02.03.2014 Order of Suspension [Catawba County]

North Carolina State Bar Building Photo Courtesy of the North Carolina State Bar

Attorney Robert W. Adams represented various clients in Social Security Administration (SSA) cases.  In representing several SSA clients, Mr. Adams received checks from the SSA for his attorney’s fees.  These checks were addressed directly to Adams and intended as attorney’s fees to which he was entitled.  Adams deposited these checks into his client trust account and did not disburse the earned fees, instead leaving them commingled with client funds.  Additionally, various electronic transfers, originating from the client trust account, were made to Alltel Wireless.  On May 24, 2012, Alltel Wireless attempted to draft $1,458.98, but the transaction was denied for insufficient funds.

The grievance investigation also revealed Adams’s failure to maintain certain records and his failure to conduct quarterly reconciliations.  The order notes Adams’s history of deficient trust account management.  Random audits in 1996 and in 2008 revealed trust account management deficiencies.  In considering the appropriate discipline, the hearing panel noted Adams’s history of prior discipline, including two reprimands, one admonition, one censure, one stayed suspension, and one suspension.

In light of these facts, the hearing panel concluded that Adams had violated multiple rules regulating client trust accounts.  Mr. Adams’s failure to separate client funds from his own funds constituted a violation of Rule 1.15-2.  Additionally, Adams’s deficient recordkeeping amounted to a violation of Rule 1.15-3.  Ultimately, the hearing panel entered a suspension for a period of four years.  Adams may seek a stay after serving two years of the suspension.

View the full disciplinary order below.

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About Tripp Huffstetler, Senior Staff Writer (57 Articles)
Tripp Huffstetler served as the Senior Ethics Staff Writer for the Campbell Law Observer. He is originally from Cherryville, North Carolina. In 2011, Tripp graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy as well as Political Science. During his undergraduate studies, Tripp spent summers assisting at a practice in his hometown of Cherryville. During law school he interned with the Hon. Kris Bailey, District Court Judge; Judge Paige Phillips, Wake County Magistrate; the Hon. Paul C. Ridgeway, Superior Court Judge; and the Wake County District Attorney's Office. He also assisted a local attorney in drafting a guide to interlocutory appeals, which will be published by the North Carolina Bar Association. Tripp graduated from Campbell Law School in May 2014.
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