Disciplinary Actions

Reinstated

Clinton E. Hagaman, formerly of Knox County, was reinstated to the practice of law on March 29 after being on disability inactive status.

Nashville attorney Mary Belle Langford was reinstated to the practice of law on March 30. She had been suspended on March 10 for failing to respond to a complaint of misconduct.

Memphis lawyer Valerie Mann Horton was reinstated to the practice of law on April 15. She was disbarred on Aug. 17, 1991. Horton filed a petition for reinstatement in October 2005. The hearing panel that reviewed her case recommended reinstatement conditioned on the following factors: that Horton make restitution to her former clients and sit for and pass the Tennessee bar exam. The Tennessee Supreme Court has now determined that she has fulfilled these requirements; that she has the moral qualifications, competency and learning in the law required for admission to practice law; and that her resumption of the practice of law will not be detrimental to the integrity or standing of the bar or the administration of justice, or subversive to the public interest.

Kenneth Allen Corum of Corryton was reinstated to the practice of law on April 21 after complying with Supreme Court Rule 21, which requires mandatory continuing legal education. He had been suspended since August 2008.

Censured

The Board of Professional Responsibility publicly censured Columbia attorney William Barnes Jr. on April 15 for mishandling a visitation case. In representing a client, Barnes drafted an order that incorrectly memorialized a visitation agreement between the client and the child's mother. The incorrect order was adverse to his client's rights and the client's relationship with the child. Barnes admitted his error. In addition, Barnes failed to send the order to his client, who ultimately received it five months later, from the child's mother. In the meantime, Barnes had his client sign a petition allowing visitation during times of military leave, but never set the matter for a hearing. The board determined that these actions violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.1, 1.3 and 1.4.

On April 15, the Board of Professional Responsibility publicly censured Maryville attorney Charles A. Carpenter. In representing a criminal defendant, Carpenter was found to have failed to communicate with his client about the status of the case. In addition, the client had court dates set for September and October 2009, but he did not appear because Carpenter failed to file orders for him to be transported to the hearings. Finally, Carpenter failed to respond to the board's requests for additional information. The board determined that his actions violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.1, 1.4 and 8.1.

Hawkins County lawyer John Anderson received a public censure from the Board of Professional Responsibility on April 16 for failing to keep a client informed about the status of his cases. Although Anderson represented the client for approximately three years, virtually no progress was made on any of the cases and the client was forced to hire new counsel. The board determined that Anderson's actions violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3 and 1.4

Crossville attorney Cynthia Davis was censured on April 16 by the Board of Professional Responsibility for a lack of diligence in a divorce action. In January 2008, Davis was retained to defend a divorce action. Over a five-month period, she failed to file any responsive pleadings or send out any correspondence on behalf of her client. During that time, opposing counsel filed a motion for default and threatened to proceed with a hearing unless an answer was filed. Davis then failed to notify her client of the motion. Though Davis eventually filed responsive pleadings, the delay was prejudicial to her client who was in need of temporary support from her husband. The board determined her actions violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3, 1.4 and 3.2.

Loudon County attorney Arthur Henry received a public censure from the Board of Professional Responsibility on April 16 for failing to inform two clients that he was terminating representation. Henry agreed to represent two separate clients who bought model homes and subsequently discovered the houses were built on a sinkhole. The clients sought to bring suits against the developer of the subdivision. Henry admited he was informed by an expert that the damages in the cases were minimal and that he did not want to pursue the case. He then ceased communicating with the two, despite the fact they sent numerous emails and left several messages inquiring about the status of their cases. The board determined that Henry failed to inform the clients that he was terminating representation and that he failed to comply with the board's repeated requests for additional information. His actions were determined to have violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3, 1.4, 1.16 and 8.1(b).

On April 16, Davidson County lawyer Kevin Terry received a public censure from the Board of Professional Responsibility. In July 2009, Terry drafted a check on his trust account, but there were insufficient funds in the account, and an overdraft resulted. In August and September of 2009, additional checks were written on the trust account which resulted in a larger overdraft balance. Terry admitted that his personal money was in the trust account but maintained that the account did not contain any client money and therefore he had not misappropriated any client funds. The board determined that his actions violated Rule of Professional Conduct 1.15.

Suspended

On March 26, the Supreme Court of Tennessee suspended Shelby County attorney Darren James Scoggins from the practice of law. On Jan. 21, the Criminal Court of Davidson County filed a final order upon entry of Scoggins' plea of guilty to the charges of false imprisonment, aggravated burglary, aggravated assault and possession of a weapon. Section 14 of Supreme Court Rule 9 provides for immediate suspension of an attorney who pleads guilty to a serious crime. The suspension remains in effect pending disposition of a disciplinary proceeding in which the court will determine the extent of the final discipline to be imposed.   

On March 29, the state Supreme Court suspended Jackson lawyer Thomas V. Smith for one year, but allowed Smith to serve one year of probation instead if he meets two requirements: obtaining three hours of additional continuing legal education and engaging the services of a practice monitor. Smith was disciplined for engaging in a business transaction with his client without properly informing the client of a conflict of interest. The court determined that his actions violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.7 and 1.8 and ordered Smith to pay the costs of the disciplinary proceeding.

On April 12, the Supreme Court issued an order suspending the law license of Linden attorney Bobby A. McGee after he pleaded guilty to a serious crime and was found guilty of two other criminal charges. In United States of America vs. Bobby A. McGee " filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee " McGee pleaded guilty to knowingly possessing 185 child pornography computer image files in violation of federal law. In another case   " filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida " a jury found him guilty of two counts of using interstate commerce to induce a minor to engage in sexual activity.   As a result of an earlier disciplinary matter, McGee's law license was suspended on Oct. 7, 2008, and remains so until July 19, 2011.

The Tennessee Supreme Court suspended the law license of former Knox County Law Director William S. Lockett Jr. on April 13 based on his plea of guilty to the serious crime of theft over $10,000. The Supreme Court further ordered the Board of Professional Responsibility to institute a formal proceeding to determine the extent of final discipline to be imposed as a result of the conviction.

Dyersburg lawyer Thomas H. Strawn Jr. was suspended April 20 by the Tennessee Supreme Court for two years but was allowed to serve 22 months on probation after serving 60 days on active suspension. The court also gave him credit for the eight days he spent on temporary suspension. The court found that Strawn neglected his clients' Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases in violation of Rules of Professional Conduct 1.1, 1.3, 1.4, 3.2 and 8.4, and ordered him to pay the costs of the disciplinary proceeding.

On April 14, the Supreme Court of Tennessee temporarily suspended the law license of Chattanooga attorney Charles E. Stanbery Jr. for failure to respond to a complaint of ethical misconduct.

On April 22, the Tennessee Supreme Court temporarily suspended the law licenses of Lawrenceburg attorney Charles Matthew Bates, Tipton County attorney Jewel Guy Boozer, Knoxville attorney Kristin Alyse Godsey   and   Nashville attorney Matthew Fort Mayo for failure to respond to a complaint of ethical misconduct.

Disbarred

On April 14, the Supreme Court of Tennessee disbarred Wade R. Baggette of Monroe, La. The Board of Professional Responsibility filed a petition for reciprocal discipline after the Supreme Court of Louisiana disbarred Baggette on Oct. 20, 2009. In February, the court entered a notice for Baggett to show cause as to why reciprocal discipline should not be imposed in Tennessee. Baggette filed an objection to the discipline, but after considering the entire record, the court disbarred Baggette from the practice of law in Tennessee under the same conditions imposed in Louisiana. The court further ordered Baggette to reimburse the Board of Professional Responsibility $615 for the costs of the proceeding and to pay the Supreme Court's costs.

Disability Inactive

On April 1, the Supreme Court of Tennessee issued an order transferring the law license of Memphis attorney William T. Maxwell Jr. to disability inactive status for an indefinite period. Maxwell may petition for dissolution or modification of the transfer but must show that his disability no longer exists to qualify for reinstatement.