On February 3, 2010, attorney Michael H. Griffin’s trust account was the subject of a random audit. The 2010 audit revealed various deficiencies in Griffin’s management of the trust account. Four years earlier, in 2006, a random audit of Griffin’s trust account revealed similar deficiencies.
After discovering various problems during the random audit of 2010, the State Bar initiated an investigative audit. The investigative audit uncovered six instances in which Griffin disbursed more funds for clients than were held in the trust account on their behalf. There were five instances in which Griffin advanced client funds prior to depositing funds into the trust account on their behalf. Finally, there were eight instances in which Griffin failed to “timely disburse funds to clients or to third parties on their behalf.”
The Hearing Panel concluded that Griffin committed multiple violations of Rule 1.15-2 and Rule 1.15-3 of the North Carolina Rules of Professional Conduct: (1) failure to maintain adequate client ledgers; (2) failure to provide clients with annual written accountings; (3) failure to reconcile trust account; (4) disbursal of funds on behalf of clients for whom he held no funds in trust; (5) failure to timely disburse funds; (6) failure to list a client’s name on a trust account check addressed to Griffin as compensation for fees; and (7) failure to promptly withdraw his legal fees and expenses.
Based on these violations, the Hearing Panel suspended Griffin from the practice of law in North Carolina for a period of two years. However, this suspension was stayed for a period of three years contingent on Griffin’s compliance with various provisions stated in the order, including monthly three-way trust account reconciliations.
View the full disciplinary order below.