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In re Shipley

Supreme Court of North Carolina

April 6, 2018

IN RE: INQUIRY CONCERNING A DEPUTY COMMISSIONER, NO. 15-057 WILLIAM HENRY SHIPLEY, Respondent

          ORDER

          MORGAN, J.

         This matter is before the Court pursuant to N.C. G.S. §§ 7A-376 and -377 upon a recommendation by the Judicial Standards Commission entered 29 November 2017 that Respondent William Henry Shipley, a Deputy Commissioner of the North Carolina Industrial Commission, be publicly reprimanded for conduct in violation of Canons 1 and 2A of the North Carolina Code of Judicial Conduct and for conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice that brings the judicial office into disrepute in violation of N.C. G.S. § 7A-376.[1] This matter was calendared for argument in the Supreme Court on 10 January 2018 but determined on the record without briefs or oral argument pursuant to Rule 30(f) of the North Carolina Rules of Appellate Procedure and Rule 3(c) of the Rules for Supreme Court Review of Recommendations of the Judicial Standards Commission.

         No counsel for Judicial Standards Commission or Respondent.

The issue before this Court is whether Deputy Commissioner William Henry Shipley (Respondent) should be publicly reprimanded for violations of Canons 1 and 2A of the North Carolina Code of Judicial Conduct amounting to conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice that brings the judicial office into disrepute in violation of N.C. G.S. § 7A-376(b). Respondent has not challenged the findings of fact made by the Judicial Standards Commission (the Commission) or opposed the Commission's recommendation that he be publicly reprimanded by this Court.

         On 10 February 2017, the Commission Counsel filed a Statement of Charges against Respondent alleging that he had "engaged in conduct inappropriate to his office when, on April 2, 2015, Respondent wrecked his vehicle while driving under the influence of an impairing substance, putting at risk his own life and the lives of others." According to the allegations in the Statement of Charges, on that night Respondent's vehicle struck another moving vehicle after Respondent failed to yield the right of way when attempting to turn left. Neither Respondent nor the other driver appeared injured; both declined EMS attention. The Statement of Charges further stated that Respondent registered a blood alcohol level of .08 when tested at the local detention center. He was charged with driving while impaired and failing to yield, charges which were later dismissed. Respondent voluntarily reported these charges to the Commission and fully cooperated with the Commission's inquiry into this matter. In the Statement of Charges, the Commission Counsel asserted that Respondent's actions on 2 April 2015 "constitute[d] conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice that brings the judicial office into disrepute, or otherwise constitutes grounds for disciplinary proceedings pursuant to Chapter 7A, Article 30 and Chapter 97, Article 1 of the General Statutes of North Carolina."

         On 24 March 2017, Respondent filed an answer in which he admitted in part and denied in part the allegations in the Statement of Charges. Specifically, he denied that he had failed to yield the right of way when turning left and that his blood alcohol level had been .08. On 2 October 2017, Respondent and the Commission Counsel filed a number of joint evidentiary, factual, and disciplinary stipulations as permitted by Commission Rule 22 that tended to support a decision to publicly reprimand Respondent. On 13 October 2017, the Commission heard this matter.

         On 29 November 2017, the Commission filed a Recommendation of Judicial Discipline, in which it made the following findings of fact:

1. Around 9:00 p.m. on 2 April 2015, Respondent was travelling northbound on U.S. Route 70 (Glenwood Avenue), a public street/highway in Raleigh, North Carolina. As Respondent reached the area of Glenwood Avenue north of downtown Raleigh known as Five Points, he attempted a left-hand turn onto Fairview Road. While engaged in the turn, another vehicle travelling on Glenwood Avenue collided with Respondent's vehicle.
2. Shortly after the vehicle collision occurred, Deputy Sheriff Josh Legan of the Wake County Sheriff's [Office] arrived at the scene. After Respondent voluntarily submitted to several standardized field sobriety tests, Deputy Legan formed the opinion that Respondent had consumed a sufficient quantity of alcohol so that his mental and physical faculties were appreciably impaired.
3. At the local detention center, Respondent submitted to two (2) Intoximeter Intox EC/IR II tests. Respondent's alcohol concentration was reported as .08 grams of alcohol per 210 liters of breath. Deputy Legan then cited Respondent for driving while impaired and failing to yield the right of way.
4. On 7 April 2015, Respondent voluntarily reported the charges to the Commission and fully cooperated with the Commission's inquiry into this matter.
5. Respondent's charges were set for trial in Wake County District Court on 8 September 2016. The prosecution failed to produce Deputy Legan as a witness, and Respondent's charges were dismissed by the Wake County District Attorney's Office after their motion to continue was denied by the presiding judge.

(Citations omitted.) Based upon these findings of fact, the Commission concluded as a matter of law that:

1. Canon 1 of the Code of Judicial Conduct sets forth the broad principle that "[a] judge should uphold the integrity and independence of the judiciary." To do so, Canon 1 requires that a "judge should participate in establishing, maintaining, and enforcing, and should personally observe, appropriate standards of conduct to ensure that ...

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