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In re Braun - 352 N.C. 327, 531 S.E.2d 213 (2000)

Rule:

Pertaining to an application for admission to the North Carolina Bar, misrepresentations and evasive or misleading responses that could obstruct full investigation into moral character are inconsistent with the truthfulness and candor required of a practicing attorney.

Facts:

Petitioner Nancy E. Braun, a 1988 graduate of the State University of New York at Buffalo School of Law, was admitted to practice in the State of New York in 1989 and in the District of Columbia by reciprocity in 1991. In 1996, Braun applied for admission to the North Carolina Bar by comity. Section .0502 of the Rules Governing Admission to Practice of Law in North Carolina required comity applicants to prove that they were duly licensed to practice law in another state or territory of the United States and have been for at least four out of the last six years immediately preceding the filing of the application actively and substantially engaged in the practice of law in that jurisdiction. The North Carolina Board of Law Examiners (“Board”) found that Braun, who owned a restaurant during the five-year period immediately preceding her comity application, was not in active legal practice for the period required by Section .0502. Moreover, the Board found that Braun’s statements and answers to questions showed a lack of candor, were misleading to the Board; and have a significant bearing on her character and fitness. Accordingly, the Board denied Braun’s comity application. Braun then appealed the Board’s determination to Superior Court, Wake County, which affirmed the decision of the Board. Braun appealed to the Supreme Court of North Carolina, assigning as error the Board's findings of fact as too vague to permit judicial review and further contending that the trial court's ruling was erroneous as a matter of law.

Issue:

Under the circumstances, did the North Carolina Board of Law Examiners err in denying Braun’s comity application?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The Supreme Court of North Carolina affirmed. It held that the Board of Law Examiners did not err in denying Braun’s comity admission to the Bar based on her failure to actively and substantially engage in the practice of law for at least four out of the last six years immediately preceding the filing of the application, and based on character and general fitness grounds because Braun’s statements purporting to show a practice of law while owning and operating a restaurant during the five-year period from November 1991 to December 1996 lacked candor. According to the Court, misrepresentations and evasive or misleading responses that could obstruct full investigation by the Board into moral character were inconsistent with the truthfulness and candor required of a practicing attorney. Further, the record was replete with such misleading responses on the part of petitioner. The Court averred that testimony that was contradictory, inconsistent, or inherently incredible was a sufficient basis upon which to deny admission to the North Carolina Bar on character grounds.

Regarding the applicable test: When reviewing decisions of the Board of Law Examiners, the Supreme Court of North Carolina employs the whole record test. Under this test, there must be substantial evidence supporting the Board of Law Examiner's findings of fact and conclusions of law. 

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