On Thursday, February 22, 2024, the Charlotte Observer reported that prominent Charlotte attorney Michael DeMayo avoided a suspension of his law license in his eighth disciplinary case before the North Carolina State Bar.

DeMayo, who owns one of the most expensive homes in Mecklenburg County, had been accused last year of sharing false personal details about a former colleague, Ryan Valente, with a client who intended to follow Valente after he left DeMayo’s law firm. DeMayo told the client about Valente allegedly getting divorced, being in a custody battle and his ex-wife dating another lawyer they often face in court.

When the State Bar’s Disciplinary Hearing Commission sanctioned DeMayo with a proposed one-year suspension of his law license in January 2023, DeMayo appealed the decision. On appeal, a three-judge panel unanimously decided to drop the case after determining that while DeMayo’s statements about Valente were incorrect, there was no evidence that DeMayo knew they were false.

The incident stemmed from when Valente resigned from DeMayo Law Offices in May 2020. Shortly after, one of Valente’s clients requested her file be transferred to Valente to continue representing her. DeMayo asked to speak with the client first, telling her he had ethical and professional obligations to share information about her case. In their meeting, DeMayo brought up Valente’s purported personal life details.

After the client’s case was settled with Valente as her attorney, DeMayo requested 85% of the attorney fees, which totaled $196,313.68. Valente threatened to invoke the “doctrine of unclean hands” since DeMayo violated conduct rules. While DeMayo denied mentioning Valente’s personal life to the client, this marked his eighth disciplinary action from the State Bar since 1999 related to issues such as misleading ads.

Complaints against North Carolina attorneys have risen in recent years, yet actual discipline has declined, according to statistics. While some have argued this merits stronger protections for lawyers, others see it as an indication of needed reforms to better protect the public. DeMayo avoids a suspension this time but remains a repeatedly sanctioned attorney in the state.

 

 

Souce: Charlotte Observer