Susan Saturno was retained to perform a real estate closing on a residential refinance transaction. As the closing attorney, Saturno represented both the homeowner and the lending institution. Though the lending institution requested that Saturno have the homeowner execute a “Road Maintenance Agreement,” Saturno failed to have the homeowner execute the agreement at the closing. Following the closing, Saturno herself signed the homeowner’s name to the agreement. Ultimately, the agreement was notarized by Saturno and recorded in the Brunswick County Register of Deeds.
The Commission entered a suspension of one year. Saturno’s failure to follow the lender’s instructions for execution of the agreement amounted to a violation of Rule 1.3 of the North Carolina Rules of Professional Conduct, which requires that “[a] lawyer shall act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client.” Additionally, by signing the homeowner’s name to the agreement and subsequently notarizing the agreement, Saturno violated Rule 8.4 of the North Carolina Rules of Professional Conduct. Specifically, Saturno “engaged in conduct involving dishonesty, deceit, or misrepresentation” and “engaged in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice.”
The Commission also noted that “[u]nder other circumstances, the misconduct in this case would warrant more serious discipline.” Unique circumstances in mitigation, however, included (1) a lack of intent to harm, (2) prompt remedial action, (3) an acceptance of personal responsibility, and (4) genuine remorse.
View the full disciplinary order below.