Licensure & Dicipline

DISABILITY INACTIVE

The Tennessee Supreme Court transferred the law license of Shelby County lawyer Gilbert Henry Jacobson to disability inactive status on June 18. Jacobson may not practice law while inactive. He may return to the practice of law after reinstatement, which requires a showing of clear and convincing evidence that the disability has been removed and he is fit to resume the practice of law.

The law license of Maury County lawyer Robert Barrow Sweeney was transferred to disability inactive status on June 20 by the Tennessee Supreme Court. Sweeney may not practice law while inactive. He may return to the practice of law after reinstatement, which requires a showing of clear and convincing evidence that the disability has been removed and he is fit to resume the practice of law.

DISABILITY STATUS REMOVED

On May 15, Williamson County lawyer Patrick Michael Kelley petitioned the Tennessee Supreme Court for reinstatement, after having been moved to disability inactive status on May 30, 2018. On June 17, the court removed the disability status but determined that Kelley’s law license would remain inactive until resolution of pending disciplinary proceedings and completion of outstanding continuing legal education requirements.

REINSTATED

Knox County lawyer Charles Edward Daniel was reinstated to the practice of law on June 18. Daniel had been suspended by the Tennessee Supreme Court for three years on June 8, 2018, with one year to be served on active suspension and the remaining two years to be served on probation. Daniel filed a petition for reinstatement on April 2. The Board of Professional Responsibility found that the petition was satisfactory. The court issued the reinstatement order on June 17.

The Tennessee Supreme Court transferred the law license of Davidson County lawyer Lovemore Nyashadzashe Gororo from disability inactive status to active status on June 6. Gororo was placed on disability inactive status in September 2018. He filed a petition for reinstatement on April 23.

The Tennessee Supreme Court reinstated Hamilton County lawyer Steven M. Hodgen to the practice of law. Hogden had been on inactive status since April 2014. The court filed the order on June 18 with an effective date of June 5.

Shelby County lawyer Tamara B. McKinnon was placed on inactive status in May 2014. She recently petitioned the Tennessee Supreme Court to reinstate her law licensee. The Board of Professional Responsibility found that the petition was satisfactory. The court agreed and issued the reinstatement order on June 18 with an effective date of June 6.

DISCIPLINARY

Disbarred

Knox County lawyer Loring Edwin Justice was disbarred from the practice of law on July 2 for actions taken while representing a plaintiff in a federal personal injury case. After the defendant in the case failed to disclose a witness, the trial court ordered the defendant to pay the attorney’s fees and costs the plaintiff incurred in locating and deposing the witness. When Justice submitted an itemization of the fees to the court, he falsely claimed a paralegal’s work as his own, falsely stated that he kept contemporaneous time records, and falsely attested to the accuracy of the fees in both a written declaration and in testimony before the court. The federal court also found that Justice requested “grossly exaggerated and unreasonable” fees for work beyond the scope of the case. After investigating the matter, the Board of Professional Responsibility determined that Justice’s actions violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.5(a), 3.3(a), 3.4(b) and 8.4(a) and (c). The board recommended that Justice be suspended for one year and be required to obtain 12 additional  hours of continuing legal education. Justice appealed that recommendation to the Knox County Chancery Court, which affirmed the findings of fact but rejected the proposed suspension, imposing disbarment instead. Justice then appealed to the Tennessee Supreme Court, which affirmed the Chancery Court’s decision in all respects.

The Tennessee Supreme Court disbarred Davidson County lawyer Judson Wheeler Phillips from the practice of law on June 5. According to the Board of Professional Responsibility, Phillips consented to disbarment because he could not successfully defend himself on charges alleged in 41 pending disciplinary complaints. Phillips was previously disbarred on Aug. 24, 2018, and has not been reinstated from that action. Prior to seeking reinstatement, Phillips must meet all CLE requirements and pay any outstanding registration fees.

Suspended

On June 28, the Tennessee Supreme Court suspended Williamson County lawyer Georgia A. Felner from the practice of law for three years, with 18 months to be served on active suspension and the remainder to be served on probation. The court took the action after Felner entered a plea of no contest to two felony counts related to selling cannabis to a confidential informant. Following indictment for the sale and delivery of a Schedule VI controlled substance, Felner received judicial diversion and was placed on two years of supervised probation. The court determined that these actions violated Rule of Professional Conduct 8.4(b) and conditioned the probationary period on five requirements. Felner must (1) contact the Tennessee Lawyer’s Assistance Program within 30 days for assessment; (2) comply with any recommended monitoring agreement; (3) comply with the terms and conditions of the criminal court probation; (4) pay all assessed costs within 90 days; and (5) incur no new complaints of misconduct.

Dickson County lawyer Jackie Lynn Garton was suspended from the practice of law on May 29. The Tennessee Supreme Court took the action based on Garton’s guilty plea to the serious crimes of wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and tax fraud in the case of United States of America v. Jackie Lynn Garton. The matter has been referred to the Board of Professional Responsibility to determine the extent of the final discipline.

On June 5, the Tennessee Supreme Court suspended Knox County lawyer James Lester Kennedy from the practice of law for three years. The court determined that Kennedy knowingly made appearances in Knox County Probate Court and filed pleadings in cases pending in New York and Pennsylvania without informing the courts and opposing counsel that he had been suspended for one year on July 20, 2017. The court also found that Kennedy failed to provide substantive responses to requests for information about the disciplinary complaint. The court determined that his conduct violated Rules of Professional Conduct  3.3, 5.5, 8.1 and 8.4(a), (c), (d) and (g).

Censured

Hawkins County lawyer Daniel Graham Boyd received a public censure from the Tennessee Supreme Court on June 25. The Board of Professional Responsibility recommended, and the court accepted, that Boyd failed to diligently represent his clients and adequately communicate with them  in a boundary line dispute. Boyd agreed to a conditional guilty plea admitting that his actions violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3, 1.4, 3.2 and 8.4(a).

Shelby County lawyer Summer M. Rhoden received a public censure from the Tennessee Supreme Court on July 1 after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge. In 2017, Rhoden’s son was charged with first-degree murder. He appeared at Rhoden’s home the same day but she delayed contacting law enforcement or facilitating his surrender until the following morning. Rhoden was charged as an accessory after the fact as a result of this delay. The court determined that her actions violated Rule of Professional Conduct 8.4(b).

Rutherford Count lawyer James Radford Smith received a public censure from the Tennessee Supreme Court on July 1 for multiple ethical violations while representing a client in a pending petition for post-conviction relief. During the representation, Smith failed to (1) obtain consent from his client before accepting fees from a third party; (2) maintain good communication with his client; (3) file an amended petition by the deadline; and (4) file an appeal by the deadline. After completing representation, Smith decided to close his law office. He did not return the client file, which later was inadvertently destroyed by the moving company hired to help Smith vacate the office. The court found that Smith had failed to specify the client files and other office documents that needed to be preserved. His actions were determined to violate Rules of Professional Conduct 1.1, 1.3, 1.4(a), 1.8(f), 1.15 and 3.2.

Administrative Suspensions

Notice of attorneys suspended for, and reinstated from, administrative violations – including failure to pay the Board of Professional Responsibility licensing and inactive fees, file the required IOLTA report, comply with continuing legal education requirements, and pay the Tennessee professional privilege tax – is on the TBA website at www.tba.org/directory-listing/administrative-suspension-lists.

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