11.01.2013 Order of Discipline – Suspension [Mecklenburg County]
In November 2008, William Belk was elected as a District Court judge in the District Court of Judicial District 26 in Mecklenburg County. At the time of his election, Mr. Belk was also a member of the Board of Directors of Sonic Automotive, Inc. Prior to his swearing-in, Mr. Belk was advised that a failure to resign his position on the Board of Directors at Sonic would amount to a violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct. Nevertheless, Mr. Belk did not resign his position.
On February 13, 2009, the Executive Director of the Judicial Standards Commission (JSC) initiated an investigation into Belk’s continued Board membership. In statements to the JSC, Mr. Belk justified his continued membership on the grounds that Sonic was his source of medical insurance. Tt was later determined, however, that these statements were false and that Mr. Belk knew they were false at the time he made them. Ultimately, the North Carolina Supreme Court removed Belk from office and disqualified him from holding judicial office in the future.
Mr. Belk, as an elected District Court judge, was subject to the Code of Judicial Conduct. As a licensed North Carolina attorney, he is also subject to the Rules of Professional Conduct. Based on Mr. Belk’s false statements during the JSC’s independent investigation, the Disciplinary Hearing Commission found that Mr. Belk also violated the North Carolina Rules of Professional Conduct. Specially, the Commission concluded that he “engaged in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation in violation of Rule 8.4(c) and engaged in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice in violation of Rule 8.4(d) .”
In its order, the Commission considered that Belk’s misconduct garnered significant media attention (e.g., this Charlotte Observer article). The Commission noted that Belk’s “misconduct received public attention, bringing the legal profession into disrepute and significantly undermining the public’s confidence in the integrity of the justice system.”
Ultimately, the Commission suspended William Belk for a period of three years, while granting him the option to apply for a stay of the remainder of his suspension after serving an active suspension of twelve months.
View the full disciplinary order below.
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