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:
Stephen Fitzgerald Jr., Gainesville, Ga.
Danny F. Nichol, Minnetonka, Minn.
Charles E. Reed, Nashville

Censured

On Jan. 19, Memphis lawyer Lenal Anderson received a public censure from the Board of Professional Responsibility. The board found that he failed to diligently pursue a client's litigation by waiting several years before attempting to join with a lawyer in the location where suit was to be filed. The board also determined that he failed to keep his client informed about the status of the case. These actions violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3 and 1.4.

Memphis lawyer Paul Forrest Craig received a public censure from the Board of Professional Responsibility on Jan. 19 for failing to draft or file documents establishing a conservatorship for a client's son, despite telling his client and the board that he would resolve the matter quickly. The board also found that he failed to effectively communicate with his client regarding the status of the case. His actions were found to have violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3, 1.4 and 8.4.

Bradley Glenn Kirk of Lexington received a public censure from the Board of Professional Responsibility on Jan. 19 for divulging confidential information about a client. The board reported that Kirk's representation of the client did not violate the rules, but when he sought to withdraw from representation, he divulged confidential information in an affidavit. The board found that his actions violated Rule of Professional Conduct 1.6.

On Jan. 19, Murfreesboro lawyer Carl Richard Moore received a public censure from the Board of Professional Responsibility for depositing several thousand dollars of personal funds in his IOLTA trust account, and for using money from the account to pay personal and business expenses. The board found his actions violated Rule of Professional Conduct 1.15.

Cleveland lawyer Carl F. Petty received a public censure from the Board of Professional Responsibility on Jan. 19 for conducting himself in a manner that was disrespectful to judges and prejudicial to the administration of justice in the courts of the Tenth Judicial District. The board found that his actions violated Rule of Professional Conduct 8.4.

Brentwood lawyer Charles Craig Morrow received a public censure from the Board of Professional Responsibility on Jan. 21 for communicating on two occasions with individuals represented by counsel. On July 31, 2009, Morrow had telephone communication about a pending civil matter with a party known to be represented. He was reminded of the representation during the phone call but failed to cease the communication. In a separate matter, on Aug. 29, 2009, Morrow had communication about a dispute in a pending divorce case with a party represented by counsel. The board found that his actions violated Rule of Professional Conduct 4.2.

Memphis lawyer Murray B. Wells received a public censure from the Board of Professional Responsibility on Jan. 21 for failing to supervise a non-lawyer assistant and for failing to ensure the safekeeping of property. Wells was an owner of a title company and served as the authorized agent/closing attorney for a title insurance underwriter. Under his agreement with the underwriter, Wells was to maintain an escrow/trust account and reconcile that account monthly. Wells employed a non-lawyer to handle closings and disburse settlement proceeds in accordance with contract guidelines and lender instructions. However, because Wells did not conduct monthly audits of the trust account and failed to properly supervise his assistant, a theft occurred. In addition, Wells failed to provide recompense to the insurance underwriter, although no consumers suffered losses. The board found that these actions violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.15 and 5.3(b).

Suspended

On Dec. 30, 2009, New Tazewell lawyer James Dallard Estep III was suspended by the Tennessee Supreme Court for one year, but the court allowed him to serve 10 months of the suspension on probation. The court found that Estep neglected an estate and paid himself fees from an estate without court approval, and that those actions violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.1, 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, 1.15 and 8.4. In addition to imposing the suspension, the court ordered Estep to pay the costs of the disciplinary proceeding. Estep agreed to the discipline and entered a conditional guilty plea. Under the order, he will serve two months of active suspension followed by 10 months of probation.

On Jan. 6, the Tennessee Supreme Court suspended Maryville lawyer Charles Alphonso Carpenter for three months for misappropriating funds from his former law firm, neglecting a client's case and failing to keep a client informed. The court determined that his actions violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3, 1.4, 1.15, 3.2 and 8.4. In addition to imposing a suspension, the court referred Carpenter to the Tennessee Lawyers Assistance Program (TLAP), ordered him to make restitution in the amount of $1,862 to the firm, and pay the costs of the disciplinary proceeding. Carpenter submitted a conditional guilty plea and agreed to the discipline.

On Jan. 7, the Tennessee Supreme Court suspended Nashville lawyer John Jay Hooker for 30 days for filing frivolous litigation and making statements about judges with reckless disregard of the truth or falsity of the claims. The court found that these actions violated Rules of Professional Conduct 3.1, 8.2 and 8.4, and ordered Hooker to pay the costs of the disciplinary proceedings. At the beginning of the process, the Board of Professional Responsibility's hearing panel recommended that Hooker be publicly censured for the actions. Both Hooker and the board appealed that recommendation to a special judge, who in turn rejected the censure and imposed a 30-day suspension. Hooker then appealed to the Tennessee Supreme Court. That court dismissed the appeal based on Hooker's failure to file an appeal bond or pay the litigation tax within the extended time permitted, thus allowing the special judge's order to stand.

On Jan. 8, Nashville lawyer David Henry Hornik was suspended by the Tennessee Supreme Court for one year and six months retroactive to a temporary suspension imposed on April 10, 2008. He also was indefinitely suspended until he complies with Rule 9, Section 18 of Rules of the Supreme Court, which requires suspended attorneys to notify clients, co-counsel and opposing counsel of the suspension. Hornik was found to have neglected clients' cases, failed to keep clients informed and failed to advise co-counsel and a client about his temporary suspension. The court determined that his actions violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.16, 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, 3.2, 3.4, 8.1 and 8.4. In addition to imposing the suspension, the court referred him to Tennessee Lawyers Assistance Program (TLAP) and ordered him to pay the costs of the disciplinary proceeding.

On Jan. 12, the state Supreme Court suspended Dana L. Nero of Nashville for one year, but allowed her to serve the time on probation instead. The court found that Nero made misleading statements to a bonding company as a result of her arrest on drug related charges. She later completed a pre-trial diversion program. The court determined that her actions violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.2, 4.1 and 8.4, and ordered her to pay the costs of the disciplinary proceeding.

The Tennessee Supreme Court summarily and temporarily suspended Nashville lawyer Jerry Maynard II on Jan. 25 for failing to respond to a complaint of ethical misconduct. The suspension remains in effect until dissolution or modification by the court.

On Jan. 25, the Supreme Court of Tennessee issued an order summarily and temporarily suspending Knoxville lawyer Kathy Burns Stillman from the practice of law for failing to respond to a complaint of ethical misconduct. The suspension remains in effect until dissolution or modification by the court.

Disbarred

The Tennessee Supreme Court disbarred Nashville lawyer Michael H. Sneed on Jan. 26 pursuant to three petitions for discipline from the Board of Professional Responsibility. The court found that Sneed committed trust account violations; neglected client cases; assisted non-attorneys in the unauthorized practice of law; and failed to keep clients informed, explain potential conflicts of interest to clients, respond to the board's requests for information and safeguard funds. The court determined that his actions violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3, 1.4, 1.7, 1.15, 5.3, 5.4, 5.5, 8.1 and 8.4.

Also on Jan. 26, the court found that Sneed continued practicing law while suspended in 2009. Based on the recommendation of a special master appointed to consider the matter, the court held Sneed in criminal contempt, sentenced him to 50 days in jail and ordered him to pay a fine of $2,500 and the costs of the disciplinary proceeding. Sneed was to surrender to the Davidson County Sherriff by Feb. 10. In the months following a February 2009 suspension imposed on Sneed, the board received complaints that he was continuing to practice law. Following an investigation, the board filed a petition for criminal contempt. In response, the Supreme Court appointed a special master, who found Sneed guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of criminal contempt. Due to the egregious nature of the conduct, the special master recommended the maximum penalty. On Jan. 26, the court accepted that recommendation.