TBA Law Blog

Posted by: BPR Reports on May 1, 2014

Journal Issue Date: May 2014

Journal Name: May 2014 - Vol. 50, No. 5


The Supreme Court of Tennessee reinstated the law license of Nashville lawyer Lee Michael Sprouse on March 10. Sprouse had been temporarily suspended on Feb. 4 for failing to respond to the Board of Professional Responsibility regarding a complaint of misconduct. Sprouse filed a petition to dissolve the temporary suspension and a panel appointed to hear the case recommended that the suspension be dissolved.


The law licenses of two Davidson County lawyers were transferred to disability inactive status: Frank A. Woods on March 10 and Penny Jo Mills on March 12. Woods and Mills may not practice law while on disability inactive status, but may return to the practice of law after reinstatement by the Tennessee Supreme Court.


On March 18, the Supreme Court of Tennessee temporarily suspended Michael Lee West from the practice of law after finding that he misappropriated funds to his own use and that his continued practice law posed a threat of substantial harm to the public. The court also directed West to provide the location and account number of any trust account over which he has signatory authority or control, and enjoined him from making any withdrawals from those accounts without advance approval from the Board of Professional Responsibility.

The Tennessee Supreme Court on March 21 suspended Knox County lawyer Rebecca C. Vernetti for three years and ordered her to pay the costs and expenses of the disciplinary proceeding within 90 days. The court found that Vernetti made misrepresentations to the court and opposing counsel, failed to maintain disputed funds in her trust account, used disputed funds for her personal benefit, shared legal fees with a non-attorney husband and failed to maintain professional independence. Vernetti submitted a conditional guilty plea admitting violations of Rules of Professional Conduct 1.15, 3.3, 4.1, 5.4 and 8.4.

Williamson County lawyer John Jay Clark was suspended from the practice of law on March 25 for failing to adequately communicate with clients and failing to diligently pursue client cases. The court allowed the one-year suspension to be served on probation so long as Clark engages a practice monitor, complies with recommendations from the Tennessee Lawyers Assistance Program, pays restitution to clients and pays the costs of the disciplinary proceeding. Clark submitted a conditional guilty plea acknowledging violations of Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3, 1.4 and 8.4(a).

Thomas Francis diLustro, formerly of Knoxville, was disbarred by the Tennessee Supreme Court on March 25. In 2012, a petition for discipline was filed against diLustro based on three complaints of misconduct. After reviewing the allegations, the court determined diLustro failed to represent his clients in a diligent manner, failed to keep clients reasonably informed about the status of their cases, failed to promptly respond to numerous reasonable requests for information, forged his client’s signature to a parenting plan and submitted the document to the court for approval, falsely testified under oath regarding the signature on the parenting plan and failed to act promptly to correct an erroneous child support order. The court found that these actions violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3, 1.4, 3.2, 3.3, 3.4, 8.1 and 8.4.

Compiled by Stacey Shrader Joslin 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.