Mike Easley seeks return of law license

Campaign hasn’t paid $94,665 state fine, but that’s not a condition

acurliss@newsobserver.comJanuary 8, 2013 

Former N.C. Governor Mike Easley

Former Gov. Mike Easley wants his law license back.

The license of Easley, a lawyer, former state attorney general and two-term Democratic governor, had been suspended until last month by the state agency that regulates lawyers as a result of Easley’s felony conviction in 2010 on a campaign finance violation.

Easley, 62, gave up his law license as he accepted the conviction, which was the result of a plea deal that avoided at least one other possible charge and ended lengthy state and federal investigations.

The N.C. State Bar formally suspended Easley’s license a year ago in a decision that had considered possible disbarment, which is a permanent ban on practicing law. The bar at the time entered a suspension through December 2012, saying that Easley had expressed remorse and accepted responsibility for his actions and for his campaign.

The campaign, however, owes $94,665 in fines to the state. An elections board member had urged the bar to require repayment of the fine as a condition of restoring Easley’s law license. The bar did not.

Elections Director Gary Bartlett said Tuesday the fine has not been paid and that Easley’s campaign has indicated it probably will not pay.

Easley is the first governor in the state to be convicted of a felony, which was tied to not reporting in campaign disclosures a helicopter flight provided by former N.C. State University Board of Trustees Chairman McQueen Campbell. Easley was fined $1,000 as part of the plea and did not receive any jail time for the low-level felony.

The law license process now requires Easley to petition to have his license reinstated. He did that Friday, according to documents.

In spare language, the reinstatement request says that Easley “is eligible to have his license reinstated and has fulfilled the requirements” of the bar’s rules and regulations. The request is expected to be granted.

Easley’s lawyer, Alan Schneider, could not be reached for comment. He has previously said that Easley has integrity and character, and served the state with grace and honor, and that “it is time to put this matter behind us and allow Governor Easley to move on with his life.”

Easley said in 2008, his last year in office, that he had looked forward to practicing law with his son, Michael Jr.

Both were employed at the McGuireWoods law firm in Raleigh until the former governor left as the criminal investigations wrapped up in 2010.

Easley receives a state pension of $71,088 a year for 23 years of state service, including years as a local prosecutor, according to state records.

His wife, Mary, recently saw a boost in her pension as a result of an out-of-court settlement with NCSU over her firing in 2009. The settlement allowed her to “unretire” and receive credit for years that she did not work. She receives $80,597 annually from the pension plan, according to documents.

Curliss: 919-829-4840

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