News

Court Overturns Contempt Charge Against Attorney

The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled in a unanimous decision today that a judge may not properly charge an attorney with contempt of court when the behavior neither disrupts the proceedings nor disparages the court, even if the judge believes the attorney behaved unethically. The ruling came after a judge convicted attorney James Beeler of criminal contempt of court for speaking to his client's husband who was being represented by another attorney during trial. The judge stated Beeler broke the ethical rule that forbids attorneys from speaking with a person represented by another attorney about the subject matter of that representation without permission. The Court reversed and vacated Beeler's convicton. Download the full court opinion.

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Memphis Lawyer Surrenders License

Longtime Memphis attorney Mark Saripkin, 60, surrendered his law license following an investigation into allegations that he waived fees for a teenage client in exchange for oral sex, the Commercial Appeal reports. Saripkin, who has not been charged with a crime, allegedly began a relationship with his client when she was 17 and facing charges in Shelby County Juvenile Court. It continued when she was charged with child sex trafficking in federal court last year, the newspaper says.

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Brentwood Man Sentenced in Ponzi Scheme

The former financial advisor and owner of A.D. Vallett & Co. has been sentenced to 120 months in prison for running a Ponzi scheme that defrauded more than 30 victims of over $5 million, BrentwoodHomePage reports. Aaron Vallett pleaded guilty to orchestrating the Ponzi scheme. His sentence was announced as the Department of Justice kicks off a series of investment fraud summits in cities across the country, including Nashville. The event was held at Vanderbilt School of Law this morning.

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TBA Transition Subcommittee Begins Work

The Transition and Succession Subcommittee of the TBA Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility is tackling issues related to winding down abandoned law practices. The subcommittee, chaired by Nashville lawyer Marisa Combs and Chattanooga lawyer Hugh Kendall, has placed a special emphasis on developing preventative measures so that lawyers have the tools to properly plan the succession of their law practices.

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Deadline Oct. 12 for BPR Job

The deadline to apply for chief disciplinary counsel for the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility is Oct. 12, and the successful candidate will begin on Jan. 1, 2013. Details on the job description and how to apply are posted on the AOC web site.

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Dixon Explains Civility Initiative; First Forum Tuesday in Memphis

Tennessee Bar Association President Jackie Dixon was featured today in the Tennessean for her work with the TBA Civility and Free Expression Initiative. The public forums will be held in Memphis, Nashville, and Knoxville, with each program focusing on a different, local topic of interest within the overall theme of civility and free speech. The Memphis event is Tuesday. "It just takes some things we all learned in kindergarten: being polite and listening, being courteous and being open to new ideas," Dixon says in explaining civility. "If we just plant the seeds in the minds of 100 people in Memphis and 100 here in Nashville and in Knoxville and in a wide variety of people, maybe they might start thinking about ways to be more civil and other ways to teach the young people they encounter as well."

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BPR Names Interim Head, Solicits Applications

The Tennessee Supreme Court today named James “Tony” Vick as interim chief disciplinary counsel for the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility (BPR), effective with the departure of Nancy Jones at the end of the month. Vick, who has been with the agency for more than 16 years, currently serves as ethics counsel. Vick already has said that he will not be a candidate for permanent appointment, so the court is accepting applications through Oct. 12 for the position. Watch the court's website for details and a job description.

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ABA Commission Weighs New Rules on Foreign Lawyers

The ABA Commission on Ethics 20/20 has released drafts of possible recommendations that would make it easier for foreign lawyers to obtain limited authority to practice in U.S. jurisdictions, the ABA Journal reports. But a memo issued by the commission co-chairs emphasizes that no decision has been made whether to submit the changes to the ABA House of Delegates, or what the final version of those recommendations would be. Those decisions will be made when the commission meets Oct. 25-26. In the meantime, the commission is seeking comments on its draft recommendations. Submit comments to Natalia Vera by Oct. 12.

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Court Issues Draft Revision to Discipline Rule

The Tennessee Supreme Court today issued a draft "comprehensive revision" and reorganization of its rule on lawyer registration and discipline. Comments on the 118-page proposal are due Feb. 8, 2013. The TBA Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility will review the proposal for the TBA. Download a copy of the proposal

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Comments Sought on Judicial Disqualification Rules

The ABA Standing Committee on Judicial Independence met during the annual meeting in Chicago last week and issued a draft of revised judicial disqualification rules designed to deal with the influx of cash into judicial races. Sept. 15 is the deadline for comments on the draft revisions. Learn more from the ABA Journal

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ABA House Tackles Range of Issues

The ABA House of Delegates considered a range of issues during its meeting yesterday and today in Chicago. Topping the agenda was changes to model ethics rules recommended by the Commission on Ethics 20/20. Among those proposals were changes to help younger lawyers facing a tough job market, rules for online client communications and rules for dealing with electronic files and metadata. The commission did not take a position on nonlawyer ownership of law firms, and delegates voted to postpone that issue indefinitely. Other action items included approving stricter standards on law school marketing, opposing laws that prevent physicians from talking to patients about gun ownership and safety, calling for a ban on religious profiling, calling on lawmakers to extend the statute of limitation for child sexual abuse crimes, calling for criminal defense lawyers to help clients with civil and nonlegal problems, adoption of rules governing conflicts checks when law firms merge or lawyers move to new employment, and adoption of new civil immigration detention standards.

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ABA Ethics Panel Seeks Comments on UPL Issue

While finalizing resolutions to be presented to the American Bar Association (ABA) House of Delegates in August, the ABA Commission on Ethics 20/20 continues to grapple with the issue of how technology impacts the unauthorized practice of law. The panel is seeking input about how technology, which now allows lawyers to practice in a jurisdiction without physically being present, affects Rule 5.5 of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct. Download a white paper on the issue or read more in the ABA Journal. Comments should be submitted to Natalie Vera at natalia.vera@americanbar.org no later than July 31. 

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12 New Charges Added to Hawkins County Judge

Former Hawkins County judge James "Jay" Taylor was served Monday with 12 new theft-related charges, bringing the total charges against him to 53. Last week he was indicted by the Davidson County Grand Jury on 41 counts of theft related to fraudulent payment claims he made to the state while serving as judge. These new charges handed down by the Hawkins County Grand Jury are related to alleged thefts that occurred in his private practice. Taylor, 41, of Rogersville, remains held in the Davidson County Jail on $175,000 bond. The Times News has details

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Court Reviewing Rule on Disciplinary Enforcement

The Tennessee Supreme Court has begun a review of Supreme Court Rule 9: Disciplinary Enforcement. If there are any proposed changes, the Administrative Office of the Courts reports, there will be an announcement and a time for public comment set.

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ABA Ethics Commission Issues Findings

The American Bar Association's Commission on Ethics 20/20 has made final recommendations about the impact of technology and globalization on the practice of law, as well as the structure for regulating U.S. lawyers. The ABA House of Delegates will consider a series of resolutions based on those recommendations when it meets in August. Discussion will center on lawyer mobility, legal process outsourcing and maintaining client confidences. Among the report’s main findings are that (1) lawyers must understand technology in order to provide clients with the competent and cost-effective services they deserve, and (2) globalization means that more clients are confronting legal problems that cross jurisdictional lines, requiring lawyers to cross real and virtual borders. The ABA Journal has more from the report

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Court Adopts Changes to Rules of Professional Conduct

The Tennessee Supreme Court today (Sept. 29,2010) adopted the first set of comprehensive amendments to the Rules of Professional Conduct since the new rules became effective in March 2003. These amendments, to be effective Jan. 1, 2011, come as a result of a six-year revision process initiated by the Tennessee Bar Association, an extensive comment period and an oral argument in June 2010.

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