State News

Nifong Complains About State Bar's Handling of Ethics Case

Posted August 14, 2007 9:15 p.m. EDT
Updated August 15, 2007 10:08 a.m. EDT

— When former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong mailed in his law license last week, he also included a note bemoaning "the fundamental unfairness" of the North Carolina State Bar's handling of his ethics case.

Nifong was disbarred for his handling of rape charges against three Duke University men's lacrosse players. State prosecutors later dismissed the charges and declared the players innocent.

The State Bar in June found that Nifong violated several ethics rules in his handling of the case, including withholding evidence from defense attorneys and making inflammatory comments to media.

Nifong resigned as district attorney last month when a judge was about to conduct a hearing into removing the disbarred prosecutor from office.

In the Aug. 7 letter, Nifong complained about a revision the State Bar issued to its written ruling, which had omitted one of the counts included in an oral ruling.

Robert Mosteller, a Duke law professor, noticed the missing count.

"Am I just missing this reference, is there an explanation, or just an apparent oversight?" he wrote in an e-mail to the State Bar.

The count was added in an amended order by F. Lane Williamson, a Charlotte lawyer who headed the disciplinary panel.

"Mr. Williamson's e-mail assertion that the addition of a new conclusion of law based on the request of a Duke University law professor is merely a 'clerical correction' is preposterous beyond belief, and is further evidence of the fundamental unfairness with which this entire procedure has been conducted," Nifong wrote.

Nifong's letter contradicts statements his lawyer made during the disciplinary hearing. Attorney David Freedman told the panel that Nifong "believes this has been a fair and full hearing of the facts, that he believes disbarment is the appropriate punishment in this case."

Nifong also noted in his letter that his middle name was misspelled on his law license and that a puppy had chewed on part of the document. "Consequently, it has never been framed or displayed," he wrote.