- Associated Press - Monday, July 21, 2014

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - A new District Court judge appointed by Gov. Pat McCrory on Monday was reprimanded for professional misconduct more than a decade ago by the North Carolina State Bar.

Michael A. Stone of Raeford was appointed to a state judicial seat in Hoke County.

McCrory spokesman Rick Martinez says the governor knew about Stone’s reprimand before naming him as a judge, but didn’t think one past mistake should disqualify him from consideration.

“When you make an appointment you look at the totality of a person, not just one particular incident,” Martinez said. “The bottom line on the whole thing is that this occurred shortly after he got out of law school and he basically got in over his head. He learned a valuable lesson from it and his record since that time demonstrates that.”

Records on file with Stone’s law license show he was issued a written reprimand in 1998 after he and a law partner conducted real estate closings that were handled by assistants with no lawyer present. The State Bar concluded Stone and his partner didn’t properly supervise their staff members and failed to review deeds and other important legal documents before they were filed.

“You are hereby reprimanded by the North Carolina State Bar due to your professional misconduct,” reads Stone’s reprimand, a copy of which is available on the State Bar’s website. “The Grievance Committee trusts that you will heed this reprimand, that it will be remembered by you, that it will be beneficial to you, and that you will never again allow yourself to depart from adherence to the high ethical standards of the legal profession.”

Under Bar rules, a reprimand is a form of discipline issued in cases in which the respondent has violated one or more provisions of the Rules of Professional Conduct, “causing harm or potential harm to a client, the administration of justice, the profession, or a member of the public.” It is more serious than an admonition but less severe than a censure or disbarment.

Stone, a Republican who is in private practice, did not respond to messages seeking comment.

Stone got the most votes of the Judicial District Bar of the four candidates nominated to replace retiring Judge John H. Horne Jr., Martinez said in an email.

A media release issued by the governor’s office Monday provided little information about his background, including where he attended law school. According to the Bar, Stone has been a licensed attorney in the state since 1995. A Google search for Stone’s name and the word “lawyer” doesn’t yield any website for his firm, a current phone number or any news clippings about his participation in high-profile cases.

Asked what accomplishments distinguished Stone in the field, Martinez said he didn’t know.

Stone’s selection by McCrory, a Republican, comes after a series of appointments and hires by the governor that have generated controversy. Last week, McCrory’s selection to be North Carolina’s poet laureate resigned after past holders of the title publicly questioned whether she was minimally qualified.

On Monday, McCrory also announced the appointment of Charles Gilliam to a seat on the District Court bench in Wake County. Gilliam, who lives in Raleigh, is a faculty member at N.C. State University’s School of Management and previously served as an assistant general counsel for Xerox Corporation.

A Republican, Gilliam campaigned unsuccessfully for a seat on the Wake County District Court in 2012, losing to incumbent Judge Anna Elena Worley.


Follow Associated Press writer Michael Biesecker at Twitter.com/mbieseck

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