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Licensure & Discipline
The law license of Shelby County lawyer David Gregory Hays was reinstated on Jan. 17 after he responded to the Board of Professional Responsibility regarding a complaint of misconduct. He had been temporarily suspended by the Tennessee Supreme Court on Dec. 9, 2013.
Alabama lawyer Carol Hardwick Stewart was transferred to disability inactive status on Jan. 21. Stewart may not practice law while on disability inactive status, but may seek reinstatement by showing by clear and convincing evidence that the disability has been removed and she is fit to resume the practice of law.
Knox County lawyer John Albert Walker Jr. was transferred to disability inactive status on Jan. 30. Walker may not practice law while on disability inactive status, but may seek reinstatement by showing by clear and convincing evidence that the disability has been removed and he is fit to resume the practice of law.
Anderson County lawyer Raymond Andrew Shirley Jr. was censured on Jan. 6 for practicing law while suspended and failing to inform a client that he was suspended. The Tennessee Supreme Court found that Shirley accepted $1,500 from a client, deposited it into his trust account and requested documents from the client while he was suspended. His actions violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.4 and 5.5.
Sevier County lawyer William Lee Wheatley was censured on Jan. 6 for failing to maintain reasonable communication with a client that he was appointed to represent in a dependency and neglect matter. The Tennessee Supreme Court found that Wheatley did not communicate with the client until after a complaint was filed. His actions were determined to violate Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3 and 1.4.
On Jan. 6, Shelby County lawyer Stuart Brian Breakstone was censured for depositing funds in his operating account that should have been deposited in his trust account. Breakstone received $7,500 from a client. A written retainer signed by the client provided for a nonrefundable fee of $3,500. This amount was deemed earned upon receipt, so Breakstone was free to deposit it into his operating account. However, there was no written agreement as to the additional $4,000 that the client paid. Those funds should have been deposited into the trust account. The Tennessee Supreme Court determined that his actions violated Rule of Professional Conduct 1.15.
Knox County lawyer Thomas Francis DiLustro received a public censure on Jan. 13 for accepting fees from a client without performing any legal work, and deceiving the client into believing that a civil action had been filed when it had not. He then constructively withdrew from the case without returning unearned fees to the client. In another case, the Tennessee Supreme Court found that DiLustro failed to turn over a client’s file as requested at the conclusion of representation. In both instances, DiLustro failed to adequately communicate with clients and failed to respond to requests for information from the Board of Professional Responsibility. His actions were determined to violate Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, 1.16, 8.1(b) and 8.4(a), (c) and (d).
Hamilton County lawyer Philip Rubin Strang received a public censure on Jan. 13 for paying a personal expense from funds in his trust account, which also caused an overdraft. Later, he issued a check to a client for funds collected for the client, but there were insufficient funds in the trust account to cover the check. The state Supreme Court found that his actions violated Rule of Professional Conduct 1.15.
Maury County lawyer Martha Jane Durocher was censured by the Tennessee Supreme Court on Jan. 14 after she discharged a weapon in public. Durocher entered a guilty plea to the Class A misdemeanor of reckless endangerment and the Class C misdemeanor of unlawful possession of a weapon. The board determined that her actions violated Rule of Professional Conduct Rule 8.4 (b).
Tiffany Marcilynne Johns of Williamson County received a public censure on Jan. 22 for misleading a Kentucky court about a child custody case she was seeking to transfer to Tennessee. At a hearing, she falsely told the Kentucky judge that she had spoken with a judge and a law clerk on the Kentucky Court of Appeals about the matter. She also stated that a hearing was set in Tennessee when, in fact, no hearing had been docketed and the opposing party had not been served with notice. After Johns filed a motion to have the matter transferred to Tennessee and terminate the opposing party’s parental rights, she called the Tennessee judge to inquire whether a federal statute would apply to the matter. The Tennessee Supreme Court found that action to constitute ex parte communication. The court determined that her behavior in the case violated Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 3.3(a) and 3.5(b).
Katherine Evett Smith, an attorney in Shelby County, received a public censure from the Tennessee Supreme Court on Jan. 22. The court found that she improperly used her trust account as an operating account for more than one year, commingled client settlement funds with lawyer’s funds, failed to promptly deliver settlement funds to a third party, failed to file a final judgment on a petition for custody for five months, and failed to respond to requests for information from her client. By these acts, Smith violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3, 1.4 and 1.15(d).
The Tennessee Supreme Court suspended the law license of Jasper lawyer Jesse Walker Dalton III for one year on Jan. 7. The court directed Dalton to serve three months on active suspension with the remaining nine months to be served on probation so long as he engages a practice monitor and undergoes assessment by the Tennessee Lawyers Assistance Program. The court also noted that Dalton is currently suspended for noncompliance with CLE requirements and the new suspension will begin once he is reinstated from that suspension. The court found that Dalton was late for, missed and fell asleep during court and client meetings; failed to timely return clients’ phone calls; appeared in the office with slurred speech, glazed eyes and disheveled dress; and failed to deposit a cash retainer into his trust account. Dalton admitted violating Tennessee Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3, 1.4, 1.15, 1.16 and 8.4 (a) and (d).
Memphis lawyer William T. Maxwell was suspended from the practice of law on Jan. 7 for one year retroactive to July 19, 2012, the date he was transferred from disability inactive status to active status. The court imposed the suspension after Maxwell self-reported that he misappropriated funds from his real estate trust account. He later returned the funds. Prior to any reinstatement, the court directed that Maxwell engage a practice monitor and comply with any recommendations of the Tennessee Lawyers Assistance Program. His actions were determined to violate Tennessee Rules of Professional Conduct 1.15 and 8.4 (a), (b) and (c).
Knox County lawyer Billy J. Reed was temporarily suspended from the practice of law on Jan. 17 for failing to respond to the Board of Professional Responsibility regarding a complaint of misconduct.
The Tennessee Supreme Court suspended the law license of Shelby County attorney Sharon K. Anderson on Jan. 21 after she pleaded guilty to fraudulent transmission of money in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2314. The court also ordered the Board of Professional Responsibility to institute a formal disciplinary proceeding to determine the extent of final discipline to be imposed as a result of the conviction.
On Jan. 27, the Supreme Court of Tennessee temporarily suspended Madison County lawyer Clayton F. Mayo after finding that he abandoned his law practice and posed a threat of substantial harm to the public.
The state Supreme Court on Jan. 31 suspended Harriman lawyer Spence Roberts Bruner from the practice of law for 90 days. The court determined that Bruner violated the Rules of Professional Conduct in his representation of a client in a criminal matter by failing to timely file an appellate brief; ignoring four orders from the Court of Criminal Appeals directing him to file the brief; and being found in contempt of court for willful failure to comply with the orders of the appellate court. The Supreme Court determined that his actions violated Rules of Professional Conduct 3.2, 3.4 and 8.4.
Administrative Suspensions Now OnlineNotice of attorneys suspended for, and reinstated from, administrative violations — including failure to pay the Board of Professional Responsibility fee, file the IOLTA report, comply with continuing legal education requirements and pay the Tennessee professional privilege tax — is now available exclusively on the TBA website. Visit http://www.tba.org/directory-listing/administrative-suspension-lists to see administrative suspensions imposed since 2006.
Compiled by Stacey Shrader Joslin from information provided by the Board of Professional Responsibility of the Tennessee Supreme Court. Licensure and disciplinary notices are included in this publication as a member service. The official record of an attorney’s status is maintained by the board. Current information about a particular attorney may be found on the board’s website at www.tbpr.org/consumers/attorneysearch.