03.17.2014 Consent Order of Suspension [Bladen County]

North Carolina State Bar Building Photo Courtesy of the North Carolina State Bar

Elaine S. Kelley served as an assistant district attorney in North Carolina’s Thirteenth Prosecutorial District, which covers Brunswick, Bladen, and Columbus counties.  In 2005, Kelley entered an agreement with Rex Gore, who was, at the time, the elected District Attorney of the Thirteenth District.  The agreement provided that Kelley, in addition to receiving her salary, would submit weekly expense reports in order to be reimbursed for mileage she did not actually incur.  Ultimately, Kelley submitted sixty-three false expense reports, all of which she personally certified under penalty of perjury.  Kelley received $14,190.39 for mileage she had not actually incurred.  On May 9, 2013, Kelley pled guilty to “misprision of a felony.”  As a result, the Superior Court of Bladen County entered a six-month suspension of Kelley’s law license.

The Hearing Panel of the North Carolina State Bar concluded that, by submitting the false certifications, Kelley committed professional misconduct in violation of Rule 8.4 of the North Carolina Rules of Professional Conduct.  Additionally, the resulting conviction “constitutes misconduct and grounds for discipline in that such conviction is a criminal offense showing professional unfitness” pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. § 84-28(b)(1) and N.C.A.C. 1B § .0115.

The panel noted that Kelley’s reliance on Gore’s assurances “about the legitimacy of the arrangement” was misplaced and inappropriate.  Finally, the panel entered an order suspending Kelley from the practice of law for four years, with credit for the period of suspension already served as a result of the court’s suspension.  After serving two years of active suspension, Kelley may apply for a stay of the remaining two years.

View the full disciplinary order below.

Trouble viewing? Click here to download the order (PDF, 223KB).

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About Tripp Huffstetler, Senior Staff Writer (57 Articles)
Tripp Huffstetler served as the Senior Ethics Staff Writer for the Campbell Law Observer. He is originally from Cherryville, North Carolina. In 2011, Tripp graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy as well as Political Science. During his undergraduate studies, Tripp spent summers assisting at a practice in his hometown of Cherryville. During law school he interned with the Hon. Kris Bailey, District Court Judge; Judge Paige Phillips, Wake County Magistrate; the Hon. Paul C. Ridgeway, Superior Court Judge; and the Wake County District Attorney's Office. He also assisted a local attorney in drafting a guide to interlocutory appeals, which will be published by the North Carolina Bar Association. Tripp graduated from Campbell Law School in May 2014.
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