The North Carolina State Bar has filed a formal complaint against former Democratic Gov. Mike Easley, seeking disciplinary action for his conviction for campaign fraud.
Easley entered an Alford plea to one felony count of certifying a false campaign finance report in November 2010. In an Alford plea, a defendant pleads guilty, while maintaining his innocence, and admits it is in his best interest to take the plea deal because there is sufficient evidence to find him guilty.
According to the complaint, Easley's crime demonstrates professional unfitness, and the "conviction of a criminal offense showing professional unfitness is grounds for imposition of professional discipline."
Easley's license was suspended last December, pending the conclusion of formal disciplinary proceedings. This appears to be the beginning of those proceedings.
Katherine Jean, the attorney representing the State Bar in the proceeding, says it's not unusual for formal disciplinary proceedings to take some time to get underway.
"It requires a thorough investigation," Jean explained. "That would be the case in any case with a criminal component, and the evidence to be reviewed can be voluminous."
She couldn't say what disciplinary action the State Bar is seeking.
"It could go all the way from dismissal to disbarment," she said. Other actions the board could take include reprimand, censure and suspension.
Jean says the next step is for the chairwoman of the Disciplinary Hearing Committee to appoint a panel to hear the complaint. Once the panel is named, a hearing date will be set. Jean says it's typically about four months from the time a complaint is filed till the first hearing date.