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:
Christopher Filer Donovan, Dyersburg

Carrier Nourse Pinkston, Gallatin

Newton S. Holiday, a Nashville attorney, was reinstated to the practice of law on April 29. Holiday was temporarily suspended on March 5 for failing to respond to a complaint of misconduct. On March 19, he petitioned the court to lift the suspension. Following a hearing on the matter, the Board of Professional Responsibility recommended his reinstatement and the Supreme Court agreed.

Censured
A censure declares conduct improper but does not limit the right to practice law.

Knoxville attorney Aubrey L. Davis was publicly censured on April 22 for gross negligence in the performance of his duties to a client and to the Court of Criminal Appeals. In representing a criminal defendant on appeal, Davis failed to timely file the appellate brief, and again failed to file when an extension was granted. After being ordered to show cause, Davis assured the court he would file the brief within a second extension period, but failed to do so. He also failed to communicate with the court about the status of his case. The court held him in willful contempt and relieved him as counsel. The court then informed the Board of Professional Responsibility of its action. The board reported that Davis failed to respond to the complaint or to communicate with disciplinary counsel until he was temporarily suspended from the practice of law on March 31. The censure was imposed for violations of Tennessee Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3 and 8.4.

The Tennessee Supreme Court censured Maryville lawyer Charles David Deas on May 9 for neglect and failure to communicate with a former client. Deas submitted a conditional guilty plea, agreed to the censure and agreed to make restitution to the client. The court found that his actions violated Rules 1.3, 1.4 and 8.1 of the Tennessee Rules of Professional Conduct.

Suspended
Suspension is effective 10 days after issuance, except where immediate suspension is necessary to protect the public. A suspended lawyer may not accept new clients but may continue representing current clients for 30 days. The lawyer must notify all clients, co-counsel and opposing counsel of the suspension order; return to clients any papers or property to which they are entitled; not use the indicia of lawyer, legal assistant or law clerk; and not maintain a presence where the practice of law is conducted. An attorney suspended for one year or more must prove by clear and convincing evidence that he has the moral qualifications, competency and learning required for admission to the practice of law, and that resumption of his practice would not be detrimental to the integrity and standing of the bar or the administration of justice, nor be subversive to the public interest. An attorney suspended for less than one year with conditions may resume practice after complying with those conditions. An attorney suspended for less than one year with no conditions may resume practice without reinstatement.

By order of the state Supreme Court, James David Leckrone was suspended from the practice of law on April 11. The suspension resulted from Leckrone's conviction on Feb. 25, 2007, in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee. He was found guilty of filing a false tax return, in violation of Title 26, USC  § 7201. The court also ordered that a formal disciplinary proceeding be conducted to determine the extent of final discipline.

On April 11, the Tennessee Supreme Court suspended the law license of Nashville lawyer Rodney M. Phelps for a period of four years. The action was based on a petition by the Board of Professional Responsibility showing Phelps had violated the terms of his probation. The probation had been imposed by the court in December 2006. Phelps submitted a conditional guilty plea and agreed to the suspension.

Ryan B. Feeney, a Memphis attorney, was suspended from the practice of law on April 16 for one year. However, the court made the suspension retroactive to Nov. 1, 2007. On Oct. 31, 2007, Feeney submitted a conditional guilty plea agreeing to the suspension and the imposition of probation. Feeney will be eligible to petition for reinstatement of his law license on Nov. 1, 2008.

On April 17, the Supreme Court suspended the law license of Nashville lawyer Merrilyn Feirman for a period of two years retroactive to a temporary suspension imposed on Jan. 10, 2006. At that time, the Board of Professional Responsibility had filed a petition for discipline against Feirman for failing to keep a client informed and respond to a client's request for information. The board subsequently filed a supplemental petition for discipline based on Feirman's failure to respond to the board and communicate with a client.

John Earl Rainwater of Knoxville was suspended by the Tennessee Supreme Court for one year, retroactive to Sept.1, 2007. Rainwater submitted a conditional guilty plea and agreed to the suspension. The court also ordered him to pay the costs of the disciplinary proceeding.

On May 2, the state Supreme Court temporarily suspended Memphis lawyer Michael Edward Latimore for failing to respond to a complaint of ethical misconduct. The suspension remains in effect until modified or dissolved by the court.

On May 13, the Supreme Court of Tennessee suspended Carleton E. Bryant for six months but waived the suspension and instead placed him on probation, subject to certain conditions, for the same period of time. The court found that Bryant violated disciplinary rules by (1) representing clients who had conflicts of interest with one of his existing clients, (2) negligently allowing an employee to file a pleading with no merit and (3) negligently signing a document that contained factual misrepresentations. The court found that his actions violated Disciplinary Rules 1-102, 2-103, 5-101, 5-105, 7-102, 7-104 and 7-106. In exchange for probation, the court directed Bryant to attend and successfully complete six hours of continuing legal education in ethics, pay the costs of his disciplinary proceedings, avoid another meritorious disciplinary complaint during the probation period, and cease any private practice that presents a potential conflict of interest with his position as attorney for the Knox County Sheriff's Department.

On May 13, the state Supreme Court issued an order suspending Nashville lawyer William W. Leech for one year, but allowed him to serve nine months of that term on probation after completing three months on suspension. In exchange, Leech submitted a conditional guilty plea. After Aug. 13, Leech is permitted to practice law if he meets the conditions of his probation. However, if he fails to meet any of the conditions, probation will be withdrawn and he will serve the remainder of the time on suspension. The court found that Leech's conducted violated Rules 1.1, 1.3,1.4, 1.15, 3.2 and 8.4 of the Tennessee Rules of Professional Conduct.

The Supreme Court of Tennessee on May 14 suspended Floyd Nolton Price for a period of three years, retroactive to March 14, 2005. The court found that he neglected and abandoned clients, failed to communicate with clients, failed to represent clients competently, failed to comply with court orders, and practiced law while his license was suspended. These actions were in violation of Tennessee Rules of Professional Conduct 1.1, 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, 1.15, 1.16, 5.5 and 8.4. In addition to imposing the suspension, the court ordered Price to make restitution in the amount of $3,000 to a former client, submit another fee dispute to the Nashville Bar Association's fee dispute resolution process, and pay the costs of his disciplinary proceeding.

On May 20, the Tennessee Supreme Court suspended Knoxville lawyer Nathanael E. Anderson for 120 days and placed him on probation for seven months and 29 days. The court found that Anderson violated disciplinary rules by engaging in a pattern of neglect, having inadequate communication with clients, failing to refund fees, charging excessive fees, failing to clarify trust account ambiguities and making misrepresentations to clients. Those actions, according to the court, violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, 1.15, 1.16 and 8.4.

The state Supreme Court on May 20 suspended Kingsport attorney Thomas Martin Browder for 10 months and 29 days, retroactive to Sept. 1, 2006. The court also directed Browder to make restitution to all complainants for neglecting client matters and failing to communicate with clients. He must file an affidavit with the Board of Professional Responsibility showing he has made restitution, or submit agreements made with the complainants regarding the payment of restitution to the board for its approval. Browder was first suspended in August 2006 for 11 months and 29 days " with all but 30 days to be served on probation. His probation was revoked however, when he failed to meet conditions imposed by the court.

On May 20, the Supreme Court of Tennessee suspended Dyersburg lawyer Christopher F. Donovan for 11 months and 29 days, but made the suspension retroactive to Jan. 31, 2006. It also imposed certain conditions on Donovan, including making him pay restitution to two clients, pay the costs of his disciplinary proceedings and serve a three-year probationary period. Donovan was disciplined for failing to perform legal work for clients who retained him and abandoning his law practice without properly notifying clients. The court found that his actions violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.1,1.3, 1.4, 1.5(a), 1.15 (a) and (b), 1.16 (a) & (d) and 8.4 (a) and (d).

Disbarred
In Tennessee, disbarment becomes effective 10 days after an order of the court. Under the Rules of Professional Conduct, a disbarred lawyer must notify all clients, co-counsel and opposing counsel of the disbarment; must deliver to all clients any papers or property to which they are entitled; may not use the indicia of lawyer, counselor at law, legal assistant, law clerk or similar title; and may not maintain a presence or occupy an office where the practice of law is conducted. A lawyer who has been disbarred after hearing or by consent may not apply for reinstatement for at least five years. When applying, the lawyer must prove by clear and convincing evidence that reinstatement would not be detrimental to the integrity and standing of the bar or the administration of justice, nor be subversive to the public interest.

Greenville attorney Lawrence A. Welch Jr. was disbarred by the Tennessee Supreme Court on March 13. The court's action was based on acts by Welch, including misuse of his deceased father's and mother's credit cards for his own personal benefit; preparing and recording a warranty deed and affidavit naming himself as co-owner of his mother's condominium without her knowledge or consent; encouraging plaintiffs to file a sexual harassment lawsuit based on fabricated charges; neglecting a client's case; failing to communicate with a client and opposing counsel; and leading clients to believe he had filed their lawsuit when he had not done so. A hearing panel of the Board of Professional Responsibility heard the charges against Welch and recommended disbarment. Welch filed an appeal, which was dismissed by Senior Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood. Welch then appealed to the Supreme Court, which also dismissed the motion and imposed the disbarment.

On May 9, William Anthony Helm was disbarred based on 23 complaints of misconduct. The state Supreme Court found that Helm failed to (1) appear or perform on behalf of clients, (2) refund client fees, (3) update his address with the Board of Professional Responsibility, (4) provide notice to clients of a temporary suspension and (5) withdraw from cases following a temporary suspension. The court also ruled that Helm misappropriated funds and abandoned his law practice. In committing these acts, the presiding judge in Shelby County determined Helm had harmed the legal system and appointed private counsel to inventory his files to protect former clients' interests. The Supreme Court found that his actions violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.1, 1.2(a), 1.4, 1.5, 1.7, 1.15, 1.16, 3.2, 3.3, 3.4, 4.1, 8.1 and 8.4. In addition to disbarring Helm, the Supreme Court ordered him to pay the costs of the disciplinary proceeding.

Memphis lawyer Drayton Beecher Smith was disbarred by the Tennessee Supreme Court on May 20 following his conviction on six counts of possession and receipt of illegal materials transported in interstate commerce by means of a computer. Smith consented to the disbarment. The court determined that his actions violated Rule 8.4(a), (b), (c) and (d) of the Rules of Professional Conduct.

Disability Inactive
Disability inactive status precludes an attorney from practicing law in the state immediately. The designation remains in effect until further order of the court, however the attorney is entitled to petition the court for reinstatement to active status once a year (or at shorter intervals if the court allows). To return to active status, the attorney must show by clear and convincing evidence that the disability has been removed and that he or she is fit to resume the practice of law.

On March 17, the Supreme Court of Tennessee transferred the law license of Craig J. Donaldson to disability inactive status. Donaldon, who last practiced law in Loudon County, alleged that he is incapacitated from continuing to practice. The court agreed and approved the transfer pursuant to Rule 9, Section 21.2 of the Rules of the Supreme Court.

By order of the state Supreme Court entered April 7, the law license of Memphis attorney Joseph Richard Rossie was transferred to disability inactive status.

Court of the Judiciary
Dickson County General Sessions Judge A. Andrew Jackson received a public reprimand from the Tennessee Court of the Judiciary on May 16 for actions while sitting as the county's juvenile judge. In hearing cases involving children who were, or were perceived to be, illegal aliens as well as children of illegal aliens, the court found that Jackson's treatment of the children violated Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 10, Canons 1-3; deprived them of equal protection rights guaranteed under the U.S. and Tennessee constitutions; and detrimentally affected the integrity of the Tennessee judiciary and public confidence in the administration of justice. The court determined that Jackson consistently ruled that children with illegal or questionable status were dependent and neglected when petitions before him did not seek such a declaration. The court also found that Jackson jailed several juveniles for being unruly, repeatedly asked counsel if their clients were illegal, and made inappropriate remarks about another judge. In imposing the reprimand, the court also directed Jackson to accord all persons who appear before him equal protection of the law and to decide cases on an independent and fair basis. A public censure is the highest degree of judicial discipline authorized by law short of the court seeking removal of a judge from office.