Licensure & Discipline

Administrative Suspensions  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.

Disability Inactive

The law license of Erich Webb Bailey was transferred to disability inactive status on Oct. 27, pursuant to Section 27.4 of Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 9. Bailey cannot practice law while on disability inactive status. He may return to the practice of law after reinstatement by the Tennessee Supreme Court upon showing of clear and convincing evidence that the disability has been removed and he is fit to resume the practice of law.

DISCIPLINARY

Reinstated

The Tennessee Supreme Court on Oct. 13 reinstated S. Brad Dozier to the practice of law. He had been suspended June 20 for a period of two years, with 30 days active suspension and the remainder on probation subject to conditions. Dozier filed a petition for reinstatement pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 9, Section 30.4(c), which the board found satisfactory. Dozier will remain on probation until June 20, 2019, during which time he must engage a practice monitor and incur no new complaints.

Censured

On Oct. 16, Shelby County lawyer Paul Forrest Craig received a public censure from the Board of Professional Responsibility. Craig represented a client in a probate matter, and was not retained to represent the client on appeal. Nevertheless, he received and signed for notices from the Court of Appeals, and failed to comply with a court order from Nov. 30, 2016, requiring him to provide information about his representation, and failed to comply with a show cause order from January of this year. Craig has violated the Rules of Professional Conduct 3.4(c), disobey rules of tribunal; and 8.4(d), conduct prejudicial to administration of justice.

On Oct. 17, Sullivan County attorney Ricky A. W. Curtis received a public censure from the Board of Professional Responsibility. In April 2016, Curtis filed a notice of appeal for a client seeking to appeal a criminal sentence but did not file a brief in the matter. The court entered an order giving Curtis 20 days to file the brief. He received this order, but did not file a brief. On Feb. 23, the court found that Curtis willfully failed to follow court rules and orders and was in contempt of court. Curtis is in violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3, diligence; 3.4(c), fairness to opposing party and counsel; and 8.4(d) prejudice to the administration of justice.

Carter C. Hitt, an attorney licensed to practice law in Mississippi, received a public censure from the Board of Professional Responsibility on Oct. 12. Hitt, who is not licensed to practice in Tennessee, collected a fee from a client for representation in a breach of contract and personal injury action that arose in Tennessee. Hitt failed to limit the scope of his representation to only non-litigation matters, failed to diligently represent his client, and did not adequately communicate with his client. Hitt also drafted and filed a pleading in a Tennessee court, which was purported to have been filed pro se by his client. Hitt’s actions were deceptive to the court and constituted the unauthorized practice of law. Hitt has violated the Rules of Professional Conduct 1.2, scope of representation; 1.3, diligence; 1.4, communication; 3.3, candor toward tribunal; 5.5, unauthorized practice of law; and 8.4(a) and (c), misconduct.

On Oct. 12, Brandy Murphy Lee, an attorney licensed to practice law in Alabama, received a public censure from the Board of Professional Responsibility. Lee committed several violations of the Tennessee pro hac vice rules during her representation of a client to include: practicing before certain tribunals without permission or approval, filing pleadings without the signature of her local counsel, and practicing for a period in excess of two years after her pro hac vice status had expired. Lee has violated the Rules of Professional Conduct 3.4(c), disobedience of an obligation under rules of a tribunal; and 5.5, unauthorized practice of law.

Hamilton County attorney John R. Meldorf received a public censure from the Board of Professional Responsibility on Oct. 12. Meldorf represented a wife who was awarded attorney fees from her husband in the final decree of divorce. At the conclusion of the divorce, the wife owed Meldorf a small balance for his fees. The ex-husband subsequently filed bankruptcy and listed Meldorf as creditor instead of his ex-wife. Meldorf collected funds as a creditor from the bankruptcy trustee even though such funds were properly owed to his former client. He failed to promptly notify his former client upon receipt of such funds and paid himself fees owed by the former client without her knowledge or consent. He has violated the Rules of Professional Conduct 1.15(d) and (e), safekeeping
property.

On Oct. 12, Hamilton County attorney James Dimmett Purple received a public censure from the Board of Professional Responsibility of the Tennessee Supreme Court. Purple failed to diligently represent or adequately communicate with a client who had retained him in a quiet title action. He filed the quiet title action without naming essential parties and failed to amend the petition at the request of his client unless additional fees and costs were paid to him. He also filed pleadings that named parties in the style of the case when such parties were never included in the petition. Purple has violated the Rules of Professional Conduct 1.1, competence; 1.2, scope of representation; 1.3, diligence; 1.4, communication; and 3.3, candor toward tribunal.

Shelby County lawyer Archie Sanders III received a public censure on Oct. 17 from the Board of Professional Responsibility. In July 2010, Sanders was hired to represent his client in a labor dispute against his former employer, but Sanders didn’t file a lawsuit until June 2013. Court records reveal that Sanders failed to respond to discovery requests for two years, and during that time took no action to move the case forward, thereby allowing his client’s case to needlessly languish. Sanders has violated the Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3, diligence; 1.4, communication; and 3.2, expediting litigation.

Bedford County lawyer Christopher P. Westmoreland received a public censure on Oct. 17 from the Board of Professional Responsibility. In one case, Westmoreland was found to have failed to have adequately communicated with a client in a change of custody case. He mailed his client a copy of a court order in the case, but the client did not receive it. Westmoreland did not resend a copy of the order for several months, despite requests from his client. In a separate case from March 2016, Westmoreland was hired to represent a client in a worker's compensation case. A few months later, Westmoreland intended to withdraw from the representation but did not do so. The court entered orders in July and September of 2016 ordering Westmoreland’s client to respond to discovery.  The client was not aware of these orders and the discovery was not completed. The case was dismissed as a discovery sanction in November 2016. Westmoreland is in violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct 1.4, communication; 1.3, diligence; 3.4(c), fairness to opposing party; and 8.4(d), prejudice to the administration of justice.

Suspended

The Tennessee Supreme Court suspended Jason Wade Barnette from the practice of law on Oct. 12. The suspension term is three years, with one year served. Barnette must pay restitution to five former clients. Complaints alleged that after paying Barnette for representation, he missed court dates resulting in default judgments and was non-responsive to requests for information. In one case, Barnette failed to timely remit proceeds of a settlement, and in another, he agreed to dismiss a case he filed on behalf of a client without consulting her. Barnette’s misconduct violated the Rules of Professional Conduct 1.1. competence; 1.2, scope of representation; 1.3, diligence; 1.4, communication; 1.5, fees; 1.15, safekeeping property; 1.16, terminating representation; and 8.4 (a), (c) and (d), misconduct.

On Oct. 27, the Supreme Court of Tennessee temporarily suspended Richard Dale Darby from the practice of law for posing a threat of substantial harm to the public. Section 12.3 of Supreme Court Rule 9 provides for the immediate temporary suspension of an attorney’s license to practice law in cases where the attorney’s conduct poses a threat of substantial harm to the public. Darby is immediately precluded from accepting any new cases, and he was to cease representing existing clients by Nov. 26.

Former Davidson County lawyer Ashley Denise Preston was suspended on Oct. 20 for four years, retroactive to the date of her transfer from disability inactive status to active status, which was Feb. 23, 2016. Preston faced four complaints of ethical misconduct. In one, she failed to respond to an order of the court of appeals on behalf of a client, and in another, she failed to appear in court and her client’s case was dismissed. In a third case, Preston accepted a fee to represent a client in a child support matter but never completed any work in the case. In the final complaint, Preston became the sole trustee of her family’s trust and made payments to herself and other beneficiaries, which were disputed by one of the beneficiaries. Preston must serve two years of active suspension and make restitution to one client. Preston entered into a conditional guilty plea, admitting that she violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.1, competence; 1.3, diligence; 1.4, communication; 1.5, fees; 1.15, safekeeping property; 1.16, terminating representation; 3.2, expediting litigation; and 8.4 (a) and (d), misconduct.

Disbarred

The Supreme Court on Oct. 13 entered an order disbarring Putnam County lawyer John Philip Parsons, retroactive to Jan. 21, 2016. He is required to pay the cost of the disciplinary proceeding and restitution. Parsons misappropriated client funds from his trust account, created and filed fraudulent documents with the Appellate Court Clerk, misled his clients regarding the status of their case on appeal, failed to file a notice of appeal and failed to file pleadings and timely respond to discovery. Parsons’ conduct violated the Rules of Professional Conduct 1.1 competence; 1.2, scope of representation; 1.5, fees; 1.15, safekeeping of property and funds; 1.16, declining or terminating representation; 3.2, expediting litigation; 3.3, candor toward tribunal; 5.5, unauthorized practice of law; 8.1, bar admissions and disciplinary matters; and 8.4, misconduct.

Benton County attorney Alan G. Ward was disbarred from the practice of law by order of the Tennessee Supreme Court on Nov. 3. Ward failed to handle an urgent child custody petition expeditiously, caused signatures on a pleading to be falsely dated and failed to communicate with the child’s guardian ad litem. When terminated by his clients, he failed to promptly return their file. He did not refund the unearned portion of his fee. In a separate matter, Ward was appointed to represent two indigent defendants in the Court of Criminal Appeals in two different cases. He failed to file a brief on behalf of his clients, failed to respond to orders from the Court of Criminal Appeals and abandoned his representation of the clients.
 


Compiled by Katharine Heriges 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.

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