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On Feb. 16, Weakley County lawyer Kyle Eric Crowe was reinstated to the practice of law subject to four conditions: (1) compliance with a Tennessee Lawyers’ Assistance Program monitoring agreement, (2) repayment of funds currently in his trust accounts that are owed to others, (3) working only in a supervised setting where he has no control over trust funds or trust accounts, and (4) prohibiting his spouse from working in any capacity involving present or future trust accounts. Crowe had been suspended on Nov. 24, 2009, for misappropriation of funds.
The Board of Professional Responsibility publicly censured Greene County lawyer Thomas Wood Smith on Feb. 2. Smith was retained to represent a client in a property dispute. Thereafter, he failed to reasonably communicate with his client or promptly pursue the case. Over two years after the complaint was filed, Smith represented his client during a mediation of the property dispute and agreed to draft a partnership agreement that would govern the sale of the property. Smith failed to draft the agreement. Seven months after the mediation, the client discharged Smith, who failed to promptly return the client’s deeds, plats and surveys.
In a related matter, Smith agreed to file an objection to the appointment of his client’s sibling as executrix of their mother’s estate, but failed to promptly pursue the matter and failed to reasonably communicate with his client about the matter. The board determined that these actions violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3, 1.4 and 1.16(d).
Fentress County attorney Thomas Harding Potter was publicly censured by the Board of Professional Responsibility on Feb. 4 for threatening an opposing expert witness. During the deposition of one of Potter’s witness, Potter believed he saw the opposing side’s expert witness making hand gestures and moving his head. Potter became angry and threatening to the opposing expert witness. The board determined that his actions violated Tennessee Rules of Professional Conduct 3.5 and 4.4.
On Feb. 16, Memphis lawyer Peggy J. Lee was publicly censured by the Board of Professional Responsibility for failing to keep adequate trust account records. The board determined that her actions violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.15 and 8.4, and ordered her to pay the cost of the disciplinary proceeding.
On March 3, Union City lawyer Henry Allen Nohsey was publicly censured by the Board of Professional Responsibility for conflict of interest and prohibited transactions violations. Nohsey was engaged to represent an executrix of an estate. In September 2009, the executrix loaned him $50,000 from estate funds, evidenced by a demand note signed by him. The loan was repaid in full on July 28, 2010. In August 2010, after learning of the transaction, the trial court removed the executrix from her responsibilities and released Noshey as the estate’s attorney. The court found that Nohsey failed to advise the executrix of the opportunity to seek independent legal advice regarding the loan, and identified $54,000 in attorney fees that had not been approved. Nohsey has since refunded the fees. The board determined that these actions violated Rule 1.8(a) of the Rules of Professional Conduct.
Dyer County lawyer Martin Lynn Howie was immediately and summarily suspended from the practice of law on Feb. 8 after the state Supreme Court found that he failed to respond to a complaint of misconduct. The suspension remains in effect until dissolution or modification by the court. Howie may for good cause request dissolution or modification of the suspension.
Gallatin lawyer Cheryl J. Skidmore was immediately and summarily suspended from the practice of law on Feb. 8 after the state Supreme Court found she posed a threat of substantial harm to the public. The suspension remains in effect until dissolution or modification by the court. Skidmore may for good cause request dissolution or modification of the suspension.
On Feb. 17, the Tennessee Supreme Court suspended Tullahoma lawyer Robert Thomas Carter Jr. after he pleaded guilty to felony theft of property in the amount of $10,000 to $60,000. The court previously had suspended Carter on July 21, 2010, for failure to comply with a Tennessee Lawyers Assistance Program monitoring agreement. The court also ordered the Board of Professional Responsibility to institute a formal proceeding to determine the final discipline to be imposed as a result of the criminal conviction.
On Feb. 17, Thomas Ewing Cowan of Elizabethton was suspended from the practice of law for three years. He also was directed to pay $1,500 in restitution to a former client and pay the costs of his disciplinary proceeding. The Tennessee Supreme Court found that Cowan misrepresented his licensure status to a chancery court by failing to advise that court that he had been administratively suspended on March 1, 2010, for failure to pay registration fees. The Supreme Court also found that he failed to appear in court as ordered (resulting in the setting aside of a three-day trial judgment) and failed to appear in another instance following issuance of a show cause order requiring his attendance. In addition, the court found that Cowan demonstrated extremely negligent office management, which resulted in a pattern of dilatory conduct. This negligence led to failures to comply with deadlines, respond to motions, draft and file orders, and communicate with clients. Finally, the court found that Cowan failed to avoid a conflict of interest, and failed to respond in a timely manner to disciplinary complaints. The court found that his actions violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, 1.15, 1.16, 3.2, 3.3(a), 8.1 and 8.4(a)(c)(d) and Disciplinary Rules 1-102, 6-101 and 7-101.
On Feb. 8, Knoxville attorney Nathanael Ellis Anderson was disbarred and ordered to pay $7,166.50 in restitution to former clients. The action was based on 12 client complaints, and is in addition to a previous disbarment and restitution order in the amount of $70,811.85 issued in March 2009. The new disbarment was imposed after the Tennessee Supreme Court found that Anderson continued to practice law, accept fees and make false statements to his clients about his status after being suspended in September 2007. The court found that his actions violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, 1.15, 1.16, 3.2, 3.4, 8.1(b) and 8.4.
Williamson County lawyer Diane Gurulé Livingston was disbarred from the practice of law on Feb. 14 for abandoning her practice, accepting a fee and not performing any services, and failing to respond to requests from the Board of Professional Responsibility. The state Supreme Court determined that her actions violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3, 1.4, 1.16, 3.2, 8.1(b) and 8.4(a)(c)(d)(g). The court also ordered her to pay the costs of the disciplinary proceeding.
The Tennessee Supreme Court disbarred Murfreesboro attorney Tony Lawrence Maples on Feb. 14. The court found that he abandoned his practice, failed to represent clients with diligence and competence, failed to communicate with clients, misappropriated the property of another, and made misrepresentations to clients and third parties. His actions were found to have violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.1, 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, 1.16, 3.3, 8.1(b) and 8.4. The court also ordered him to pay the cost of the disciplinary proceeding.
Nashville attorney G. Thomas Nebel was disbarred by the Tennessee Supreme Court on Feb. 25. The court also ordered him to pay more than $800,000 in restitution and unearned fees, complete the bar exam and a law office management course, and pay $25,278.86 in costs associated with the disciplinary proceeding prior to reinstatement. The court found that Nebel solicited personal loans from two clients using his influence and position as their attorney to secure the loans; failed to provide the clients with sufficient information so they could make an informed decision and give informed consent; and failed to advise the clients to seek independent legal advice regarding the transaction. In other cases, the court found that Nebel failed to appear for six consecutive hearings, improperly deducted attorneys’ fees from funds paid by a client for costs of the lawsuit, and failed to refund unearned attorneys’ fees despite having promised to do so. The court determined that his actions violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, 1.8, 1.16, 3.4 and 8.4 and Disciplinary Rule 5-104. Nebel appealed the decision, but his petition failed to satisfy the requirements of the law and was dismissed. In addition to this disbarment, Nebel has been suspended since Feb. 22, 2010, in relation to another disciplinary matter.
On Feb. 4, the law license of Bradley County lawyer Sherman Ames III was transferred to disability inactive status. Ames may not practice law until his license is reinstated. He may petition the Supreme Court for reinstatement on showing by clear and convincing evidence that the disability has been removed and he is fit to resume the practice of law.