TBA Law Blog


Posted by: BPR Reports on Jun 1, 2016

Journal Issue Date: Jun 2016

Journal Name: June 2016 - Vol. 52, No. 6

DISABILITY INACTIVE

The law licenses of the following Tennessee attorneys were transferred to disability inactive status. They may not practice law while on inactive status, but may petition the court for reinstatement by showing by clear and convicting evidence that the disability has been removed and they are fit to resume the practice of law:
Knox County lawyer Yarboro Ann Sallee, April 15
Davidson County lawyer Noel F. Stahl, April 27

Censured
The Tennessee Supreme Court publicly censured Maury County attorney Joel Robert Bellis on April 5. The court took the action after Bellis failed to secure a written agreement with his client to establish a non-refundable fee, failed to deposit the fee into his trust account and failed to promptly refund unearned fees and costs to his client after his representation was terminated. His actions violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.5, 1.15 and 1.16. Bellis is required to refund $3,100 in fees to his former client within 180 days of issuance of this public censure.

Memphis attorney Kimberly Cross Shields was publicly censured by the Tennessee Supreme Court on April 5. Shields made misrepresentations and omissions to the court and entered an ex parte order without agreement of opposing counsel. The court found that her actions violated Rules of Professional Conduct 3.3, 3.5(b), 4.4(a), and 8.4(a), (c), and (d).

On April 11, Nashville attorney Susan Marie Reilly was publicly censured by the state Supreme Court. Reilly left the state of Tennessee without informing her client and took no further action to prosecute her client’s case. She thereafter terminated her representation without assisting her client in securing new counsel and failed to promptly surrender the client’s file or refund unearned fees to the client. Her actions violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3, 1.4, 1.5 and 1.16. Reilly is required to refund $1,705 in fees to her former client within 180 days of issuance of this public censure.

William Preston Sutherland, a Davidson County attorney, was publicly censured by the state Supreme Court on April 13. Sutherland’s law license was suspended in 1997 and has never been reinstated. After the suspension of his license, he did investigative and legal work for one client and billed the client $4,435.42 for the work, which the client paid.  He also borrowed $1,021.29 from the client for his personal expenses and did not repay the loan. The court found that Sutherland’s action violated Rules of Professional Conduct 5.5 and 1.8. He is required to pay restitution to the client for fees paid and funds borrowed in an amount of $5,456.71, and provide proof of such payment to disciplinary counsel.

The Tennessee Supreme Court censured Montgomery County lawyer Carrie Watson Gasaway on April 13. The court took the action after Gasaway accepted a nonrefundable retainer from a client with $250 designated to be held in trust.  At the conclusion of the representation, Gasaway provided no explanation for her use of the funds held in trust and did not refund the money. Gasaway also accepted a $3,500 fee from a client and did no work, and she failed to respond to requests for information from the client. Her actions violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, 1.15, 1.16, 3.2, 8.1 and 8.4. The court found two clients suffered actual and potential harm as a result of Gasaway’s actions. Within 90 days, she is required to pay restitution in the amount of $250 to the first client, and pay restitution to the second client in the amount of $3,500, and provide proof of such payment to disciplinary counsel. Gasaway was previously disbarred on Oct. 5, 2015.

Madison County attorney Angela Joy Hopson was publicly censured by the Tennessee Supreme Court on April 14. In September 2015, Hopson’s license was suspended for failure to pay the Professional Privilege Tax. She appeared in court Oct. 30, 2015 while representing a defendant in a criminal case and continued practicing law for two more weeks until a colleague drew her attention to the administrative suspension. Hopson’s license was returned to active status on Nov. 17, 2015. The court found that her actions violated Rule of Professional Conduct 5.5.

The Tennessee Supreme Court publicly censured Alabama lawyer Clinton Chadwell Carter, who is licensed to practice in Tennessee, on April 15. Carter committed the unauthorized practice of law by representing a client in Tennessee after his license to practice law had been administratively suspended.  He failed to comply with the filing requirements in a medical malpractice action he filed which the court determined was fatal to the case. He also failed to inform his client of the dismissal of the case for a period of more than six months. The court found that Carter’s actions violated rules of Professional Conduct 1.1, 1.4, 3.1, 5.5, and 8.4(a) and (d).

G. Allen Walsh was publicly censured by the state Supreme Court on April 19. Walsh is an attorney licensed to practice law in Louisiana and practices in Baton Rouge. He was not licensed to practice in Tennessee; however, he filed numerous eviction cases in a Tennessee court. The court found that Walsh’s actions violated Rule of Professional Conduct 5.5.

On April 20, Coffee County attorney Cathleen Grady Conley was publicly censured by the state Supreme Court. Conley’s office staff reviewed bankruptcy court records and phoned creditors who had not yet filed a proof of claim. If the creditor expressed interest over the telephone, Conley’s staff sent an email with a claim form and an agreement providing that Conley would receive one third of any money recovered from the debtor. The phone call and email did not explain that she would not be acting as an attorney or provide notice that the protections of the client-lawyer relationship did not exist. Her actions violated Rules of Professional Conduct 5.7 and 7.3.

The Tennessee Supreme Court publicly censured Obion County attorney Henry Allen Nohsey on April 21. Nohsey represented a client who owned real property as a tenant in common with a relative and wanted to purchase the relative’s interest in the property.  At the request of the client, Nohsey engaged in a strategy to convince the relative that Nohsey represented an unrelated third party who wanted to purchase the property from both the client and the relative, which was false.  Nohsey’s client assigned the relative’s interest in the property, and then the client sold the property to a third party for $26,000 more than the price to which Nohsey, on behalf of his client, agreed with the relative. Nohsey did not inform the relative of the assignment. His actions violated Rules of Professional Conduct 4.3 and 8.4(c).

Davidson County lawyer Mark E. Chapman was publicly censured by the state Supreme Court on April 27 after he failed to file a lawsuit within the applicable statutory period. Chapman did inform his client of the mistake, but the court found the client suffered harm as a result of Chapman’s actions because the potential defendant indicated the matter would have been compromised. The court found Chapman’s actions violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.1 and 1.3.

Suspended
The Tennessee Supreme Court suspended Shelby County lawyer Michael Barton Brooks from the practice of law on April 8 for three years, retroactive to Dec. 3, 2015. Brooks was summarily suspended on Dec. 3, 2015 based upon his guilty plea to a serious crime; i.e., aggravated assault and vehicular assault. The court found his actions violated Rules of Professional Conduct 8.4(a) and (b). The order was effective upon entry.

The Tennessee Supreme Court suspended Rhea County lawyer John Arnold Fitzgerald from the practice of law on March 28 for four years. The suspension was made retroactive to Fitzgerald’s temporary suspension entered Sept. 10, 2014, and was effective immediately upon entry. The Board of Professional Responsibility filed a Petition for Discipline and a Supplemental Petition for Discipline against Fitzgerald based upon three complaints of misconduct alleging: he improperly used his trust account for personal and business purposes; he failed to properly handle and protect client and third-party funds provided to him; and he failed to account for client and third-party funds and failed to comply with a final court order. His actions violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.15, 3.4(c), and 8.4(a) and (d). Fitzgerald must pay the Board’s costs and expenses and the court costs within 90 days of the entry of the Order of Enforcement.