Elaine S. Kelley served as an assistant district attorney in North Carolina’s Thirteenth Prosecutorial District, which covers Brunswick, Bladen, and Columbus counties. In 2005, Kelley entered an agreement with Rex Gore, who was, at the time, the elected District Attorney of the Thirteenth District. The agreement provided that Kelley, in addition to receiving her salary, would submit weekly expense reports in order to be reimbursed for mileage she did not actually incur. Ultimately, Kelley submitted sixty-three false expense reports, all of which she personally certified under penalty of perjury. Kelley received $14,190.39 for mileage she had not actually incurred. On May 9, 2013, Kelley pled guilty to “misprision of a felony.” As a result, the Superior Court of Bladen County entered a six-month suspension of Kelley’s law license.
The Hearing Panel of the North Carolina State Bar concluded that, by submitting the false certifications, Kelley committed professional misconduct in violation of Rule 8.4 of the North Carolina Rules of Professional Conduct. Additionally, the resulting conviction “constitutes misconduct and grounds for discipline in that such conviction is a criminal offense showing professional unfitness” pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. § 84-28(b)(1) and N.C.A.C. 1B § .0115.
The panel noted that Kelley’s reliance on Gore’s assurances “about the legitimacy of the arrangement” was misplaced and inappropriate. Finally, the panel entered an order suspending Kelley from the practice of law for four years, with credit for the period of suspension already served as a result of the court’s suspension. After serving two years of active suspension, Kelley may apply for a stay of the remaining two years.
View the full disciplinary order below.