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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Judge Bill Belk: one step closer

Posted By on Thu, Oct 29, 2009 at 11:44 AM

Judge Bill Belk, potentially Charlotte's brattiest rich kid, should be out of a job soon. Whew.

Belk said Wednesday the N.C. Judicial Standards Commission has decided to recommend his removal, after hearing two days of testimony on misconduct charges involving his service on a corporate board and his altercation with another judge.

The judge told Observer news partner WCNC-TV the commission informed him of its decision earlier Wednesday. The N.C. Supreme Court has the final say on whether to remove Belk.

"It was to be expected," Belk told WCNC. "I knew that this was coming down, actually, when I got elected because the rumor mill was talking about it - that they were going to try to figure out how to get me off the bench. The issues that have come forth at this time - if it hadn't been those issues it would have been something else."

Belk was accused in April of violating the N.C. Code of Judicial Conduct because he continued to serve on the board of directors for Sonic Automotive, one of the nation's largest auto retailers. He was also accused of making disparaging remarks during a confrontation with Chief District Judge Lisa Bell.

n a hearing last month, the commission's counsel, Nancy Vecchia, wrapped up her case against Belk by calling his refusal to resign from Sonic "willful disobedience" of rules meant to ensure public trust in the legal system and "selfish pursuit" of his own interests.

She called Belk, grandson of the founder of the Belk department store chain, "a man clearly used to having his way."

She told commissioners Belk essentially ignored at least three opinions - including one from the state Supreme Court and one from Judge Martin himself - that said his membership on the boards of Sonic and Monroe Hardware violated judicial canons. Court officials say judges are prohibited from serving on business boards to avoid conflicts of interest.

Over hours of testimony, Belk alluded to what he suggested was a "cover-up" - apparently by the commission - and accused Ross of "bullying." In an interview just before the hearing, Belk accused Ross of acting "kind of like a dictator" in picking and choosing which complaints to act on.

Read the entire Charlotte Observer article here.

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