William Britt’s actions regarding entrusted funds violated several of the North Carolina Rules of Professional Conduct. First, entrusted funds were not properly maintained, were used to benefit the attorney, and were not properly disbursed. The State Bar found twelve instances in which the attorney misappropriated funds. Second, the attorney did not keep his entrusted funds separate from his own property, leaving his earned fees co-mingled with his client funds in the trust account. Third, the attorney failed to reconcile the trust account at least quarterly. Lastly, he failed to keep the entrusted funds separate from his own property and failed to promptly deposit all trust funds into a general or dedicated trust account. On September 9, 2013, the Hearing Panel concluded in its partial summary judgment that the attorney violated Rules 1.15-2(a), (b), (f), (j), and (m) as well as Rule 1.15-3(d) of the Rules of Professional Conduct.
On April 22, 2014, the Disciplinary Hearing Panel entered an order of discipline against Britt. They considered many factors such as his prior receipt of an Admonition in November 2004 for neglecting a client manner. Also, an administratrix was unaware that the client-estate’s funds received by the attorney were no longer in his trust account. Another administratrix of an estate was also not paid funds due to the estate, nor was she paid for her personal injury case’s settlement from November 2010. As a result, both estate administrators no longer trust attorneys to act in their best interests.
The panel found that Britt’s motivation for the comingling of funds and failing to promptly withdraw his earned fees from his client’s settlement funds was to stop the IRS’s seizure of his operating account’s funds. He committed the felonies of embezzlement, forgery, and uttering.
Several people testified that they believe he is truthful, trustworthy, and a good attorney. Britt testified that he already arranged to cover the trust account deficiencies. However, he has not yet paid restitution to the clients whose funds should be in his general trust account.
In addition to the violations found in the panel’s previous partial summary judgment, the Hearing Panel concluded that the attorney also violated Rules 8.4(b) and (c) of the North Carolina Rules of Professional Conduct, which prohibit engaging in criminal conduct reflecting adversely on his honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer as well as conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation. Based on these violations, the Hearing Panel disbarred Britt from the practice of law in North Carolina.
Britt filed a motion for Stay and Petition for Writ of Supersedeas. By order of the North Carolina Court of Appeals, Britt’s motion was granted for good cause and the enforcement of his disbarment was temporarily stayed.
View the full disciplinary order below.