Prominent Henderson lawyer suspended by state bar

Jul. 05, 2013 @ 06:18 PM

The North Carolina State Bar has shuttered a prominent Henderson attorney’s law practice because of a sex scandal with conflicts of interest.

The bar suspended the state law license of Steven B. DeCillis effective for the next five years, according to an order document signed June 28 by M.H. Hood Ellis, chair of the hearing panel for the state bar’s North Carolina Disciplinary Hearing Commission.

Winding down his law practice will require making files available to clients and transferring cases, including several murder and other major criminal cases, to attorneys for representation.

A call on Friday to DeCillis’ office at 946-Y West Andrews Avenue in Henderson did not yield confirmation that his office address is functional for clients wanting to receive their files.

All questions about the case were referred to his attorney, James D. Williams Jr., according to a person answering the phone for DeCillis. A message to Williams’ phone number had not been returned as of press time.

A call to DeCillis’ cellphone was not answered on Friday.

According to the order, DeCillis initiated a sexual relationship with a woman he was suing on behalf of a client following a March 19, 2010, vehicle crash. He also began to represent her on at least three legal matters while the case against her by his original client continued pending court action.

The disciplinary commission reported that DeCillis had engaged in other sexually inappropriate behaviors before the impropriety that became the focus of their investigation and order.

According to the court file, DeCillis began treatment for a sexual compulsive behavior problem about a year ago. The treatment provider reported he was not fit to have unsupervised contact with female clients or witnesses “for the foreseeable future,” the commission stated.

The commission noted DeCillis displayed a history of compulsive sexual behavior that he only recently admitted while undergoing treatment.

Also, a prior case of sexual misconduct was dismissed with a letter of caution stating that DeCillis showed a “pattern of action” towards females he had contact with before 2010 that was conducted in “a sexually aggressive nature.”

The commission concluded that DeCillis’s decisions were evidence of a lack of judgment, trustworthiness and integrity that compromised his loyalty and independent judgment.

The suspension takes effect 30 days from the time DeCillis was served with the commission’s official order that he also signed. His attorney, Williams, and plaintiff representatives also signed the order.

DeCillis had 15 days to furnish street and mailing addresses to the state bar for clients to use in seeking return of their files and records in his possession or control.

In three years, DeCillis will be able to petition for a provisional reinstatement of his license to practice law in North Carolina. He will need to meet a long list of requirements that include treatment and progress against his sexual compulsion problem.

The sexual compulsion treatments involve monthly individual therapy, weekly group meetings through a 12-step program and submission to physiological monitoring, including polygraph testing, to monitor his compliance with treatment recommendations by psychologists and psychiatrists who specialize in treating sexual offenders.

DeCillis is the defense attorney for numerous criminal cases, including murder cases, Assistant District Attorney Bill Griffin confirmed on Friday.

Griffin said transferring criminal cases to new defense attorneys would cause delays in pending actions on those cases of up to several months while the new attorneys investigate and prepare their representations.

District Attorney Sam Currin was not available for comment on Friday.

The suspension is the next highest action the commission could have taken, short of disbarment.

 

Contact the writer at mfisher@hendersondispatch.com.