Licensure & Discipline

Administrative Suspensions Now Online

Notice 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.

REINSTATED

The law license of Washington County lawyer Michael D. Kellum was reinstated Feb. 10 by the Tennessee Supreme Court. He was suspended May 25, 2012.

DISABILITY INACTIVE

By order of the Tennessee Supreme Court Feb. 13, the law license of Rutherford County lawyer William Walter Burton Jr. was transferred to disability inactive status. The law license of Greene County lawyer Russell Dale Mays was transferred to disability inactive status Feb. 25. Both Burton’s and Mays’s license transfers are pursuant to Section 27.3 of Supreme Court Rule 9. They cannot practice law while on disability inactive status, but may return to the practice of law after reinstatement by the court upon showing of clear and convincing evidence that the disability has been removed and each is fit to resume the practice of law.

DISCIPLINARY

Censured

On Feb. 13, Sevier County lawyer Elizabeth Catherine Cox received a public censure. She was retained to file a post-trial motion for consideration after the client was dissatisfied with the outcome of her divorce. Cox failed to communicate with her about the status of the matter and later alleged to her client and the Board of Professional Responsibility that she had timely filed the motion but that the judge had denied the motion without a hearing. After an investigation, it was determined she never filed the motion. By these acts, She violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3 (diligence), 1.4 (communication), 8.1(a)(disciplinary matters) and 8.4(c) and (d) (misconduct). A public censure is a rebuke and warning, but does not affect the attorney’s ability to practice law. Cox was also temporarily suspended in another matter (see below).

Knox County lawyer Stephen Todd Hastey was publicly censured Feb. 4. After receiving a client’s settlement proceeds, he issued a check to the client’s medical provider, who then failed to deposit the check for 10 months, at which time the funds were not in the trust account. Hastey then paid the medical provider from his personal funds. In another matter, he paid a filing fee for a client with funds from the trust account. Hastey later determined that the client had not given him funds to pay the fee. In another matter, Hastey used trust account funds to pay four personal and business expenses. By these acts, he violated RPC 1.15 (safekeeping funds).

On Feb. 13 Christopher J. Wnuk received a public censure. He is principally licensed in Missouri but also holds an active law license in Kansas. He practiced law in Tennessee after his pro hac vice registration status had expired. Also, although his letterhead listed his admission to the state of Louisiana, his license to practice there had been on inactive status since 2002. By these acts, he violated RPC 3.4(c) (fairness to opposing party and counsel), 5.5(a) (unauthorized practice of law) and 7.1 (communications concerning a lawyers’ services).

Suspended

Roane County lawyer Spence Roberts Bruner was temporarily suspended from the practice of law Feb. 19 upon finding that he has failed to respond to the Board of Professional Responsibility regarding a complaint of misconduct. Section 4.3 of Supreme Court Rule 9 provides for the immediate summary suspension of an attorney’s license to practice law in cases of an attorney’s failure to respond regarding a complaint of misconduct. Bruner was already suspended by order Jan. 31 and shall comply with the requirements of Rule 9, Section 18, regarding the obligations and responsibilities of suspended attorneys. The order will remain in effect until dissolution or modification by the Tennessee Supreme Court.

Sevier County lawyer Elizabeth Catherine Cox was temporarily suspended Feb. 3 for failing to respond to the board regarding a complaint of misconduct. As of that date, Cox was precluded from accepting any new cases and must cease representing existing clients by March 5. She is not to use any indicia of lawyer, legal assistant or law clerk nor maintain a presence where the practice of law is conducted. She was to notify all clients being represented in pending matters, co-counsel and opposing counsel about the suspension.

On Feb. 3 Jefferson County lawyer Carl Robert Ogle Jr. was summarily and temporarily suspended from the practice of law upon finding that he had misappropriated funds for his own use and poses a threat of substantial harm to the public. Ogle was precluded from accepting new cases as of that date and was to cease representing existing clients by March 5. He is not to use any indicia of lawyer, legal assistant or law clerk nor maintain a presence where the practice of law is conducted. He was to notify all clients being represented in pending matters, co-counsel and opposing counsel about the suspension.

Nashville lawyer Lee Michael Sprouse was temporarily suspended from the practice of law Feb. 4 upon finding he failed to respond to the board regarding a complaint of misconduct. Section 4.3 of Supreme Court Rule 9 provides for the immediate summary suspension of an attorney’s license in a case like this. Sprouse was precluded from accepting new cases as of that date and was to cease representing existing clients by March 6. He is not to use any indicia of lawyer, legal assistant or law clerk nor maintain a presence where the practice of law is conducted. He was to notify all clients being represented in pending matters, co-counsel and opposing counsel about the suspension.

Nashville lawyer Edward L. Swinger was temporarily suspended Feb. 25 upon finding he failed to respond to the board regarding a complaint of misconduct. Section 4.3 of Supreme Court Rule 9 provides for the immediate summary suspension of an attorney’s license in a case like this. Swinger was precluded from accepting new cases as of that date and was to cease representing existing clients by March 27. He is not to use any indicia of lawyer, legal assistant or law clerk nor maintain a presence where the practice of law is conducted. He was to notify all clients being represented in pending matters, co-counsel and opposing counsel about the suspension.

Disbarred

Memphis attorney George Ernest Skouteris Jr. was disbarred by order of the Tennessee Supreme Court Feb. 21. He appealed the hearing panel’s decision but upon review the Tennessee Supreme Court agreed with the Board of Professional Responsibility’s evidence that after accepting and depositing settlement checks for six clients, Skouteris failed to maintain sufficient funds in his trust account to cover those settlements. He failed to provide competent representation and failed to respond to their requests for information. He failed to use written contingency fee agreements, failed to keep client funds separate from his personal funds and failed to respond to the board regarding three complaints of misconduct. He engaged in dishonesty, deceit and misrepresentation, and engaged in conduct that was prejudicial to the administration of justice. His actions violate RPC 1.1 (competence), 1.3 (diligence), 1.4 (communication), 1.5(c) (fees), 1.15(a) and (c) (safekeeping property), 1.16(d) (declining and terminating representation), 8.1(b) (bar admission and disciplinary matters), and 8.4(a)(b)(c) and (d) (misconduct).


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.