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:
Harold Scott Bates, Orlando, Fla.
Paulette R. Burgess, Spokane, Wash.
Herbert Christy Jr., Little Rock, Ark.
Abram V. Conway II, Hartford, Ky.
Geoffrey L. Lewter, Memphis
Barry K. Maxwell, Madisonville
Donna E. Palmer, McKinney, Texas
Keenan R. Popwell, New York, N.Y.
Adam M. Ruf, Snellville, Ga.
Raymond A. Shirley Jr., Knoxville
Randall H. Stamps, Hendersonville
Bradley A. Teplitsky, Cordova
Albert Lindsley Watons III, Chattanooga

Memphis attorney Marvin Posner was reinstated to the practice of law by order of the Tennessee Supreme Court on Oct. 1. Posner was temporarily suspended on Sept. 8 for failing to respond to a complaint of misconduct.

On Oct. 22, the Supreme Court of Tennessee issued an order reinstating Knoxville lawyer Bruce E. Poston to the practice of law. Poston was temporarily suspended on Sept. 21 for failing to respond to a complaint of misconduct.

Censured

Davidson County attorney Yvette Y. Cain was publicly censured on Oct. 22 for failing to monitor entry of an order and failing to reasonably communicate with a client about the status of the order. Cain was engaged to represent a client in a post-divorce child support modification proceeding. The parties reached an agreement, and on July 6, 2005, Cain forwarded a proposed order to the clerk for entry with the court. In August 2006 it was discovered that the order had been misplaced by the clerk and was never signed by the judge. The Board of Professional Responsibility found that Cain failed to monitor entry of the order and then failed to act with reasonable diligence since the order was not signed until May 19, 2009. The board also found that between 2006 and 2009 Cain failed to reasonably communicate with her client about the status of the order. Her actions violate Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3 and 1.4.

On Oct. 22, Madison County lawyer Elizabeth G. Ford received a public censure from the Board of Professional Responsibility for using trust account funds to pay law firm expenses.
While the board determined that she did not use client funds to pay her expenses, she did commingle attorney funds with client funds in violation of Rule of Professional Conduct 1.15(a).

On Oct. 14, Memphis lawyer Michael F. Rafferty was publicly censured by the Board of Professional Responsibility for several tax-related discrepancies and liabilities. Rafferty late-filed individual federal income tax returns for the years 2001 and 2004 and failed to file returns for years 2002-2003 and 2005-2007, despite receiving extensions. He also owed a tax liability for 2004 as well as fines for late filing of other years' documents. These oversights led to his disbarment from practicing before the IRS. The board determined that Rafferty's actions violated Rule of Professional Conduct 8.4(c).

Suspended

On Sept. 24, the Tennessee Supreme Court temporarily suspended the law license of Knoxville lawyer Wesley Markland Baker. The Board of Professional Responsibility requested the suspension after Baker failed to respond to a request for additional information. The suspension remains in force until dissolved or modified by the court.

Memphis lawyer Vanessa G. Keeler was suspended by the Tennessee Supreme Court on Sept. 24 after the court found she violated disciplinary rules in 10 separate client matters. The court imposed a one-year suspension but allowed Keeler to serve 9 of the 12 months on probation. The court also ordered her to pay restitution to four clients and pay the costs of the disciplinary proceeding. In reviewing the complaints filed against her, the court determined that she demonstrated a pattern of delay and lack of diligence in her law practice, and that she violated former Disciplinary Rules 1-102, 2-110, 6-101 and 7-101, and Tennessee Rules of Professional Conduct 1.1, 1.3, 1.4, 1.15, 1.16, 3.1, 3.3, 3.4, 4.1, 5.4, 8.1 and 8.4.

On Sept. 24, the Tennessee Supreme Court suspended Memphis lawyer William Newton for one year, but made the effective date of the suspension retroactive by 11 months. The court found that Newton failed to respond to requests for information from the Board of Professional Responsibility, made misleading statements to the court and failed to abide by court orders in violation of Rules of Professional Conduct 3.3, 3.4, 8.1 and 8.4. The court also ordered him to pay the costs of his disciplinary proceeding.

On Sept. 24, Chattanooga lawyer Robert P. Rayburn was suspended by the state Supreme Court for one year after he was held in contempt of court due to his inability to provide documentation necessary to close an estate. The Supreme Court determined that he failed to properly administer and close the estate in violation of Rules of Professional 1.1, 1.3 and 8.4. He also was ordered to pay the costs of the disciplinary proceeding. The court noted that Rayburn has been disbarred since Dec. 1, 2009.

On Oct. 11, the Tennessee Supreme Court suspended the law license of Memphis attorney Etandra Fenae Douglas based on her guilty plea to the serious crime of felony theft over $1,000. At the same time, the court ordered the Board of Professional Responsibility to institute a formal proceeding to determine the extent of final discipline. The suspension remains in effect until dissolved or modified by the court.

On Oct. 14, the Tennessee Supreme Court suspended Williamson County lawyer Parrish B. Stanton for 18 months, retroactive to Jan. 26, 2009 " the date he was temporarily suspended for failing to respond to two complaints of misconduct. The first complaint alleged that he failed to adequately communicate with a client or provide confirmation that the work he was hired to do had been completed. According to the court, the client tried to contact Stanton by phone, letter and office visits for two months. According to the client, the phone had been disconnected and by all appearances, Stanton had abandoned his law practice. The second complaint alleged that Stanton failed to properly communicate with the beneficiary of a special needs trust and failed to provide information regarding location of the account, funds available to pay for medical treatment, whether a deposit had been made and whether a title to a van had been transferred to the trust. The court determined that these actions violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.1, 1.3, 1.4, 1.5(a), 1.15(b) and 8.4(a). It ordered Stanton to meet all delinquent continuing legal education requirements, pay restitution to aggrieved clients, and pay the costs of his disciplinary proceeding. Stanton entered a conditional guilty plea and agreed to the provisions of the suspension.

The Tennessee Supreme Court temporarily suspended the law license of Memphis attorney Alisa L. Simmons on Oct. 21. The Board of Professional Responsibility petitioned the court for the action after Simmons failed to respond to a complaint of misconduct. The suspension remains in effect until dissolved or modified by the court.

On Oct. 21, the state Supreme Court suspended the law license of Johnson City attorney Alex Vanburen for 18 months. The court found that Vanburen violated disciplinary rules by failing to communicate with clients, to diligently represent clients, to properly withdraw from representation and to respond to requests from the Board of Professional Responsibility. His actions were found to have violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3, 1.4, 1.16, 8.1 and 8.4. In imposing the discipline, the court noted that this suspension does not affect a 366-day suspension imposed on May 6.

Disbarred

On Oct. 4, Reginald Lamont Horton of Nashville was disbarred by the Tennessee Supreme Court for criminal conduct, neglect and failure to communicate with clients. On Aug. 18, Horton pled guilty to serious crimes relating to the delivery of .5 grams of cocaine; possession of .5 grams of cocaine with intent to deliver; attempted theft of property over $1,000; facilitation of the sale of 300 grams of cocaine; and possession of 10 pounds of marijuana with intent to deliver. He was then suspended by the Tennessee Supreme Court, and subsequently filed a conditional guilty plea agreeing to his disbarment. The court determined that his actions violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3, 1.4 and 8.4, disbarred him and ordered him to pay the costs of the disciplinary proceeding.