC’s denial of Defendant’s motion to dismiss, holding that the DHC lacks the authority to investigate and discipline Defendant for his conduct while in office. View "North Carolina State Bar v. Tillett" on Justia Law

By
The Judicial Standards Commission entered a recommendation that Respondent James T. Hill, a judge of the General Court of Justice, District Court Division, be publicly reprimanded for conduct in violation of the North Carolina Code of Judicial Conduct and for conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice that brings the judicial office into disrepute in violation of N.C. Gen. Stat. 7A-376 for engaging in inappropriate conduct while presiding over divorce proceedings. The Supreme Court concluded that the Commission’s findings of fact were supported by clear, cogent, and convincing evidence in the record and that the Commission’s findings of fact supported its conclusions of law. Based upon these findings and conclusions, which the Court adopted as its own, the Supreme Court concluded and adjudged that Respondent should be publicly reprimanded. View "In re Judge James T. Hill" on Justia Law

By
The North Carolina Judicial Standards Commission recommended that Respondent John Totten, a district court judge, be censured for conduct in violation of the North Carolina Code of Judicial Conduct and conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice that brings the judicial office into disrepute in violation of N.C. Gen. Stat. 7A-376(b). Respondent had suppressed the breath alcohol concentration test taken by a defendant charged with driving while impaired and careless and reckless driving without a motion to suppress and a hearing as required by law. The Supreme Court ordered that Respondent be censured for violating the Code of Judicial Conduct and section 7A-376(b). View "In re Totten" on Justia Law

By
As a result of conduct inappropriate to her judicial office, including disposing of at least eighty-two cases in violation of the N.C. General Statutes, the Judicial Standards Commission entered a recommendation that the Supreme Court suspend Respondent Denise Hartsfield, a district court judge, without compensation for a suitable period of time. Respondent had moved traffic citations off their scheduled court dates and added them to traffic dockets that she presided over with the alleged understanding that Respondent would enter a favorable judgment in those matters. After weighing the severity of Respondent's conduct against her candor and her cooperation, the Court concluded that Respondent should be suspended without compensation from the performance of her judicial duties for seventy-five days. View "In re Hartsfield" on Justia Law

By
In this appeal the Supreme Court considered whether the clerk of superior court had the authority to determine the reasonableness of attorney's fees that a trustee-attorney in a foreclosure proceeding paid to himself in addition to his trustee's commission. The superior court affirmed the clerk's order. The court of appeals vacated the clerk's and trial court's orders, holding that the clerk lacked the statutory authority to determine the reasonableness of attorney's fees paid in a foreclosure proceeding. The Supreme Court affirmed the court of appeals, holding (1) the clerk exceeded his statutory authority by reducing the trustee-attorney's attorney's fees, and (2) absent a viable challenge for breach of fiduciary duty from a creditor with standing, the trustee-attorney's payment of attorney's fees to himself in addition to a trustee's commission could not be upset. View "In re Foreclosure of Vogler Realty, Inc." on Justia Law