Something is rotten in the state of North Carolina . . . or at least in the State Bar (“Bar”). Former North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Bob Orr has called for a full independent review of the Bar, which is the entity that licenses and disciplines lawyers in North Carolina.
According to a February 6, 2015 article in The News & Observer titled, “Former NC Supreme Court justice calls for review of state bar,” Orr’s actions come as part of Chief Justice Mark Martin’s mandate to review the state’s justice system for professionalism. It also comes on the heels of the Bar’s aggressive prosecution of three criminal defense attorneys who represented death row inmates alleging prosecutorial misconduct.
The state bar as an organization has grown exponentially in size – in the number of staffers, the number of members, the number of prosecutors. It’s become very insular and very insulated.
These strong words from former Justice Orr form the basis of his suggested inquiry. He goes on to explain that bar attorneys fall into two “extreme camps,” one that supports defense attorneys and another — mostly made up of former prosecutors — that supports prosecutors and opposes defense attorneys exposing misconduct and other justice system problems. He expressed concern over the possible misuse of the Bar’s disciplinary process as part of the antagonism between these opposing groups.
The ability to use the bar disciplinary process as a tool, a weapon, so to speak, is pretty powerful.
We applaud Chief Justice Martin and former Justice Orr for their efforts to examine and reform the North Carolina State Bar. Agencies that are made up of the very professionals they police should be subject to oversight, or at least evaluation by an objective outside body. We hope all state bar licensing and disciplining entities take heed and follow North Carolina’s example.