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Former client of suspended China Grove lawyer speaks out

By Shavonne Walker
shavonne.walker@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — When Jamar Day got a speeding ticket in North Carolina while traveling from Atlanta to Maryland to visit his family in 2011, he figured Salisbury attorney Keith Booker could help.

The 30-year-old teacher paid the now-suspended China Grove attorney and lost out on more than $1,200.

In 2016, the N.C. State Bar suspended Booker after a disciplinary hearing. He was ordered not to practice law for five years. According to the Bar, Booker and his office manager transferred money from an attorney trust account to his operating or personal accounts.

The Post published an article in September 2016 about the Bar’s decision and has since received a number of calls from former clients of Booker. Rowan County Clerk of Court Jeff Barger says his office has received similar calls and is willing to work with those clients to rectify their records.

Day received a mail circular advertising for Booker’s services after he got the ticket. He hired Booker and paid him a $500 retainer fee. According to Day, Booker told him that he would not have to appear in court and that he would handle the case.

Day says Booker managed to get the case continued but never did anything else. The Maryland resident was unaware he had more than one failure-to-appear notice for scheduled Rowan County court dates. In the end, Day had to take out a personal loan to pay $1,200 in court fees and fines.

According to the Bar, there was no evidence that Booker knowingly or intentionally misused clients’ funds. Booker acknowledged to the Post in September 2016 that mistakes were made but said there was nothing nefarious on his part. The Bar evidence also showed that despite his neglect, Booker did make efforts to “rectify the consequences of his misconduct to ensure his clients’ cases were ultimately properly resolved.”

Day disagrees with the Bar’s opinion that Booker tried to rectify his misconduct. Day says he contacted Booker by phone and the attorney was supposed to call him back. He has not heard from him since that call. Day said a phone number that was listed for Booker has since been disconnected.

Day contacted the Rowan County Clerk’s Office, which informed him that he could return to Rowan County to see if the office could help him get his record straight. But Day said it was not feasible for him to return to North Carolina, so he paid the fees and fines.

“I’m a teacher. I have no income in the summer, so I had to take out a loan,” Day said.

Day says he did not receive points on his license and that everything is now taken care of. He said he regrets hiring Booker and has vowed to be more careful if he ever needs another attorney.

Clerk of Court Barger advises anyone who has hired Booker as an attorney to contact the Rowan County Clerk’s Office at 704-797-3001 or the clerk of court in the county in which their case was handled.

Day says he also contacted the N.C. State Bar and filed a complaint. The State Bar can be contacted at 919-828-4620.

Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.

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