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: Evette Elizabeth Dukes, Cordova; LaTrena Davis Ingram, Collierville; Brian Wade Lynn, Memphis; and Suzanne Shackelford Queen, Bristol.

The following attorneys have been reinstated to the practice of law after complying with Section 20 of Supreme Court Rule 9, which requires the payment of annual registration fees to the Board of Professional Responsibility: Michael Shannon Cooley, Memphis; LaTrena Davis Ingram, Collierville; Robertson Morrow Leatherman, Germantown; and Mark Henry Woerner, Corpus Christi, Texas.

The following attorneys have been reinstated to the practice of law after complying with Supreme Court Rule 43, which requires certification that a lawyer’s funds are held in an account participating in the Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts (IOLTA) program: Michael Shannon Cooley, Memphis and Vanessa Keeler, Memphis.

Davidson County lawyer Frank G. Abernathy was reinstated to the practice of law on July 1 after having been suspended since April 1, 2002. The Supreme Court determined that he should be reinstated with the following three conditions: that he engage a practice monitor for three years, participate in an additional 15 hours of continuing legal education each year for three years, and attend the Mid-South Commercial Law Institute and Southeast Bankruptcy Institute each year for three years. The court also ordered Abernathy to pay the costs of the reinstatement proceeding.

By order entered April 25, the Tennessee Supreme Court reinstated Harriman lawyer Spence R. Bruner to the practice of law. Bruner had been suspended on March 25 for failure to comply with a Tennessee Lawyers Assistance Program (TLAP) monitoring agreement.


Censured

Murfreesboro lawyer Mitchell Jeffrey Ferguson was publicly censured by the Tennessee Supreme Court on June 21 for violating Rules of Professional Conduct dealing with matters of diligence, communication with clients, conflicts of interest and representation, as well as rules governing fees, misconduct and disciplinary matters. He also was ordered to pay $3,280 in restitution to three former clients and to pay the costs of the disciplinary proceeding. Ferguson submitted a conditional guilty plea acknowledging that he violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, 1.7, 1.16, 8.1 and 8.4.

Shelby County lawyer Kathleen L. Caldwell was censured by the Tennessee Supreme Court on June 23 for resuming the practice of law prior to paying the costs of a prior disciplinary proceeding as ordered. She submitted a conditional guilty plea that was approved by the Board of Professional Responsibility and the Supreme Court. The court determined that her actions violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.16(a)(1), 5.5(a) and 8.4, and ordered her to pay the costs of the previous and current disciplinary proceedings.

On June 24, Larry B. Nolen of Athens was publicly censured by the Tennessee Supreme Court for neglecting client matters and failing to communicate with clients. The court determined that his actions violated Tennessee Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3, 1.4 and 1.16(d).  The court also ordered him to pay the costs of the disciplinary proceedings.


Suspended

On June 1, the Tennessee Supreme Court suspended Knoxville lawyer Herbert S. Moncier for 11 months and 29 days, with the first 45 days to be served on active suspension and the remaining time to be served on probation. The court also imposed the following conditions on the probationary period: Moncier must complete an additional 12 hours of ethics CLE, work with a practice monitor and pay the costs of his disciplinary proceeding. The court found that Moncier violated Rule of Professional Conduct Rule 1.7 by engaging in a conflict of interest and Rules 3.4(e), 3.5(e) and 8.4(a) and (d) by engaging in conduct intended to disrupt a court proceeding.

Cummings, Ga., attorney Warner Hodges III was suspended from the practice of law on June 20 for practicing law in Tennessee without an active Tennessee law license and for making a false statement about the status of his law license. The state Supreme Court suspended him for 60 days and ordered him to pay the costs of the disciplinary proceeding. The court determined that his actions violated Rules of Professional Conduct 3.3, 4.1, 5.5 and 8.4.

On June 27, Memphis lawyer Larry E. Fitzgerald was suspended by the Tennessee Supreme Court for engaging in a conflict of interest by not obtaining a written waiver from his clients and by accepting a referral from an unlicensed bail bondsman. The court suspended him for 90 days and ordered him to pay the costs of the disciplinary proceeding. The court determined that his actions violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.4, 1.7, 1.10, 1.16, 5.1, 7.3 and 8.4.

Memphis lawyer Alicia Howard was suspended on June 28 for 18 months, with six months to be served on actual suspension and 12 months to be spent on probation working with a practice monitor. Based on two complaints, the court found that Howard failed to timely file a petition, signed and notarized a client’s signature without indicating the client’s permission, and submitted bills to the Administrative Office of the Courts for work not performed. The court determined that these actions violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.5, 3.3, 3.4, 4.1, 5.5 and 8.4. In addition to imposing the suspension, the Tennessee Supreme Court directed Howard to contact the Administrative Office of the Courts and comply with all requests for reimbursement of fees paid by the office for work not performed, as well as pay the Board of Professional Responsibility for the cost of the disciplinary proceeding.

On June 29, the Tennessee Supreme Court suspended Nashville lawyer Jerry L. Maynard II for 18 months for engaging in the unauthorized practice of law while on suspension for failure to comply with continuing legal education requirements. However, the court made the suspension retroactive to Jan. 25, 2010 – the date the temporary suspension was imposed. The court determined that Maynard’s actions violated Rules of Professional Conduct 5.5(a), 8.1(b) and 8.4(g).

On July 5, John Wilburn Castleman Jr. of Waynesboro was suspended for one year for failing to communicate with clients, diligently pursue clients’ divorce matters and return unearned fees. However, the Supreme Court made the suspension retroactive to Dec. 14, 2009 — the date of a temporary suspension imposed while the Board of Professional Responsibility investigated the allegations against him. In addition to imposing the suspension, the court ordered Maynard to pay restitution to clients and pay the costs of his disciplinary proceeding. His actions were determined to violate Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, 8.1 and 8.4.


Disbarred

Nashville lawyer Kevin Shalom Terry was disbarred on June 22 after acknowledging he was unable to successfully defend himself on charges brought by the Board of Professional Responsibility. The board accused Terry of engaging in the unauthorized practice of law and submitting a false affidavit to the Tennessee Commission on Continuing Legal Education. In imposing the disbarment, the state Supreme Court found that his actions violated Rules of Professional Conduct 5.5 and 8.4(c).

On June 24, Bradley County lawyer Damon Jarrid Lee was disbarred from the practice of law for involvement in a serious crime, noncompliance with 2008 continuing legal education requirements and failure to pay the 2010 professional privilege tax. In November 2007, Lee was suspended from the practice of law after being convicted of two serious crimes of forgery. In addition to imposing the suspension, the state Supreme Court directed the Board of Professional Responsibility to conduct a formal proceeding to determine the extent of final discipline. Following the board’s investigation and hearing process, Lee entered a conditional guilty plea and accepted disbarment. The court made the disbarment retroactive to Sept. 26, 2007 — the date of Lee’s conviction. His actions were determined to violate Rule of Professional Conduct 8.4. The court also noted that Lee is suspended from the practice of law for failure to comply with continuing legal education requirements and pay the professional privilege tax. He must comply with those requirements and pay the costs of all disciplinary proceedings prior to petitioning for reinstatement.


Court of the Judiciary Actions

On June 10, the Tennessee Supreme Court upheld the Court of the Judiciary’s decision that Cocke County General Sessions Court Judge John A. Bell violated the Code of Judicial Conduct by taking nine months to decide a complainant’s personal injury action; re-hearing the case without disclosing to a new party that he had previously made findings against the new party; and contacting a self-represented complainant while the case was still pending. The high court also affirmed the Court of the Judiciary’s sanctions against Bell, which included a 90-day suspension, an order to decide all future cases within 30 calendar days and an order to attend 42 hours of judicial ethics training by December 2012. Bell served his 90-day suspension during August, September and October 2010.

On June 6, the Court of the Judiciary issued a public reprimand to Hawkins County Juvenile Court Judge James Taylor for appearing before the Hawkins County Commission and speaking in favor of a Citizens Heritage Display, which the commission was considering placing in the courtroom lobby of the county justice center. The court also found that Taylor inappropriately became involved in the collection of funds for construction of the display. The court found that his actions violated Canon 4C (1) and 4C (3)(b)(i) and (iv) of the Code of Judicial Conduct. Taylor entered into an agreed order that settled all four charged filed against him on March 29. Count one was resolved through a public reprimand. Count two was retired. And counts three and four were dismissed.