84-28. Discipline and disbarment.

(a) Any attorney admitted to practice law in this State is subject to the disciplinary jurisdiction of the Council under such rules and procedures as the Council shall adopt as provided in G.S. 84-23.

(b) The following acts or omissions by a member of the North Carolina State Bar or any attorney admitted for limited practice under G.S. 84-4.1, individually or in concert with any other person or persons, shall constitute misconduct and shall be grounds for discipline whether the act or omission occurred in the course of an attorney-client relationship or otherwise:

(1) Conviction of, or a tender and acceptance of a plea of guilty or no contest to, a criminal offense showing professional unfitness;

(2) The violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct adopted and promulgated by the Council in effect at the time of the act;

(3) Knowing misrepresentation of any facts or circumstances surrounding any complaint, allegation or charge of misconduct; failure to answer any formal inquiry or complaint issued by or in the name of the North Carolina State Bar in any disciplinary matter; or contempt of the Council or any committee of the North Carolina State Bar.

(c) Misconduct by any attorney shall be grounds for:

(1) Disbarment;

(2) Suspension for a period up to but not exceeding five years, any portion of which may be stayed upon reasonable conditions to which the offending attorney consents;

(3) Censure - A censure is a written form of discipline more serious than a reprimand issued in cases in which an attorney has violated one or more provisions of the Rules of Professional Conduct and has caused significant harm or potential significant harm to a client, the administration of justice, the profession or members of the public, but the protection of the public does not require suspension of the attorney's license;

(4) Reprimand - A reprimand is a written form of discipline more serious than an admonition issued in cases in which an attorney has violated one or more provisions of the Rules of Professional Conduct, but the protection of the public does not require a censure. A reprimand is generally reserved for cases in which the attorney's conduct has caused harm or potential harm to a client, the administration of justice, the profession, or members of the public; or

(5) Admonition - An admonition is a written form of discipline imposed in cases in which an attorney has committed a minor violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct.

Any order disbarring or suspending an attorney may impose reasonable conditions precedent to reinstatement. No attorney who has been disbarred by the Disciplinary Hearing Commission, the Council, or by order of any court of this State may seek reinstatement to the practice of law prior to five years from the effective date of the order of disbarment. Any order of the Disciplinary Hearing Commission or the Grievance Committee imposing an admonition, reprimand, censure, or stayed suspension may also require the attorney to complete a reasonable amount of continuing legal education in addition to the minimum amount required by the North Carolina Supreme Court.

(d) Any attorney admitted to practice law in this State, who is convicted of or has tendered and has had accepted, a plea of guilty or no contest to, a criminal offense showing professional unfitness, may be disciplined based upon the conviction, without awaiting the outcome of any appeals of the conviction. An order of discipline based solely upon a conviction of a criminal offense showing professional unfitness shall be vacated immediately upon receipt by the Secretary of the North Carolina State Bar of a certified copy of a judgment or order reversing the conviction. The fact that the attorney's criminal conviction has been overturned on appeal shall not prevent the North Carolina State Bar from conducting a disciplinary proceeding against the attorney based upon the same underlying facts or events that were the subject of the criminal proceeding.

(d1) An attorney who is disciplined as provided in subsection (d) of this section may petition the court in the trial division in the judicial district where the conviction occurred for an order staying the disciplinary action pending the outcome of any appeals of the conviction. The court may grant or deny the stay in its discretion upon such terms as it deems proper. A stay of the disciplinary action by the court shall not prevent the North Carolina State Bar from going forward with a disciplinary proceeding against the attorney based upon the same underlying facts or events that were the subject of the criminal proceeding.

(e) Any attorney admitted to practice law in this State who is disciplined in another jurisdiction shall be subject to the same discipline in this State: Provided, that the discipline imposed in the other jurisdiction does not exceed that provided for in subsection (c) above and that the attorney was not deprived of due process in the other jurisdiction.

(f) Upon application by the North Carolina State Bar, misconduct by an attorney admitted to practice in this State may be restrained or enjoined where the necessity for prompt action exists regardless of whether a disciplinary proceeding in the matter of the conduct is pending. The application shall be filed in the Superior Court of Wake County and shall be governed by the procedure set forth in G.S. 1A-1, Rule 65.

(g) Any member of the North Carolina State Bar may be transferred to disability inactive status for mental incompetence, physical disability, or substance abuse interfering with the attorney's ability to competently engage in the practice of law under the rules and procedures the Council adopts pursuant to G.S. 84-23.

(h) There shall be an appeal of right by either party from any final order of the Disciplinary Hearing Commission to the North Carolina Court of Appeals. Review by the appellate division shall be upon matters of law or legal inference. The procedures governing any appeal shall be as provided by statute or court rule for appeals in civil cases. A final order which imposes disbarment or suspension for 18 months or more shall not be stayed except upon application, under the rules of the Court of Appeals, for a writ of supersedeas. A final order imposing suspension for less than 18 months or any other discipline except disbarment shall be stayed pending determination of any appeal of right.

(i) The North Carolina State Bar may invoke the process of the General Court of Justice to enforce the powers of the Council or any committee to which the Council delegates its authority.

(j) The North Carolina State Bar may apply to appropriate courts for orders necessary to protect the interests of clients of missing, suspended, disbarred, disabled, or deceased attorneys.

The senior regular resident judge of the superior court of any district wherein a member of the North Carolina State Bar resides or maintains an office shall have the authority and power to enter orders necessary to protect the interests of the clients, including the authority to order the payment of compensation by the member or the estate of a deceased or disabled member to any attorney appointed to administer or conserve the law practice of the member. Compensation awarded to a member serving under this section awarded from the estate of a deceased member shall be considered an administrative expense of the estate for purposes of determining priority of payment. (1933, c. 210, s. 11; 1937, c. 51, s. 3; 1959, c. 1282, ss. 1, 2; 1961, c. 1075; 1969, c. 44, s. 61; 1975, c. 582, s. 5; 1979, c. 570, ss. 6, 7; 1983, c. 390, ss. 2, 3; 1985, c. 167; 1987, c. 316, s. 4; 1989, c. 172, s. 2; 1991, c. 210, s. 5; 1995, c. 431, s. 18; 2005-237, s. 1.)