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County leader’s failure to provide financial documents could lead to criminal contempt of court

New Hanover County Chairwoman Julia Olson-Boseman must go before a judge and explain why she should NOT be held in criminal contempt for failing to provide records to the N.C. State Bar regarding client funds.
County leader’s failure to provide financial documents could lead to criminal contempt of court
Published: Jun. 6, 2022 at 3:54 PM EDT
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RALEIGH, N.C. (WECT) - The N.C. State Bar (NCSB) has filed a motion that would require New Hanover County Board of Commissioners Chair Julia Olson-Boseman to appear before a judge and explain why she has not complied with requirements outlined in the preliminary injunction filed against her earlier this year.

The motion to show cause, which was filed late last month, specifically says Boseman should “appear and show cause why she should not be held in criminal contempt.”

A motion for order to show cause asks a judge to require a party to appear and explain their actions, or in this case, lack thereof.

“Order to show cause (O.S.C.) is a demand of a judge for a party to justify, explain or prove why the court should or should not grant a motion. For example, if a party requests a restraining order from a judge, the judge may feel he needs more information before deciding and issue an order to show cause,” according to the Legal Information Institute run by Cornell Law School.

Following the motion for cause, a notice of hearing was filed in superior court for the session starting on June 27, 2022 in Wake County.

In the court document, the NCSB says it has actively tried to avoid filing such an action, however; Olson-Boseman has failed to comply with multiple requests to provide information for nine different categories.

On March 14, 2022, the court entered the preliminary injunction against Olson-Boseman after the NCSB investigated her handling of client funds. According to the motion, that injunction required her to produce financial information, including bank records for multiple accounts, starting in 2019.

“The order required respondent to produce certain categories of this information immediately, without further request from the State Bar,” according to the motion. “Respondent did not produce any of the information to the State Bar that the Order required her to immediately produce.”

The NCSB repeatedly attempted to make contact with Olson-Boseman, according to the filing by Robert Weston, counsel for the Bar.

According to the NCSB, the first correspondence was sent via certified mail on March 25, 2022. When the delivery was not completed, a notice to retrieve the mail was placed at the residence. Olson-Boseman never retrieved the letter, according to the NCSB.

Attempts to contact Olson-Boseman continued via email and USPS First Class Mail on April 4, April 19, and May 20. All went unanswered.

“On April 19, having received no response or information from Respondent, the State Bar sent Respondent a follow-up request via email and vial U.S. mail, first-class and postage paid, to Respondent’s address of record,” the motion reads. “It also notified Respondent that the State Bar was attempting to avoid filing a motion for a show cause order, but that the State Bar indented to proceed with the motion if it did not receive a complete response with all of the demanded information by May 10.”

Again, that went unanswered. The State Bar offered one last attempt to allow Olson-Boseman the chance to comply with the orders on May 20, giving her until May 24 to complete the request.

The NCSB also says they know Olson-Boseman is aware of the order, citing WECT’s previous reporting as evidence since she provided statements to the press.

When reached for comment about the possibility of being held in criminal contempt, Olson-Boseman responded via email.

“The good news about losing the election is never having to talk to [expletive] reporters like you again,” she said.

Criminal versus civil contempt

Contempt of court is a tool used to ensure court directives are followed.

“The purpose of recognizing contempt of court is to secure the dignity of the courts and the uninterrupted and unimpeded administration of justice,” according to the LII.

There are two types of contempt in North Carolina, civil and criminal and both serve different purposes.

“Criminal contempt is used to punish a person for violating a court order or interrupting or expressing disrespect for the court. Civil contempt, on the other hand, is intended to make someone obey a court order. The purpose of criminal contempt is punishment; the purpose of civil contempt is compliance. Criminal contempt punishes behavior that already has occurred. Civil contempt tries to affect ongoing behavior,” according to the UNC School of Government.

Criminal contempt of court is outlined in North Carolina General Statute Chapter 5A, Article 1, and describes multiple reasons a person can be found in contempt.

One reason includes, “Willful disobedience of, resistance to, or interference with a court’s lawful process, order, directive, or instruction or its execution,” according to the law.

If a judge holds someone in criminal contempt, there are several consequences that a judge could impose.

“A person who commits criminal contempt, whether direct or indirect, is subject to censure, imprisonment up to 30 days, fine not to exceed five hundred dollars ($500.00), or any combination of the three,” according to the law.

In March, Olson-Boseman addressed the injunction and reiterated the fact she is no longer practicing law, and has no desire to do so. She also criticized Weston saying ‘He tried to bully me into signing a consent order into something I didn’t do.’

As for what that injunction demanded, Boseman was forbidden to take in or take out any client funds, something she said wasn’t an issue since she has retired.

“It doesn’t want me to receive or disperse client funds, I’m like, well that makes — like I haven’t practiced law for like a year now. It’s so ridiculous; I am so tired of being harassed by this guy. My attorneys called him, [they] were like, ‘she’s not practicing law’. He doesn’t believe me. I’m not practicing law, still not practicing, still not practicing. It’s like fighting for custody over a dead child,” she said.

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