Betsy Wolfenden seeks new trial after discovering conflict at State Bar

On March 4, 2011, disbarred attorney Betsy Wolfenden argued to a three-member panel of the North Carolina State Bar's Disciplinary Commission that she should receive a new disciplinary hearing on the grounds the State Bar's witnesses -- Judge Joe Buckner, Judge Lunsford Long, Judge Beverly Scarlett, Donna Ambler Rice, Leigh Peek and Susan Lewis -- committed perjury. The Disciplinary Commission is an "arm" of the North Carolina State Bar and the three-member panels serve as both judge and jury at attorney disciplinary hearings. Wolfenden seeks to have disbarment order vacated.

Before March 4, the Chair of the North Carolina State Bar Disciplinary Commission, Sharon Alexander, replaced one member of Wolfenden's disciplinary panel with an attorney who had a conflict of interest. The attorney, Steven Michael of Kitty Hawk, concealed his conflict from Wolfenden on March 4 before denying Wolfenden's request for a new disciplinary hearing.

After Wolfenden became aware of Michael's conflict, she moved for a new trial and asked Alexander to turn over the written minutes from the meeting at which she appointed Michael to Wolfenden's panel. Alexander has not yet ruled on Wolfenden's motions. Wolfenden seeks new trial.

Wolfenden also filed complaints against Alexander and Michael with the State Ethics Commission and the North Carolina State Bar. The State Bar rejected Wolfenden's complaint, refusing to investigate its own employees.

"Until the State Bar's disciplinary rules are rewritten to provide for appropriate checks and balances, no attorney can receive a fair trial at the North Carolina State Bar and the agency's abuses of power will continue," said Wolfenden.

Comments

What's the nature of Michael's conflict?

Is it possible to file a FOIA request to release the minutes? Is it possible to sue the Bar Association for criminal negligence?

Steven Michael's conflict

Michael's conflict is set out in detail here: Steven Michael's conflict

Michael engaged in two acts of dishonesty on March 4: He denied having a conflict and then failed to provide the name of the case we had together in 2007, so I was unable to confirm the veracity of his denial until I could access my appellate files after the trial.

Michael was required by the State Government Ethics Act to reveal all conflicts to Sharon Alexander before he was appointed and Alexander was required to resolve all conflicts before she appointed him. Alexander needs to protect my constitutional rights which she failed to do on July 8 when she disbarred me while I was home recuperating from bronchitis. If Alexander does not produce the minutes, we are headed to federal court for constitutional violations of my right to an unbiased judge and jury.

Betsy J. Wolfenden