Licensure & Discipline

DISABILITY INACTIVE

The law license of Washington County lawyer Tracey Alice Berry was transferred to disability inactive status on July 29. Berry may not practice law while on inactive status. She may return to the practice of law after reinstatement, which requires a showing of clear and convincing evidence that the disability has been removed and she is fit to resume the practice of law.

The law license of Knox County lawyer Charles Gilman Currier was transferred to disability inactive status on July 19. Currier may not practice law while on inactive status. He may return to the practice of law after reinstatement, which requires a showing of clear and convincing evidence that the disability has been removed and he is fit to resume the practice of law.
The Tennessee law license of North Carolina lawyer Cheryl L. McClary was transferred to disability inactive status on July 16. McClary may not practice law while on inactive status. She may return to the practice of law after reinstatement, which requires a showing of clear and convincing evidence that the disability has been removed and she is fit to resume the practice of law.

The Tennessee law license of Mississippi lawyer Jackie Walters Rozier was transferred to disability inactive status on July 12. Rozier may not practice law while on inactive status. She may return to the practice of law after reinstatement, which requires a showing of clear and convincing evidence that the disability has been removed and she is fit to resume the practice of law.

The Tennessee Supreme Court denied the transfer of Shelby County lawyer Paul James Springer Sr.’s law license to disability inactive status on July 23. On June 19, Springer contended he was suffering from a temporary disability or infirmity that prevented him from responding to a disciplinary proceeding. The court ordered Springer to provide medical documentation of his disability within 10 days and when he did not, granted him two extensions. At the conclusion of these extensions, the court denied the request.

REINSTATED

Blount County lawyer Ted Austin Burkhalter was reinstated to the practice of law after having been suspended for one year on June 18, 2018. Burkhalter filed a petition for reinstatement one year later on June 18. The Board of Professional Responsibility found that the petition was satisfactory and recommended that the state Supreme Court reinstate him. The court issued the reinstatement order on July 9.

Davidson County Sherrie Durham was reinstated to the practice of law after having been placed on inactive status in February 2014. The Board of Professional Responsibility found that the petition was satisfactory and recommended that the state Supreme Court reinstate Durham. The court issued the reinstatement order on July 15 with an effective date of July 3.

Missouri lawyer Loni Jennifer Hodge was reinstated to the practice of law after having been placed on inactive status in May 2013. The Board of Professional Responsibility found that the petition was satisfactory and recommended that the state Supreme Court reinstate Hodge. The court issued the reinstatement order on July 9 with an effective date of June 18.

DISCIPLINARY
Disbarred

The Tennessee Supreme Court disbarred Loudon County lawyer Arthur Wayne Henry from the practice of law on July 24. The Board of Professional Responsibility determined, and the court accepted, that while handling an estate matter, Henry misappropriated client funds, forged a document, made misrepresentations to clients that their cases were progressing normally, failed to act diligently, failed to adequately communicate with clients, failed to place unearned fees in his trust account, and failed to advise clients he had been suspended. After being terminated from representation, Henry failed to refund clients’ unearned fees, return files and respond to the board’s requests for information. His actions were determined to violate Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3, 1.4, 1.15(b) and (d), 1.16(d), 3.2, 8.1(b), and 8.4(a), (b), (c) and (g). As a condition of reinstatement, Henry must also make more than $55,000 in restitution to six clients.

Suspended

Rutherford County lawyer Robert John Foy was temporarily suspended from the practice of law on July 3. The Tennessee Supreme Court took the action after finding that Foy misappropriated a client’s funds and posed a threat of substantial harm to the public. Foy was immediately precluded from accepting any new cases. The court also directed Foy to provide a list of financial institutions and account numbers of all trust accounts in his name and prohibited him from accessing any trust accounts or opening any new trust accounts.

Censured

Mississippi lawyer Wanda X. Abioto received a censure on July 18 for several violations of the Tennessee Rules of Professional Conduct. Abioto is only authorized to practice in Tennessee before the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee. However, she used business cards and letterhead with addresses in Memphis and the documents did not contain a disclaimer about her limited license. The Tennessee Supreme Court also found that Abioto: (1) was not diligent in the preparation and filing of a civil complaint; (2) filed the complaint in the wrong venue; (3) failed to comply with a court order setting a deadline for serving defendants; (4) relied on Mississippi’s statute of limitations deadlines instead of Tennessee’s, which had expired at the time of filing; (5) filed an action in a Mississippi court without the knowledge or consent of her clients; and (6) formally withdrew from representation without serving any of the defendants in the case. Her actions were determined to violate rules 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 3.1, 3.4(c), 7.1 and 8.4(a)(d).

Hawkins County lawyer Gerald Todd Eidson was censured on July 10 based on one complaint of misconduct. Eidson had been appointed to represent an incarcerated client who had filed a pro se petition for post-conviction relief. The Tennessee Supreme Court found that he failed to adequately communicate with his client and did not act diligently. As a result, the petition was dismissed by the trial court. Eidson was able to have the dismissal set aside and the client was appointed new counsel. Eidson agreed to a conditional guilty plea acknowledging that his conduct violated Tennessee Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3, 1.4 and 8.4(a). In addition to imposing the censure, the court directed Eidson to engage a practice monitor for one year and meet with the monitor on a monthly basis to review basic office procedures.

On July 18, Lewis County lawyer Larry Joe Hinson received a censure for violating Rules of Professional Conduct 1.5, 3.4(c) and 8.1(b). Hinson was paid $1,500 to represent a client in a divorce action. He did not have a written fee agreement and was suspended from the practice of law before he could conclude the representation. Hinson offered to reimburse his client $750, but failed to respond to requests from the Board of Professional Responsibility to ensure compliance with the offer. Hinson finally confirmed that he reimbursed his client but failed to comply with notice obligations for suspended attorneys, which required filing an affidavit with the board.   

Williamson County lawyer Tiffany Marcilynne Johns received a censure on July 24. Johns was hired to defend a client on a petition for contempt. The petition alleged the client had sent text messages to a neighbor in violation of an order of protection. Prior to any evidentiary hearing on the matter, Johns recommended the client settle the matter by paying the neighbor’s alleged lost wages and attorney fees. Johns and opposing counsel believed their clients had reached an agreement, but later Johns’ client contacted her to say the matter was not settled. Opposing counsel then provided a draft order stating that Johns’ client would pay the neighbor $5,500. Without any documentation of the lost wages and without providing a copy of the agreement to her client, Johns told opposing counsel to sign her name to the order. These actions were determined to violate Rules of Professional Conduct 1.1, 1.3 and 1.4.

On July 12, Davidson County lawyer James Gregory King received a censure for actions taken while representing a married couple pursuing civil claims after being harassed on social media.  King failed to adequately confirm the scope of the representation or the amount of his fee and did not deposit unearned fee payments into escrow. King also took no action on behalf of his clients and failed to maintain good communication during the representation. His actions were determined to violate Rules of Professional Conduct 1.1, 1.3, 1.4(a), 1.5(b) and 1.15. The Tennessee Supreme Court also directed King to refund $795 in fees to his clients within 60 days.

Shelby County lawyer Edwin Charles Lee Lenow received a censure on July 12 for actions taken while representing a client in a contested divorce proceeding. A special master was appointed to oversee a hearing to equitably divide marital assets and liabilities. Lenow’s client brought a letter to the hearing, which was purported to be from the plan administrator of pension funds within the marital estate. Lenow’s client referenced the letter during her testimony, but the letter was not introduced into evidence. After the hearing, but before the special master filed her findings and recommendations, opposing counsel accused Lenow’s client of forging the letter though no evidence was provided to support the allegation. Lenow did not address the issue with his client or take any steps to assess the validity of the accusation. Instead, he contacted the special master ex parte and advised that the letter had been forged. His actions were determined to violate Rules of Professional Conduct 1.4(a), 3.3 and 3.5(b).

Blount County lawyer Lawrence Emory Little received a censure on July 18 for actions taken while representing a client’s estate. The Tennessee Supreme Court found that he failed to (1) diligently administer trust and estate matters; (2) adequately communicate with beneficiaries; (3) safeguard trust and estate funds collected on behalf of beneficiaries; (4) keep adequate records; (5) provide the complete file to successor counsel; and (6) provide a full and accurate accounting of the estate within 30 days. The court determined that these acts violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3, 1.4, 1.15(d), 3.4(c), 5.7 and 8.4(a)(d).

On July 15, Shelby County lawyer Urura Mayers received a censure for failing to supervise a legal assistant who used her trust account to pay personal expenses. Mayers was also disciplined for causing an overdraft in her trust account by writing a check for a court filing fee before depositing client funds to cover the cost. Her actions were determined to violate Rules of Professional Conduct 1.15 and 5.3.

Davidson County lawyer Harold Scott Saul received a censure on July 15 based on two complaints of misconduct. In one case, Saul delayed drafting and executing a divorce settlement and then failed to file the documents with the court. In another case, Saul agreed to draft a buy-sell agreement but took no action for six months. In both cases, Saul failed to respond to client phone calls and other inquiries about the status of his work. His actions violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3 and 1.4.

Putman County lawyer Elizabeth Ann Shipley was censured on July 16 based on two complaints of misconduct. In the first complaint, Shipley was tardy in the payment of restitution to a former client -- a requirement that was a condition of an earlier censure. In the second complaint, Shipley was alleged to allow an overdraft of her trust account. In October 2018, Shipley received $500 from clients in a custody case. The funds were for the prepayment of the clients’ portion of attorney fees to the court-appointed guardian ad litem. Shipley initially deposited the funds into escrow but later transferred them to her operating account. In December 2018, Shipley instructed her assistant to forward the funds to the court clerk’s office but failed to specify that the funds were no longer in escrow. The assistant issued a check on the trust account, resulting in the overdraft. These actions were determined to have violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.15 and 8.4(d).

Davidson County lawyer John Terence Tennyson was censured on July 19 for numerous violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct while representing a client in a federal civil matter. The Tennessee Supreme Court found that Tennyson was not diligent in the preparation and filing of the matter and his nonlawyer assistant inappropriately discussed legal matters directly with the client. The client then terminated representation. After being terminated, Tennyson filed the case in state court without the client’s consent. He also failed to timely serve summons on defendants and failed to formally withdraw from the action. The case was ultimately dismissed for lack of prosecution. Tennyson’s actions were determined to violate Rules of Professional Conduct 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, 1.15(d), 1.16, 3.2, 3.4(c), 5.3 and 8.4(a)(d). In addition to imposing the censure, the Tennessee Supreme Court directed Tennyson to reimburse $2,500 in fees to the client.

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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