Disciplinary Actions - Articles

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Posted by: BPR Reports on Sep 24, 2009

Journal Issue Date: Oct 2009

Journal Name: October 2009 - Vol. 45, No. 10


The following attorneys have been reinstated to the practice of law after complying with Supreme Court Rule 21, which requires mandatory continuing legal education: John D. Hanover, Los Angeles, Calif. and Helen Eckert Phillips, Lebanon, Va.

The following attorneys have been reinstated to the practice of law after complying with Section 20 of Supreme Court Rule 9, which requires the payment of annual registration fees: Michael Bernard Brown, Lexington, Ky.. Martha Marie Eastman, Louisville, Ky., Jack Louis Mayfield, Omaha, Neb. and Michael E. Tucci, Washington, D.C.

Knoxville attorney Charles P. Carter was reinstated to the practice of law on July 29. He had been temporarily suspended on March 25 for failing to respond to a complaint of misconduct.

On July 31, Morgan County lawyer Randy Miller was reinstated to the practice of law after the Board of Professional Responsibility found that he adequately responded to a complaint of misconduct. Miller had been temporarily suspended on Feb. 24 for failing to respond to the board.


The Board of Professional Responsibility censured Nashville lawyer Malcolm McCune on Aug. 5 for violating the rules of conduct. McCune was retained in 2004 to represent a client in a medical malpractice case. One month later, he transferred the case to an associate in his law firm without the client's permission. He then failed to communicate with the client or monitor the case, despite remaining the counsel of record. Some time later the associate left the firm and took the client's case with him despite McCune's failure to obtain the client's consent. As a result of the associate's negligent handling of the case, it was dismissed in 2007. In reviewing the facts of the case, the board determined that McCune failed to act with reasonable diligence, failed to adequately communicate with the client, and failed to supervise his associate. In so doing, he violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3, 1.4 and 5.1.

Knoxville lawyer Thomas F. DiLustro was publicly censured by the Board of Professional Responsibility on Aug. 12 for failing to comply with a TLAP monitoring agreement he had signed in 2007 as part of a 30-day suspension order. That order required him to remain compliant with the agreement for two years. In 2008, TLAP discharged DiLustro from the monitoring agreement due to noncompliance, a violation of Rule 8.4 of the Tennessee Rules of Professional Conduct.  


Memphis lawyer Matthew Ian John was suspended from the practice of law on July 23 for 30 days after the state Supreme Court found that he signed another lawyer's name as a witness to a power of attorney and failed to properly advise a client as to a conflict of interest. John signed a conditional guilty plea and agreed to the suspension. The court found that his actions violated Tennessee Rules of Professional Conduct 1.7 and 8.4. In addition to imposing the suspension, the court ordered John to pay the costs of the disciplinary proceedings.

On July 30, Bruce H. Guthrie of Chattanooga was suspended for 26 months for neglecting the files of four separate clients and failing to communicate with his clients. However, the court allowed his suspension to run retroactively from May 18, 2007 " the date the initial temporary suspension was imposed. Guthrie signed a conditional guilty plea and agreed to the suspension. He was ordered to pay the costs of the disciplinary proceedings.

Former Shelbyville attorney Cara Gruszecki-Smalley was suspended by the Tennessee Supreme Court on July 30, pursuant to a conditional guilty plea, for neglecting a client's case and making misrepresentations to a client and the court. The court imposed a one-year suspension retroactive to March 31, with six months to be served as actual suspension and six months to be suspended. The court determined that Gruszecki-Smalley's actions violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3, 1.4 and 3.3. Finally, it ordered her to pay the costs of the proceedings.

On July 31, the Tennessee Supreme Court temporarily suspended the law license of Knoxville lawyer Steven Lee Williams after he failed to respond to a complaint of ethical misconduct.

On Aug. 4, the Supreme Court of Tennessee temporarily suspended Davidson County lawyer Alea Danielle Ashby after finding she failed to respond to complaints of misconduct received by the Board of Professional Responsibility. Supreme Court Rule 9, Section 4.3 provides for the immediate suspension of an attorney who does not respond to disciplinary inquiries from the board.

Nashville lawyer Harry Todd Hammons was suspended Aug. 13 for one year retroactive to a temporary suspension imposed on July 25, 2008, or until he complies with a Tennessee Lawyer's Assistance Program monitoring agreement for six months. The court found that Hammons violated disciplinary rules by failing to comply with his monitoring agreement, and ordered him to pay the costs of the disciplinary proceeding.

Knoxville lawyer David A. Lufkin Sr. was suspended on Aug. 18 for two years, ordered to complete 30 additional hours of CLE, and work with a practice monitor for one year after reinstatement. The court allowed the suspension to run retroactively beginning on Oct. 17, 2006 " the date Lufkin was originally temporarily suspended. In reviewing the complaints against Lufkin, the court determined that he disregarded an order in a collections case, failed to accurately advise clients that payments had been collected, and failed to forward collected funds to them. These actions, the court said, violated Disciplinary Rules 1-102 and 7-106. The court also ordered Lufkin to pay the costs of the disciplinary proceedings.

Court of the Judiciary

General Sessions Court Judge Charles Rich of Shelbyville received a public reprimand from the Court of Judiciary on Aug. 24 for delaying a decision in a child custody matter. In 2004, Rich agreed to hear the case of a Lincoln County mother seeking to regain custody of her child. A hearing was held in July 2008 with Rich saying he would take the matter under advisement. Throughout the fall and winter of 2008, the mother twice wrote to Rich seeking a status report on the case. In January 2009, the mother filed a complaint with the Court of the Judiciary. Rich was given immediate notice of the filing but still took no action until March 6 " some eight months after the original hearing date. The court determined that his behavior violated Judicial Cannons 2A and 3B(8). In issuing the reprimand, the court said the refusal to decide the case in a timely fashion caused the mother to expend additional legal fees and efforts, was detrimental to the administration of justice, and brought the judiciary into public disrepute. The reprimand closes with an admonition for Rich to follow the Code of Judicial Conduct and promptly decide cases that come before him.


The following lawyers were suspended on Aug. 14 for failure to pay the 2009 annual fee and/or fees for prior years as required by Rule 9, Section 20. This is the fifth suspension order filed this year. Attorneys who paid the fee by press time have been noted as reinstated.

Ashland City: Joseph Hollister Spencer. Collierville: John Christopher Davis. Cordova: Varonica R. Cooper, Alisa Lashelle Simmons. Germantown: John Livingood Ryan, Michael Lindsay Bates. Hendersonville: Garry Christopher Forsythe. Knoxville: Richard B. McConnell, Timothy F. Zitzman. Maryville: Richard J. Rice. Memphis: Michelle Lorraine Betserai, Heather Anne Kirksey. Murfreesboro: Tony Lawrence Maples. Nashville: Ungyong Kim. Oneida: Rebecca Sue Byrd. Powell: Kristin Alyse Godsey. Tazewell: Misty Carol Kennedy (reinstated). Whitehouse: Gerard Thomas Nebel.

Alabama: Julie Jackson, Beverly Bhaswattia Scruggs. Arizona: Katrina Ann Jewett. District of Columbia: Courtney Donlin Trombly. Florida: Heather Marie Gwinn. Georgia: Don Michael Roman. Kentucky: Bruce Dwaine Atherton. Louisiana: Helen Mary Donnelly, Janice Elizabeth McAlpine. Maryland: Teresa Annette Scott, Angela Jenise Williams. Mississippi: Brian Kelly Herrington. New York: Jamal Johnson. Virginia: Anne LeSueur Cornelius, Kenitra Irma Lacy Fewell.

Korea: Young Dug Lew