08.12.2014 Reprimand [Guilford County]

Photo Courtesy of the North Carolina State Bar

Entered on August 12, 2014,Kenneth Free was publicly reprimanded for violating his professional duties as a lawyer by failing to appeal for his client who asked him to do so.

Lawyers practicing in this state owe to their clients the duties of competence, diligence, and communication, among many others. Particularly, as per the Plan of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Implementation of the Criminal Justice Act, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals stated that each attorney who has represented a criminal defendant in district court shall continue to represent the client even after the termination of those proceedings unless dismissed from further responsibility to that client by the Court. Encompassed in this plan is the duty to file a timely notice of appeal upon request of the defendant.

At the hearing, Mr. Free admitted to not filing the motion of appeal, that he was unaware of the Fourth Circuit’s continuous duty rule, and that he had not attended any continuing education programs offered by the Federal Defender in the Middle District. Mitigating factors included Mr. Free’s zealous representation up until the point of failing to file a notice of appeal, his remorse, the absence of prior disciplinary record, and somewhat by his relative inexperience in federal court (though this does not excuse him from knowing his duties).

In issuing a sanction, the Court settled on a public reprimand, which also required Mr. Free to complete eight hours of continuing legal education within one year in the specific area of federal criminal practice offered by the Federal Defender of the Middle District or otherwise approved by the North Carolina State Bar. The Court stated this was appropriate to respond to Free’s misconduct and to deter future violations by Free and others, while also offering protection to the public.

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