WILLIAM CALDWELL HANCOCK v. BOARD OF PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY OF THE SUPREME COURT OF TENNESSEE - Articles

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Posted by: Tanja Trezise on Sep 3, 2014

Head Comment: With two concurring opinions, one dissenting in part.

Court: TN Supreme Court

Attorneys 1:

William Caldwell Hancock, Nashville, Tennessee, Pro Se.

Attorneys 2:

Krisann Hodges, Brentwood, Tennessee, for the appellee, Board of Professional Responsibility of the Supreme Court of Tennessee.

Judge(s): HOLDER

A federal bankruptcy court entered judgment denying a Nashville attorney’s application for approximately $372,000 in attorney’s fees and expenses. Nine months later, the attorney emailed the bankruptcy judge who denied his fee application, calling the judge a “bully and clown” and demanding that he provide a written apology for denying the fee application. The Board of Professional Responsibility instituted a disciplinary action against the attorney, and a hearing panel of the Board found that the attorney violated several Rules of Professional Conduct by sending the email and recommended that the attorney be suspended from the practice of law for thirty days. The chancery court modified the hearing panel’s judgment to include additional violations for misconduct associated with the attorney’s briefs filed in the district court but affirmed the remainder of the hearing panel’s judgment. The attorney timely appealed to this Court. We affirm the hearing panel’s conclusion that the attorney’s email violated the rule against ex parte communications and was also sanctionable as “conduct intended to disrupt a tribunal.” We conclude, however, that the hearing panel erred by finding the attorney in violation of the ethical rule that prohibits attorneys from making false statements about the qualifications or integrity of a judge. We also reverse the chancery court’s modification of the hearing panel’s judgment. We affirm the attorney’s thirty-day suspension from the practice of law.