N.C. State Bar settles unauthorized practice case against advocate for homeowners’ rights
The North Carolina State Bar has reached a truce with a retired real estate broker in Franklin County who ruffled the feathers of some local debt collection lawyers when she began helping homeowners fight foreclosure.
But Hutchinson and her attorney, James White of Chapel Hill, said several of those same lawyers testified during depositions that Hutchinson had not actually represented any homeowners in court.
“The answer was always, ‘No,’” Hutchinson said. “That was the crux of the whole thing, the basis of it all was that I was representing people at these hearings.”
White added in a separate interview, “I thought the depositions went well. Nobody could point to any time when she objected or when she actually appeared [on behalf of a homeowner] at any hearing.”
Franklin County Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood’s factual findings in the consent order make no mention of Hutchinson acting as an attorney for homeowners.
He found that she was not engaged in the unauthorized practice of law, which is a misdemeanor, when she distributed informational fliers at the courthouse. He also determined that Hutchinson did not have any criminal intent when she filed notes with the clerk about particular foreclosure cases, though he said her actions might be considered unauthorized practice. He did not make any further findings on the issue.
“The important thing about this is the [bar’s] complaint makes it sound like she was doing all kinds of horrendous things,” White said. “But if you look at the findings, the only finding about what she did is she submitted documents and the clerk filed them.”
Now, instead of filing those documents with the clerk, Hutchinson can post them on her website for anyone to see, White added.