Licensure & Discipline

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:
Oscar Lee Malone III, Cordova
Thomas Summers McNiel, Nashville
Hugh Parmenas Taylor, White Pine

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:
Adam Arthur Edwards, Knoxville
Anne Bowles Ferrell, Crossville
Newton S. Holiday III, Nashville
Caroline Critchfield Hunter, Washington, D.C.
Demosthenes Anistasios Lorandos, Ann Arbor, Mich.
Denise Verna Pratt, Houston, Texas
Erin Schad, Knoxville

The August 2012 issue of the Tennessee Bar Journal listed Memphis lawyer Felicia Corbin Johnson as being suspended on June 6 for failure to submit the 2012 registration fee and required IOLTA certification to the Board of Professional Responsibility. However, it did not reflect that she met those requirements and was reinstated on June 8. We regret the omission.

The Supreme Court of Tennessee issued an order on July 19 removing Shelby County lawyer William T. Maxwell Jr. from disability inactive status. However, it noted that any outstanding disciplinary proceedings must be resolved prior to reinstatement.

Reactivated

The following lawyers had their Tennessee law licenses reactivated:
Kimberly J. Dobbs, Montgomery, Ala.
Jeffrey L. Ingram, Birmingham, Ala.
Jane Hyatt Thorpe, Alexandria, Va.

Disciplinary

Censured
The Board of Professional Responsibility censured Marshall County lawyer Thomas Andre Davidson on July 19 for mishandling the estate of a client. Among his actions, Davidson failed to review a prenuptial agreement — which later significantly impacted the estate — and failed to disclose a third codicil to the will, even informing the client’s widow that the codicil had been revoked. He later produced a copy of the codicil to the court and all parties. The board found that his actions violated Disciplinary Rules 1-102, 6-101, 7-101, 7-102 and 7-106.

Crossville attorney Margaret Jane Powers was censured on July 19 for endorsing a client’s name on a check and depositing the money in her account. In handling a client’s divorce, Powers received a check made out to the client from the opposing party. She asked the client if she could apply the check to the outstanding bill owed. When the client refused, Powers held the check for 18 months, and then asked the client again. When the client did not respond, Powers deposited the check. She later refunded the money. Her actions were determined to violate Rules of Professional Conduct 1.15 and 8.4.

The Board of Professional Responsibility censured Knox County lawyer C. Coulter “Bud” Gilbert on July 20 for practicing law for two months while his license was suspended for continuing legal education (CLE) noncompliance. After he completed the required CLE, his license was reinstated. His actions were determined to violate Rule of Professional Conduct 5.5.

Knoxville lawyer Lisa Belle Hatfield was censured on July 24 for practicing law for two months while her license was suspended for continuing legal education (CLE) noncompliance. After she completed the required CLE, her license was reinstated. Her actions were determined to violate Rule of Professional Conduct 5.5.

Memphis lawyer John Robert Hershberger was publicly censured by the Board of Professional Responsibility on July 27. In 2011, Hershberger presented the court with a petition for Scire Facias and Citation for Contempt. The judge presiding over the case refused to sign the FIAT because Hershberger was represented by counsel. Hershberger researched the issue, decided that the judge’s conclusion was incorrect, and then presented the FIAT to a different judge. He did not inform the new judge that the previous judge had refused to sign the document. The board found that he violated Rule 3.3(a)(1) of the Rules Professional Conduct regarding candor toward a tribunal.

The Board of Professional Responsibility censured Sumner County lawyer Randy Paul Lucas on July 27. The board found that he represented to his clients on several occasions that he had secured a trial date when he had not, made material misrepresentations of fact to his clients, and neglected clients’ case. These acts were found to have violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3, 1.4, 3.2 and 8.4.

Roane County lawyer Kent Lowery Booher was publicly censured on July 30 for failing to act with reasonable diligence in an estate matter, failing to maintain reasonable communication with a client, failing to expedite litigation and misrepresenting to the board that he had filed certain documents with the probate court. His actions were determined to violate Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3, 1.4, 3.2 and 8.1(a).

Davidson County attorney Robert Joseph Turner received a public censure on July 30 for making claims on his website that were not verifiable, improperly using the word “specialties,” and disclosing the occupations of former clients in violation of confidentiality rules. He also was found to have sent a written advertisement to a potential client that stated the following at the bottom of the letter: “Eligible but not certified as a family law specialist by the Tennessee Commission on Continuing Legal Education and Specialization.” The Board of Professional Responsibility determined that this statement was misleading. His actions violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.6, 7.1 and 7.4.

The Board of Professional Responsibility censured Sevier County lawyer William Lee Wheatley on July 30. The board determined that after Wheatley was suspended for failure to comply with continuing legal education requirements, he failed to (1) communicate with a client, (2) take reasonable steps to ensure the client’s interests were protected and (3) refund the client’s fee. The board found that these actions violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3, 1.4, 1.5 and 1.16.

Hamblen County lawyer Andrew Nicholas Wilson was censured on July 30 based on three complaints filed after he left the private practice of law to take a job in state government. Wilson indicated that he would complete his existing cases, but ceased communicating with clients and did not perform the work he was retained to do. The Board of Professional Responsibility found that he failed to act with reasonable diligence, failed to communicate with clients, failed to expedite litigation, and abandoned his clients. His actions were determined to violate Rules of Professional Responsibility 1.3, 1.4, 1.16 and 3.2.

Suspended
The Tennessee Supreme Court suspended Johnson City lawyer Bryan Bradley Martin on July 11 for one year, but allowed him to serve all time on probation. Martin submitted a conditional guilty plea that he neglected clients’ matters and failed to communicate with clients. The court found his actions violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.1, 1.3, 1.4, 1.16, 3.2 and 8.4.

The Supreme Court of Tennessee suspended Murfreesboro lawyer Derek A. Artrip from the practice of law on July 13 after finding that he failed to respond to a complaint of misconduct.

Memphis lawyer Joseph T. Kirkland Jr. was suspended by the Tennessee Supreme Court on July 13 for one year, but allowed to serve all but 90 days on probation. Kirkland voluntarily reported to the Board of Professional Responsibility that he used previously disbursed and unclaimed funds in his trust account to pay for law firm operating expenses. All funds ultimately were replaced and properly disbursed, resulting in no financial loss to third parties. In addition to the suspension, the court ordered Kirkland to engage a practice monitor during the probationary period. The court determined his actions violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.15 and 8.4.

On July 18, Memphis lawyer Michelle L. Betserai was suspended from the practice of law for two years and ordered to make restitution to four clients. The action was taken after the Tennessee Supreme Court determined that she (1) failed to enter a final divorce decree, leading to dismissal of a case; (2) failed to file pleadings in a timely manner, which resulted in adverse outcomes for her clients; (3) made misrepresentations during testimony as an expert witness about belonging to a bar association and the level of her participation in an appeal; and (4) abandoned her law practice by moving out of state without resolving pending matters for clients. Her actions were found to have violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.1, 1.3, 1.4, 1.5(a) and (b), 1.16(d), 3.2, 8.1(b) and 8.4(a), (c) and (d).

Knoxville lawyer Johnathan Kenneth Borsodi was suspended from the practice of law on July 25 after failing to respond to the Board of Professional Responsibility about a complaint of misconduct.

The Tennessee Supreme Court on Aug. 1 suspended the law license of Weakley County attorney Kyle Eric Crowe for three years, but allowed him to serve all time on probation if he makes restitution to his trust account, returns clients’ funds, does not engage in solo practice, terminates his access to client funds, and extends his Tennessee Lawyers Assistance Program monitoring agreement for a total of five years. If he fails to comply with these terms, probation will be revoked. The court took the action after it found that Crowe misappropriated funds and failed to reconcile and properly disburse trust funds. His actions violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.15, 5.3, 8.1, 1.5 and 8.4.

Memphis lawyer Vanessa Gale Keeler was suspended from the practice of law for three years on Aug. 1. She also was ordered to pay restitution to nine clients, be evaluated by the Tennessee Lawyers Assistance Program or equivalent program, and pay the cost of the disciplinary proceeding. The state Supreme Court took action based on 10 complaints of misconduct. It found that Keeler evidenced a pattern of failing to communicate with clients, failed to provide her clients with copies of pleadings she prepared on their behalf, failed to exercise appropriate diligence, and failed to handle cases in a timely manner. Keeler entered into a conditional guilty plea for violations of Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3, 1.4, 1.5(a), 1.16(d), 3.2 and 8.4(a) and (c).  

The law license of Rogersville attorney John Douglas Godbee was temporarily suspended by the Tennessee Supreme Court on Aug. 6 after the court determined that he posed a threat of substantial harm to the public.

The Tennessee Supreme Court suspended the law license of Wilson County attorney Gary Wayne Vandever on Aug. 6 based on his pleading guilty to three counts of theft of property over $60,000. The court further ordered the Board of Professional Responsibility to institute a formal proceeding to determine the extent of final discipline.

Disbarred
Sumner County attorney John Pierce Brownlee Jr. was disbarred by the Tennessee Supreme Court on July 12 after being convicted of conspiracy to defraud the United States and corrupt endeavor to interfere with the administration of Internal Revenue laws. The court determined that his actions violated Rule 8.4 of the Rules of Professional Conduct. It also ordered him to pay the expenses and costs of the disciplinary proceeding.

Knoxville attorney John Threadgill was disbarred for a second time this year on July 12. The Tennessee Supreme Court first disbarred him on June 6 and ordered he pay more than $266,000 in restitution to seven former clients. In July, the court issued a second disbarment order directing him to make restitution of $24,578.67 to four former clients. The court found that in interacting with these clients, he misappropriated funds, neglected matters, failed to communicate and practiced law while suspended. These actions violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, 1.15, 1.16, 5.5, 8.1 and 8.4.

2012 Fee & IOLTA Suspensions

On Aug. 8, the Tennessee Supreme Court issued additional orders suspending Tennessee-licensed attorneys who did not pay their 2012 registration fee to the Board of Professional Responsibility and/or did not file a mandatory compliance statement that eligible client funds are held in accounts participating in the Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts (IOLTA) program. Beginning in January 2012, the court began entering suspension orders on a monthly basis, based on attorney birthdates. Suspension lists will be issued each month for those attorneys who do not meet filing requirements for that month.

Those who have complied with the rules since the orders were issued, and for whom notification of a status change was received from the Board of Professional Responsibility prior to press time, are noted as reinstated. For the most current information visit www.tba.org/info/2012-fee-iolta-suspensions.

Failure to File Annual Fee & IOLTA Report

Tennessee
Clarksville: Christopher Allen Smith (reinstated)
Knoxville: M. Josiah Hoover
Lebanon: Laurel Alyson Johnston
Memphis: Amy Marie Robertson, Chasity Rachelle Sharp (reinstated)
Nashville: Charles James Friddell Jr. (reinstated), John Frank Higgins, Chelli Runelle Jones, Sondra Denise Keys, Kathleen Denise Nichols, Quenton I. White

Out-of-State
Arkansas: Thomas Collier Moore
Georgia: Eboni T. Wooden
Massachusetts: Benjamin Jacob Weber
Michigan: Russel Allen Church
Mississippi: Alyson Elizabeth Whitaker
North Carolina: Aaron Edward Carlos
Ohio: Terrence Joseph Fairfax
Pennsylvania: Jeffrey Morgan Carbino
Wisconsin: Elizabeth Gernert Sillay

Failure to Pay Annual Fee

Tennessee
Knoxville: Whitney Suzanne Bailey (reinstated), Andrew Louis Colocotronis (reinstated)
Mount Juliet: Nathan Scott Moore
Nashville: Harry Boyd McNutt

Out-of-State
California: Julie LeMaye Hussey
Georgia: Pat Huddleston