Heard in the Court of Appeals January 20, 2015
The North Carolina State Bar, by Counsel Katherine Jean and Deputy Counsel David R. Johnson, for plaintiff-appellee.
Robert Lee Scott, Pro se, defendant-appellant.
CALABRIA, Judge. Chief Judge McGEE and Judge McCULLOUGH concur.
Appeal by defendant from orders entered 28 October 2013 and 2 April 2014 by the Disciplinary Hearing Commission of the North Carolina State Bar, No. 13 DHC 3.
Attorney Robert L. Scott (" defendant" ) appeals from an order granting partial summary judgment in favor of the North Carolina State Bar (" State Bar" ), an order denying his motion for findings of fact, and an Order of Discipline issued by the Disciplinary Hearing Commission (" DHC" ) of the State Bar censuring him for his conduct. We affirm.
Defendant graduated from Indiana University and was admitted to the Illinois bar in 1973. He practiced law in Illinois before being admitted to the North Carolina bar in 2005.
In 2006, defendant was employed by the O'Brien Law Firm (" O'Brien" or " the Firm" ), an interstate law firm that served as a real estate closing attorney for United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (" HUD" ) properties. Dennis O'Brien, the owner of the firm, is licensed to practice law in Ohio. Defendant was the Firm's North Carolina attorney, and his office was located in Greensboro, North Carolina. In September 2007, defendant signed an interstate law firm registration for the Firm as the managing attorney.
In 2008, Tammy McCrae-Coley (" McCrae-Coley" ) purchased a HUD property located at 728 Tucker Street in Burlington, North Carolina. The Firm represented both HUD and McCrae-Coley in the transaction. McCrae-Coley secured a loan from First Bank for the purchase of the property, which was secured by a deed of trust prepared by defendant. A HUD-1 settlement statement was prepared by O'Brien personnel, which showed that after the closing, McCrae-Coley's funds would be disbursed to pay $162.50 for the lender's title insurance and $404.45 for 2008 property taxes. The closing was held on 21 August 2008. Defendant did not attend the closing, but authorized a paralegal to conduct the closing and sign his name on the HUD-1 settlement statement.
In April 2009, First Bank notified McCrae-Coley that the title insurance company had not received payment for the lender's title insurance policy on the property. First Bank indicated that it had contacted O'Brien regarding the title insurance, but had been unable to get a response from the Firm. McCrae-Coley then repeatedly attempted to contact defendant's office, informing O'Brien that the title insurance company had not been paid and she " needed somebody to call [her] back to let [her] know what was going to happen." Despite assurances that her call would be returned with the pertinent information, McCrae-Coley's inquiries went unanswered until she had the opportunity to leave work and visit the Firm in person. By going to the Firm, the title insurance issue was resolved.
In December 2009, McCrae-Coley received a " Notice of Attachment and Garnishment" because the 2008 taxes on the property, plus the penalties, remained unpaid. McCrae-Coley paid a total of $641.05 for the outstanding taxes, then submitted copies of the tax bill and receipts to O'Brien for reimbursement. Since the Firm never reimbursed or contacted her, McCrae-Coley filed grievances with the State Bar against Dennis O'Brien and defendant. On 30 March 2010, approximately thirty days after the grievance
was filed and almost two years after the closing, the Firm issued a check to McCrae-Coley to reimburse her for the delinquent taxes and penalties she had ...