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NC State Bar suspends license of former judge

CHARLOTTE — The N.C. State Bar has suspended the law license of a former Mecklenburg County judge for three years for violating rules of professional conduct while on the bench.

The Charlotte Observer reports (http://bit.ly/HdpW6p) Bill Belk appeared before a hearing panel of the bar’s Disciplinary Hearing Commission, which had already found him in violation of its rules. Belk’s license was suspended on Monday.

Belk, who is the grandson of the Belk department store chain founder, was accused of lying during a 2009 investigation into possible misconduct. As a result, the N.C. Supreme Court banned him from ever returning to the bench, although Belk had already resigned five months previously in November 2009 because of health reasons.

The charges against Belk centered on his decision to remain on the board of Sonic Automotive, one of the nation’s largest auto retailers, while serving as judge. Judges are prohibited from serving on business boards of directors to avoid conflicts of interests.

Belk was also accused of lying when he said he received health insurance from Sonic. At the time, it was shown that he got his insurance not from Sonic but from Monroe Hardware, a Belk family-owned business. Belk argued in August that he had said only that getting insurance from Sonic was a prospect for the future.

Belk can seek a stay after one year of his suspension.

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