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:
Jonathan Evan Gower, Brentwood
Jennifer Pennington Guthrie, Blountville
John Robert Hershberger, Memphis
Willis Jackson Jr., Knoxville
David Craig Lee, Grandview
Elise Nicole Trail, Memphis
Hal Wilkes Wilkins, Nashville.

The following attorneys were 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, and 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:
James Mikel Dixon, Knoxville
Alexander Wymond Laird, Puryear.

A temporary suspension imposed Sept. 10, 2010, on Knox County lawyer William Lee Wheatley for failure to comply with a Tennessee Lawyers Assistance Program Monitoring Agreement was lifted Nov. 15, 2011. In lifting the suspension, the state Supreme Court ordered Wheatley to extend his previous three-year monitoring agreement to five years, remain in strict compliance with the agreement and reimburse the Board of Professional Responsibility for the cost of the proceeding. The court noted, however, that Wheatley remains suspended for failure to respond to disciplinary complaints, pay requisite fees and meet CLE requirements — none of which were the subject of this proceeding.

Nashville lawyer Cherry Dawn Williams was reinstated on Dec. 16, 2011, after complying with Section 20 of Supreme Court Rule 9, which requires the payment of annual registration fees to the Board of Professional Responsibility, and Supreme Court Rule 9 Section 32, which requires the payment of an annual state professional privilege tax.

On Dec. 19, 2011, the Tennessee Supreme Court issued an order removing the disability inactive status of Washington County lawyer Michael D. Kellum. However, the court noted that Kellum remains temporarily suspended and must resolve other disciplinary matters prior to reinstatement. It also directed him to pay the Board of Professional Responsibility for the cost of the disciplinary proceeding.

On Dec. 19, 2011, the Tennessee Supreme Court reinstated the law license of David Charles Owen of Barrington, Ill.

Memphis lawyer David Gregory Hays was reinstated to the practice of law on Dec. 22, 2011. He had been temporarily suspended on Nov. 10, 2011, for failing to respond to a complaint of misconduct.

Censured

On Dec. 29, 2011, Goodlettsville lawyer Jeffrey Powell was publicly censured by the Tennessee Supreme Court for failing to adequately communicate with a client regarding the amount of fees to be charged for his services. The court determined that he violated Rule 1.4 of the Rules of Professional Conduct and directed him to pay $6,224.99 to cover the cost of the disciplinary proceeding.

Suspended

On Dec. 13, 2011, the Supreme Court of Tennessee summarily and temporarily suspended Davidson County lawyer Bennett Farris Bratcher after finding he misappropriated funds to his own use.

On Dec. 19, 2011, the state Supreme Court suspended Memphis lawyer Etandra Fenae Douglas for four years after she pled guilty to theft of property over $1,000. However, the court allowed her to serve the time on probation — two years of which is retroactive to her Oct. 11, 2010, suspension. As a condition of probation, Douglas must enter into a monitoring agreement with the Tennessee Lawyers Assistance Program. She also must pay the Board of Professional Responsibility for the cost of the disciplinary proceeding. The court found that her actions violated Rule 8, Section 8.4 of the Rules of the Supreme Court. In addition to the discipline imposed, Douglas’ plea agreement requires that she complete a diversion program, complete 50 hours of unpaid community service and pay the court costs of her criminal proceeding.

Crockett County lawyer Shannon A. Jones was suspended on Dec. 22, 2011, by the Tennessee Supreme Court after he pled guilty to the serious crime of conspiracy to manufacture and possess with the intent to distribute a controlled substance, a violation of 21 U.S.C. 841(a)(1) and 21 U.S.C. 846. The court also directed the Board of Professional Responsibility to institute a formal proceeding to determine the extent of final discipline to be imposed. The suspension remains in effect until it is dissolved or amended by the court.

On Dec. 29, 2011, the Supreme Court imposed on Tonya Butler of Memphis a 60-day suspension to take effect when she becomes licensed to practice law in Tennessee. Butler, who has an active law license in New Jersey, admitted to practicing law in Memphis from 2008 to 2010 without obtaining a Tennessee license. The court found that her actions violated Rules of Professional Conduct 5.5 and 8.4(a). It ordered her not to practice law in Tennessee until she is licensed and to pay the cost of the disciplinary proceeding. It also indicated it would notify the New Jersey Office of Attorney Ethics of the discipline imposed.

On Dec. 29, 2011, the state Supreme Court summarily and temporarily suspended Sullivan County lawyer David Garrett Mullins after finding that he failed to respond to a complaint of misconduct. The suspension remains in effect until dissolution or modification by the court.

Disbarred

On Dec. 13, 2011, Jewel Guy Boozer of Atoka was disbarred for accepting fees from clients and failing to provide any legal services, failing to adequately communicate with clients, abandoning his law practice and failing to respond to the Board of Professional Responsibility. The Supreme Court found that Boozer’s actions violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.1, 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, 1.15, 1.16, 3.2, 8.1(b) and 8.4. As conditions to any future reinstatement, the court ordered Boozer to be evaluated by the Tennessee Lawyers Assistance Program, work with a practice monitor and pay restitution to former clients in the total amount of $9,109.50. The court also ordered him to pay the costs of the disciplinary proceeding.

Mississippi lawyer Vann F. Leonard was disbarred from the practice of law in Tennessee on Dec. 28, 2011, following disbarment in Mississippi. The Supreme Court of Mississippi entered an order forever barring Leonard from seeking reinstatement to the practice of law in that state. He may apply for reinstatement in Tennessee after five years and after paying the costs of his disciplinary proceeding.

On Jan. 3, the Tennessee Supreme Court disbarred Murfreesboro lawyer Tony Lawrence Maples for abandoning his practice, failing to represent clients with diligence and competence, and failing to communicate with clients. The court also ordered him to pay restitution to two former clients totaling $14,532, and submit to an evaluation by the Tennessee Lawyers Assistance Program. The court found that his actions violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.1, 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, 3.2, 8.1(b) and 8.4. It also noted that this is the second time Maples has been disbarred for disciplinary violations.

Disability Inactive

On Dec. 13, 2011, the law license of Rutherford County lawyer Jeffery B. Cox was transferred to disability inactive status by order of the Tennessee Supreme Court. Cox may not practice law while on disability inactive status.  He may return to the practice of law after proving to the court by clear and convincing evidence that the disability has been removed and he is fit to resume the practice of law.

By order of the Tennessee Supreme Court entered Dec. 19, 2011, the law license of Nashville lawyer Mark Christopher Sevier was transferred to disability inactive status. He may not practice law while on disability inactive status. He may return to the practice of law after proving to the court by clear and convincing evidence that the disability has been removed and he is fit to resume the practice of law.

Court of the Judiciary

On Dec. 9, 2011, the Tennessee Court of the Judiciary issued a public reprimand to Hamilton County General Sessions Court Judge David Bales following the investigation of two complaints against him. The complaints — one from an attorney and one from a fellow judge — involved comments and actions made by Bales in two separate incidents. In the first incident, the complaint alleged that after an attorney appealed a bond set by Bales for an arrested defendant, Bales inappropriately summoned the attorney to his court to question the attorney regarding the appeal. The complaint also alleged that Bales made statements, knowing that members of the news media were present, questioning another judge’s decision to set a lower bond, and that he raised the bond set by another judge although the prosecutor had expressed doubts as to whether he had jurisdiction to set a new bond. In the second incident, the complaint alleged that Bales publicly, and in the presence of news media, voiced criticism of another judge who had lowered a bond he had set. The court noted that Bales promptly responded to and admitted the factual basis of the complaints. He also acknowledged that his actions in both situations were inappropriate and expressed his intention to refrain from publicly commenting on or criticizing pending matters handled by other members of the Judiciary. The court found that his actions violated Canon 2A of the Tennessee Code of Judicial Conduct.