North Carolina’s Supreme Court has censured a Superior Court judge for violating the judicial code of conduct and for actions that brought the judicial branch into disrepute.
Friday’s ruling against Michael A. Stone follows a recommendation made last June by the Judicial Standards Commission. Stone cooperated with the commission’s investigation and did not challenge its findings or its recommendation that he be censured.
The commission also noted that Stone admitted his error and expressed genuine remorse, but that he also understands the negative impact his actions have had on the integrity of the judiciary.
The disciplinary action involves conduct by Stone when he was a district court judge. He has since been elected a Superior Court judge.
The commission found among other things that Stone inappropriately used judicial letterhead and invoked his judicial title to challenge the jurisdiction of the State Bar over his conduct while he was an attorney in private practice. The commission also said he made misleading and grossly negligent assertions regarding his representation of a former client in 2014, bringing the judicial office into disrepute.
A fee dispute with the client arose after Stone was appointed to a district court judgeship and withdrew from the case because he could no longer serve as counsel.
Stone told the State Bar that he had earned his fees because he worked very hard in negotiating a plea arrangement in a rape case. The commission noted that prosecutors never made a plea offer and had no documentation of plea negotiations or plea offers. The client was convicted of attempted statutory rape and taking indecent liberties with a child.