Update from State Bar Councilor Anna Hamrick

Dear Members of the 28th Judicial District Bar –

I would like to begin by thanking you for allowing me to continue to represent you as your State Bar Councilor.  I will continue to do my best to serve you in this role.

We had our recent annual meeting in Raleigh, and the new officers were installed.  Our new President is Gray Wilson from Winston-Salem.  The Bar installed Alice Mine as our new Executive Director.

The Ethics Committee had a busy time.  It voted in favor of Proposed 2018 Formal Ethics Opinion 5, which dealt with a lawyer’s professional responsibilities when seeking access to a person’s social media accounts to investigate a non-client’s legal matter.  However, by the time it reached the full Council on Friday it had garnered a great deal of negative attention from lawyers around the State, and was soundly defeated.  The most controversial part of the opinion was the section regarding whether a lawyer may request access to the restricted portions of a represented person’s social network presence.  The committee proposed this would be acceptable under Rule 4.2.  The Council decided it was not.  In fairness to the committee, the vote was close.  Issues included things like “is a friend request a contact?”  It may be back later in some other form.

Below are points of interest from the various committees and boards:

*Among its many activities, the Authorized Practice Committee issued sixteen Letters of Caution to entities and lawyers, dismissed two complaints, and denied one application of a prepaid legal services plan.

*The Client Security Fund reported for the year 2017-18 it decided 128 claims (compared to 90 the year before).  It denied 65 claims, and paid the remaining claims either in part or in full, depending on the facts of each case.  Authorized reimbursements for the year totaled $685,994.64.   The most common reason for denial was that the claim was a “fee dispute” or “performance dispute.”  That is, there was no allegation or evidence that the attorney embezzled or misappropriated any money.  As a reminder, the Client Security Fund reimburses clients of NC attorneys where there is wrongful taking of the client’s money or property.  Applicants must show they have exhausted all viable means to collect these losses from sources other than the Fund.  Reimbursement may not exceed $100,000.00 per applicant based on any one attorney’s malfeasance.  Each lawyer in NC is assessed a fee of $25 per year to fund the Fund.  The NC Supreme Court created the Fund, and it determines the annual fee to lawyers.

*A few statistics from the Board of Paralegal Certification:  today there are 4,039 NCSB certified paralegals.  This year, 147 took the exam and 107 passed.  The first application for paralegal certification was accepted in July 2005.  Certified paralegals must complete six hours of continuing paralegal education (CPE) annually.

*The Board of Legal Specialization shared this information:  NC now has 1,040 certified legal specialists, and offers certifications in 13 areas.  For 2018, 106 applicants met the requirements to sit for the exams this past October.  The pass rate should be known later this month.  The Board created a new area of certification, entitled “Privacy and Information Security Law.”

*The Board of Law Examiners received 1392 applications for the 2018 Bar Exams.  This is a decrease from 2017, in which 1866 applications were filed.  The pass rate for the July exam was 57.14%.  Since January 1, 2018, the NCSB received 103 comity applications.  This number increases every year.

The Board of Law Examiners will administer its first Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) at the February 2019 exam date.  The UBE consists of the Multistate Bar Examination, the Multistate Essay Examination and the Multistate Performance Test.  The goal of the UBE is make legal licensure more portable for lawyers.  Applicants who apply to take the bar exam in NC can use their UBE score to pursue admission in other UBE jurisdictions without having to take another bar exam (subject to score and time limits).

*The Board of Continuing Legal Education reports 99% of active NCSB members complied with the CLE requirements for the year.  Lawyers took an average of 15 CLE hours per person, which is in excess of the required 12 hours.  Effective 2019, it will be mandatory that one of the twelve required hours per year be devoted to technology education.  We are one of only two states with this requirement.

*The Attorney Client Assistance Program staff responded to 2,801 phone calls from the public in the last year.  Of these, ACAP staff contacted 650 lawyers to try to resolve concerns expressed by the public.  The staff also responded to 707 emails and 533 letters from inmates.  These numbers are all slightly down from last year.

In 2017, The NCSB opened 1,305 grievance files.  By comparison, from January 2018 until October 2018, the NCSB has opened 1,027 grievance files.  As of October 19, 2018, 955 grievance files were pending.  46 lawyers have successfully complete the Trust Account Compliance program since its inception.  Currently, 17 participants are involved.  Persons having trust account difficulties which do not involve malfeasance are often referred to this program for help in trust account management.

*NC IOLTA reports it collected income in the amount of $1,734,673 for the period of January 2018 – September 2018.  For the year of 2017, it collected a total of $2,031,808.  Since 2004, IOLTA has awarded grant awards in the amount of $89,964,486.00 (including matching grants).  The Board recently approved two grants for collaborative projects to aid the victims of Hurricane Florence which totaled $226,600.00.

Lastly, you may be aware that our General Assembly passed a law effective January 1, 2019, which concerns the numbering of judicial districts.  I find it confounding to say the least.  I think the main confusion is with the use of the term “judicial district.”   As the State Bar uses the term, a Judicial District (Bar) is coterminous (sharing the same border and number) with the state’s prosecutorial districts.  I define “coterminous” for the few, if any, of you who may have not known what it meant.  I did not know, though I thought I did.  Peter Bolac from the NCSB told me.

For us, this means as of January 2019, Buncombe County will become the 40th Judicial District (Bar), and the 40th Prosecutorial District.  The Superior and District Court Districts (what most non-bar people call “Judicial District”) remain the 28th.   Therefore, our judicial district (Superior/District Court) is 28.  Our prosecutorial district is 40.  However, we are (as of January 1, 2019) members of the 40th Judicial District Bar.  I caution us not to be too boastful of our fancy new “40” to members of other bars who may have less exciting numbers, as word on the street is the General Assembly may see fit to change it back again.  Our executive committee is taking steps to change the name to the Buncombe County Bar for purposes of general reference, pending approval of the members.

Thank you, and please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or concerns.  My cell is 707-4249, my email is hamrick@gtalaw.net, and my direct line at work is 575-1344.

Sincerely,

Anna Hamrick

Family Law From the Trenches CLE

This CLE allows attorneys to sharpen their family law skills in four areas — equitable distribution, child custody, juvenile court and domestic violence — with local experts in each area. This continuing legal education seminar is $75 for local Bar members, and $150 for out-of-district attorneys. The seminar will be held in the Starnes Conference Room of the Van Winkle Law firm on January 25, 2019. Click here to sign up.

Agenda:

9 – 10am          Equitable Distribution – Jim Siemens

10 – 11am        Child Custody – Janet Amburgey

11:15-12:15pm   Juvenile Court – Jason Gast & Marion Parsons

1pm – 2pm     Domestic Violence Law – Sara Player  (This hour is free, and serves as training for those attorneys willing to take a pro bono case for the Mountain Area Volunteer Lawyers program with Pisgah Legal Services.

Pending approval of four general hours from the NC State Bar CLE Board.

Creating a Litigation Advantage Through Proper Discovery CLE

This CLE is aimed at attorneys who want to obtain better results through focused discovery.  Seasoned practitioners will provide an overview on getting the most out of written discovery, and how narrow requests can eliminate issues or otherwise focus a case for trial.  Presenters will discuss strategies for preparing your witness for depositions and tips on how to deal with a difficult witness or opposing counsel. Attendees will also learn how to address difficult issues dealing with electronic discovery.

This continuing legal education seminar is $75 for local Bar members, and $150 for out-of-district attorneys. The seminar will be held in the Starnes Conference Room of the Van Winkle Law firm on January 17, 2019. Click here to sign up.

Agenda:

9-10am — Written Discovery — Katherine Langley

10-11am – E-Discovery — David Wilkerson

11:15am–12:15pm – Depositions — Mark Kurdys

Pending approval of three general hours from the NC State Bar CLE Board.

US District Court Announces Appointment of US Magistrate Judge

The Honorable Frank D. Whitney, Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, announced today that William Carleton Metcalf has been appointed to the position of United States Magistrate Judge for the Western District of North Carolina. Magistrate Judge Metcalf commenced his duties in the Asheville Division on November 1, 2018. The Honorable Max O. Cogburn, Jr., U.S. District Judge for the Western District of North Carolina administered the oath.

Prior to his appointment, Judge Metcalf practiced law for over twenty-one years with the firm of Van Winkle, Buck, Wall, Starnes and Davis, PA in Asheville, North Carolina, where he was a senior principal and served as an officer of the firm and a member of the Board of Directors.

He received a bachelor’s degree with honors in history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as well as a law degree from the University’s School of Law, where he was the President of his graduating class and a member of the Holderness Moot Court.

Judge Metcalf was the founding president of the Western District of North Carolina Chapter of the Federal Bar Association. He has also served as an officer of the 28th Judicial District Bar in Buncombe County and as a member of the North Carolina Bar Association and the American Bar Association.

Active as a speaker and teacher, and in pro bono and professional activities, he is a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation, a past President of the Harry C. Martin Chapter of the American Inns of Court, and a recipient of the 28th Judicial District Bar’s Professionalism Award.

Judge Metcalf and his wife, Lisa Snowdon Metcalf, have three children and reside in Buncombe County.