Saturday, April 20, 2024

UNC board member, NHRMC lobbyist reprimanded for professional misconduct by NC State Bar

Former State Senator Thom Goolsby has been reprimanded by the North Carolina State Bar. (Port City Daily photo / File)

WILMINGTON — The state agency charged with regulating the practice of law in North Carolina has formally reprimanded Thomas Goolsby, the former Republican state senator and current lobbyist for the New Hanover Regional Medical Center and member of the University of North Carolina Board of Governors.

The reprimand for professional misconduct is the result of a grievance filed against Goolsby by a personal injury client — identified as “S.W.” in official documents — that he represented from January 2016 until November 2018.

After an investigation by State Bar staff and a preliminary hearing by the agency’s Grievance Subcommittee, the full Grievance Committee chose to reprimand Goolsby. The reprimand was issued over the summer; a notice of the disciplinary action was published in the winter issue of the State Bar’s quarterly magazine, the Journal.

In the letter of reprimand dated August 7, 2019, Grievance Committee Chairperson A. Todd Brown, Sr. wrote:

Over the course of the representation, your firm procrastinated and did very little work on her case. You also regularly failed to respond to her requests for information or to meet with you. Finally, when S.W. expressed frustration at your firm’s lack of work on her case, you terminated the representation right before the end of the statute of limitations. As the comments of Rule 1.3 note, “Perhaps no professional shortcoming is more widely resented than procrastination. A client’s interests often can be adversely affected by the passage of time or the change of conditions. In extreme instances, as when a lawyer overlooks a statute of limitations, the client’s legal position may be destroyed.” By failing to provide the services for which you were retained and failing to promptly work on S.W.’s case, you failed to act with reasonable diligence in violation of Rule 1.3. By failing to communicate with S.W. regarding the status of her case or respond to her requests for meetings, you violated Rule 1.4(a) and (b ). And by failing to take steps to protect your client’s interests upon termination of the representation, you violated Rule 1.16( d).

[Editor’s note: You can read the complete letter of reprimand below.]

A reprimand is an intermediate form of discipline; it is more serious than an admonition but does not rise to the level of censure. Admonitions are permanent but do not appear on the State Bar’s judgment docket. Public notices of reprimands and censures appear in the State Bar’s quarterly magazine and on the agency’s website. The Grievance Committee can also elevate issues to its disciplinary hearing commission in order to suspend or disbar attorneys (more about the levels of State Bar discipline here); Goolsby has not been suspended or disbarred and is not prohibited from continuing to practice law.

Former state senator, current Board of Governors member and hospital lobbyist

Goolsby was elected twice as state senator for District 9, representing New Hanover County, first in 2010 and again in 2012. In early 2014 he announced he would not run for a third term, saying he wanted to spend more time with his family and private law practice in Wilmington; later that year the North Carolina Secretary of State revoked his registration as an investment advisor after clients of his investment firm sued him. Goolsby resigned before his term ended.

The following year, the North Carolina General Assembly appointed Goolsby to UNC’s Board of Governors for a four-year term. He was reappointed in March of this year, prior to the grievance hearings, to a term that ends in 2023.

Goolsby has also served as one of many lobbyists offering services for the New Hanover Regional Medical Center (NHRMC). According to NHRMC spokesperson Julian March, Goolsby “is a registered lobbyist whose role is limited to representing NHRMC on advocacy matters in state government important to the hospital and healthcare matters in this region.” March confirmed that NHRMC has paid Goolsby $180,000 over the last three years.

According to March, NHRMC reevaluates its relationship with its lobbyists at the end of every legislative session. The most recent session ended just recently, and March confirmed that the hospital is currently in a reevaluation period for all its lobbyists; March said he couldn’t speak to specifics of the reevaluation process or whether the State Bar’s reprimand would be a factor.

Reached by phone, Goolsby said he had no comment about the State Bar’s decision.

Thomas Goolsby – NC State Bar Reprimand – Port City Daily by Ben Schachtman on Scribd


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