Easley's law license suspended for now

Staff writerDecember 16, 2010 

As expected, former Gov. Mike Easley's license to practice law has been suspended on an interim basis due to his felony conviction in a state court.

Easley's legal team has said he will fight to try and get the license back.

The N.C. State Bar, according to the interim suspension order issued last week, "will file a formal complaint against [Easley] alleging he has violated the Rules of Professional Conduct based upon his felony conviction and the conduct on which the conviction was based."

The State Bar could seek a disbarment, a suspension or take other action, such as a censure or sending a private letter. The process for Easley is just beginning, and parts of the case could become public. The suspension order says it is unknown at this time whether professional discipline will be imposed on Easley.

State Bar lawyers are not limited by the facts of the criminal plea deal, but can look beyond that in reaching decisions about discipline. In past cases, the State Bar has had access to law enforcement files as part of reaching discipline decisions.

At this stage of the Easley matter, the State Bar's officials cannot comment on his case specifically.

The State Bar's role in disciplining a lawyer is not to punish the person, but to protect the public from someone in the practice of law who has violated conduct rules.

Easley, a former two-term attorney general who served two terms as governor, has had a law license in North Carolina since 1976.

After leaving the governor's office, he was employed at the McGuireWoods law firm in Raleigh. But he left the firm this year as state and federal investigations into a range of Easley's actions continued.

-- J. Andrew Curliss

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