Licensure & Dicipline

DISABILITY INACTIVE

The Tennessee Supreme Court transferred the law license of Ohio lawyer Thomas Robert Wolf to disability inactive status on Nov. 22, 2019. Wolf may not practice law while on inactive status but may petition the court for reinstatement by showing by clear and convincing evidence that the disability has been removed, and he is fit to resume the practice of law.

REINSTATED

Knox County lawyer Patricia Rice Fritts was reinstated to the practice of law after being placed on inactive status in October 1997. The court approved her request on Nov. 1, 2019, and made the reinstatement retroactive to Aug. 14, 2019.

North Carolina lawyer William Arthur Osborne was reinstated to the practice of law after being placed on inactive status in March 2012. The court approved his request on Nov. 14, 2019, and made the reinstatement retroactive to Oct. 7, 2019.

DISCIPLINARY
Disbarred

Former Tennessee attorney Maurice Rudolph Franks, now a resident of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, was disbarred on Nov. 8, 2019. The Tennessee Supreme Court took the action after the Supreme Court of Colorado disbarred Franks on May 14, 1990. After giving Franks 30 days to show why reciprocal discipline should not be imposed, the court imposed the discipline and made the disbarment retroactive to May 14, 1990.

Censured

McMinn County lawyer Andrew Edward Bateman was censured by the Tennessee Supreme Court on Nov. 5, 2019, after the court found that he created conflict of interests by (1) agreeing to represent both a husband and wife in an adoption matter and (2) agreeing to represent the husband in divorce proceedings against the wife while representing both in the adoption matter. The court also found that Bateman filed a petition despite being instructed by the wife’s attorney not to do so, stated that he did not know whether the wife consented to the petition though he knew she did not, and performed legal work for the husband after withdrawing from representation. The court found his actions violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.2, 1.7(a), 3.1, 3.3(a), 4.1 and 8.4(a)(c) and (d).

Franklin County lawyer Russell Lee Leonard was censured on Oct. 10, 2019, for violating Rules of Professional Conduct 1.2 and 8.4(d). The Tennessee Supreme Court found that after representing three clients in a dispute against a real estate agent they claimed was working without a license, Leonard filed a complaint with the Tennessee Real Estate Commission about the realtor. However, he filed the complaint in the names of his clients, not his own, and without their knowledge. He also included a cover letter stating the clients asked him to file the complaint, which they had not. After being fined by the commission, the realtor sued Leonard and his clients, alleging they violated a settlement agreement previously signed. The court agreed and directed the four to reimburse the realtor the cost of his fine and attorney’s fees.

Shelby County lawyer Stephen F. Libby was censured on Oct. 11, 2019, after the Tennessee Supreme Court found that he missed the deadline for filing a lawsuit for his client, did not inform the client that the suit was not filed for a year, failed to respond to multiple inquiries from the client and made a settlement offer to his client without advising her to seek the advice of counsel. These actions were determined to violate Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3, 1.4, 1.8, 8.4(c) and 8.4(d).

James Douglas Mory, an attorney licensed to practice law in Kentucky and Tennessee, received a public censure on Oct. 16, 2019, from the Tennessee Supreme Court for continuing to represent clients while suspended for noncompliance with continuing education requirements. The court found his actions violated Rule 5.5 of the Rules of Professional Conduct.

Shelby County lawyer Randy N. Songstad was censured on Oct. 14, 2019, after the Tennessee Supreme Court found that he deposited $350 in personal funds in his trust account and later deposited more than $11,000 of earned fees into the trust account because he did not have an operating account. Both actions resulted in commingling of funds. His actions were determined to violate Rule 1.15 of the Rules of Professional Conduct.

Davidson County lawyer Ronald Andre Stewart was censured on Oct. 4, 2019, for failing to timely file a complaint and issue summonses. Due to the delays, the case was dismissed. Steward acknowledged that he violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.1, 1.3, 1.4, 3.2 and 8.4(a) and (c).

Anderson County lawyer Sal William Varsalona was censured by the Supreme Court of Tennessee on Nov. 18, 2019, after the court found that he did not sufficiently communicate with opposing counsel and was not candid with the trial court. Varsalona agreed to a conditional guilty plea acknowledging his misconduct violated Tennessee Rules of Professional Conduct 3.3, 3.4, 3.5 and 8.4(a), (c) and (d).

Shelby County lawyer Charles Edgar Waldman received a public censure on Oct. 21, 2019, after the Tennessee Supreme Court found that he failed to timely file a motion for a new trial after sentencing of a criminal client. That delay resulted in the loss of jurisdiction over the case by the trial court and passing of the appeal deadline. The court also found that Waldman failed to protect the client’s interests by not requesting to late-file the appeal, instead withdrawing from representation. His actions were determined to have violated Rule of Professional Conduct 1.16(d) and 8.4(a) and (d).


Shelby County lawyer Timothy Joel Williams received a censure from the Tennessee Supreme Court on Oct. 11, 2019, for failing to safeguard client funds that had been paid to cover the costs of an expert’s evaluation of a case. Instead, Williams gave a portion of the funds to an inactive attorney employed in his office for his opinion. Although Williams later reimbursed the funds to the client, the check was not drawn on his client trust account. His actions were determined to violate Rules of Professional Conduct 1.15, 5.3 and 5.5(a).

BOARD OF JUDICIAL CONDUCT

Shelby County Criminal Court Judge Jim Lammey received a reprimand from the Tennessee Board of Judicial Conduct on Nov. 15, 2019, for comments posted on social media about the Holocaust, Muslims and immigrants. The judge’s comments came to light in an April 30 story in The Commercial Appeal. Complaints subsequently were filed with the board by the Memphis Bar Association and Latino Memphis. The board found that Lammey’s comments were “partisan in nature” and a “clear violation of the code of judicial conduct,” but did not find proof that Lammey displayed “any actual bias, prejudice, or impartiality” in his official capacity as a judge.

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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