Disciplinary Actions

Reinstated

The following attorneys have been reinstated to the practice of law after complying with Supreme Court Rule 21, which requires mandatory continuing legal education:
Terence J. Fairfax, Joelton
David S. Gonzenbach, Chattanooga
Bum Lee, Seoul, South Korea

Censured

Knoxville lawyer James A. H. Bell received a public censure from the Board of Professional Responsibility on March 4 after being found in criminal contempt by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee. In August 2009, U.S. Magistrate Judge Clifford Shirley held Bell in contempt beyond a reasonable doubt for misrepresentations made with the intent to obstruct the business of the court and the administration of justice. Specifically, the judge found that Bell had intentionally, willfully and knowingly made misrepresentations about a meeting with a person who later was a co-defendant in a criminal case in which Bell represented another co-defendant. The judge fined Bell $5,000, the maximum amount allowed. Bell self-reported the contempt charge to the board. In imposing the censure, the board determined that Bell's actions violated Rules of Professional Conduct 3.3(a) and 8.4(d).

On March 17, Clinton Eugene Hagaman received a public censure from the Board of Professional Responsibility for violating Rule of Professional Conduct 8.4(c). During the course of his employment as an associate attorney with a Tennessee law firm, Hagaman prepared a letter on behalf of an individual purporting to have accepted $10,000 for representation in a felony drug case. In reality, however, Hagaman had not received the funds, and the letter was intended to deceive a third party into believing that such a payment had been made. Soon thereafter, Hagaman left the state to seek rehabilitation for a substance abuse problem. The individual who received the letter drafted by Hagaman met with the firm's senior counsel and demanded representation for his drug charge. The senior counsel agreed to represent the individual through disposition of his criminal case.

Suspended

On Feb. 17, the Supreme Court of Tennessee summarily and temporarily suspended Shelby County lawyer James M. Hoots after finding he had misappropriated funds to his own use. The suspension remains in effect until dissolution or modification by the court.

Gerard Thomas Nebel of Nashville was suspended on Feb. 22 for six months and for an indefinite period thereafter until he makes full restitution to two parties. The Supreme Court found that Nebel failed to pay an expert witness after being given $3,000 by a client for that purpose. Further, the court found that while representing a company, Nebel solicited a $13,000 personal loan from the owner, which was never repaid. The court determined that each complainant was entitled to full restitution. In addition to imposing the suspension, the court ordered Nebel to pay the costs of the disciplinary proceeding. His actions were determined to have violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.15 and 8.4(a)(c)(d).

Nashville lawyer Stephanie Janet Williams was suspended on Feb. 22 for one year with all time to be served on probation under the guidance of a practice monitor. The Supreme Court found that Williams neglected a client's case and failed to keep the client informed, which violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3, 1.4, 3.2 and 8.4. Williams agreed to a conditional guilty plea, which was approved by the court.

On March 1, the Tennessee Supreme Court suspended the law license of Carter County lawyer Thomas E. Cowan Jr. following his decision to plead guilty to the serious crime of willful attempt to defeat or evade the payment of taxes - a violation of 26 U.S.C. 7201. The Supreme Court also ordered the Board of Professional Responsibility to institute a formal proceeding against Cowan to determine the extent of final discipline pending an expected conviction.

On March 10, the Tennessee Supreme Court temporarily suspended the law license of Nashville attorney Mary Belle Langford because of her failure to respond to a complaint of ethical misconduct. In response, Langford filed an application with the court requesting a dissolution or modification of the suspension. A hearing to consider whether the suspension should be continued, modified or dissolved will be conducted before a panel consisting of two members of the Board of Professional Responsibility and one hearing committee member from Davidson County.

On March 19, Knoxville lawyer Kenneth Corum was suspended for eight months for failing to respond to a complaint of misconduct. However, the court made the suspension retroactive to April 17, 2009, the date a temporary suspension had been imposed. Corum submitted a conditional guilty plea and agreed to pay the costs of the disciplinary proceeding. The court determined his action violated Rule of Professional Conduct 8.1. He also was ordered to pay the costs of the disciplinary proceeding.

The Tennessee Supreme Court on March 19 temporarily suspended Nashville attorney John Broadbent Cundiff due to his failure to respond to a complaint of ethical misconduct. The suspension will remain in effect until dissolution or modification by the court.

Knox County lawyer Lisa Anne Temple was temporarily suspended on March 19 for failing to respond to a complaint of ethical misconduct. The suspension will remain in effect until dissolution or modification by the Supreme Court.

On March 25, the Tennessee Supreme Court suspended Davidson County lawyer Anna E. Haas for two years after determining she failed to communicate with clients, failed to properly account for all funds distributed to her on clients' behalf, negligently represented a client in an estate matter, and failed to respond to requests from the Board of Professional Responsibility. The court found that her actions violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.1, 1.3, 1.4, 1.15(b), 1.16, 8.1 and 8.4. She also was ordered to pay the costs of the disciplinary proceeding.

On March 26, the Tennessee Supreme Court suspended Sullivan County lawyer Suzanne Shackleford Queen from the practice of law for 11 months and 29 days, retroactive to the date of a temporary suspension imposed on Aug. 29, 2008. Queen was suspended for failing to communicate with a client, failing to properly withdraw from representation of a client and failing to respond to requests from the Board of Professional Responsibility. The court determined that her actions violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.4, 1.16 and 8.1. In addition to imposing the suspension, the court ordered her to pay the costs of the disciplinary proceeding.

Disbarred

The Supreme Court of Tennessee disbarred Christopher Lawrence May on March 8 following his June 2009 disbarment in Arizona for violations of duties and obligations as a lawyer. The Arizona action also required him to pay a total of $8,400 in restitution to four individuals. Despite Tennessee's repeated attempts to serve notice on May, service could not be verified due to May's apparent failure to comply with court rules that require attorneys to notify the Board of Professional Responsibility of address changes. May failed to respond to a show cause order from the court as to why reciprocal discipline should not be imposed in Tennessee. In addition to disbarrment, the court ordered May to pay the costs of the disciplinary proceeding.