Posted by: BPR Reports on Jan 1, 2021

Journal Issue Date: Jan/Feb 2021

Journal Name: Vol 57 No. 1

DISABILITY INACTIVE

The Tennessee Supreme Court transferred the law license of Robertson County lawyer Van Davis Villines to disability inactive status on Nov. 16. Villines may not practice law while on inactive status. He may petition for reinstatement by showing clear and convincing evidence that the disability has been removed, and he is fit to resume the practice of law.

REINSTATED

On Nov. 6, the Tennessee Supreme Court reinstated Shelby County lawyer A. Sais Phillips Finney, who had been suspended on Oct. 29, 2020, for failure to respond to the Board of Professional Responsibility. Finney petitioned for dissolution of the suspension on Oct. 30, 2020, stating that she had responded to the board. The board found the response sufficient to lift the suspension.

Davidson County lawyer Greer Tidwell Jr. was reinstated to the practice of law on Dec. 1, 2020, retroactive to Nov. 22, 2020.

A number of out-of-state lawyers recently have been reinstated after being placed on inactive status more than five years ago. They are: Louisiana lawyer Monica Victoria Harris Bowers, Mississippi lawyer Anne Margaret Klingen, Missouri lawyer Jereme George Lytle, New York lawyer John A. Mueller, Kentucky lawyer Charles Brent Robbins, Arizona lawyer Linda Gayle Shanks (Miernik) and Alabama lawyer Julia Givens Williams. Illinois lawyer Stephanie G. Macht has been reinstated from military exempt status.

DISCIPLINARY

Disbarred

Louisiana lawyer James Austin Dukes was permanently disbarred from the practice of law in Tennessee on Oct. 9, 2020. The Tennessee Supreme Court took the action based on an order from the Supreme Court of the State of Louisiana permanently disbarring Dukes in that state. The court reports that it gave Dukes the opportunity to explain why reciprocal discipline should not be imposed in Tennessee, but received no response.

On Oct. 27, 2020,the Tennessee Supreme Court permanently disbarred Unicoi County lawyer William Branch Lawson and ordered him to make restitution to clients in the amount of $67,850. The court took the action after finding that he (1) failed to appear in court or provide any legal services for which he was paid; (2) failed to refund unearned fees to his clients; (3) misappropriated fees paid to him as well as funds held in his trust account for a third party; (4) failed to act with diligence in the representation of clients; (5) abandoned his practice; (6) failed to respond to requests for information; and (7) engaged in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit and misrepresentation. His actions were determined to violate Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3, 1.5, 1.15, 1.16, 8.1 and 8.4(a) and (c).

Suspended

On Nov. 2, 2020, the Tennessee Supreme Court suspended Davidson County lawyer Carla L. Arevalo from the practice of law for four years, with three years to be served on active suspension and one year on probation. The court made the suspension retroactive to a temporary suspension imposed on Jan. 11, 2018. It also directed Arevalo to make restitution to her client and contact the Tennessee Lawyers Assistance Program for evaluation. The court found that Arevalo failed to respond to a disciplinary complaint, failed to promptly return files to her client, failed to refund fees, and engaged in the unauthorized practice of law. She admitted her conduct violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.16(d), 5.5(a), 8.1(b) and 8.4(a).

Williamson County lawyer Bradley Michael Carter was suspended from the practice of law on Oct. 9, 2020, for two years, with four months to be served on active suspension and the rest on suspension. During the probationary period, Carter must engage a practice monitor, who will submit monthly reports regarding trust account rules and accounting procedures. Carter entered a conditional guilty plea on July 21, 2020, acknowledging his actions violated Rules of Professional Conduct 8.4 (a) and (c).

Blount County lawyer Charles David Deas was immediately and temporarily suspended from the practice of law on Oct. 9, 2020. The Tennessee Supreme Court also ordered him to be evaluated by the Tennessee Lawyers Assistance Program. Based on information provided by the Blount County Circuit Court and General Sessions Court, the Supreme Court determined that Deas posed a threat of substantial harm to the public. It also said substantial concern had been raised regarding his ability to practice law.

Shelby County lawyer A. Sais Phillips Finney was immediately and temporarily suspended from the practice of law by the Tennessee Supreme Court on Oct. 29, 2020. Finney failed to respond to the Board of Professional Responsibility regarding two complaints of misconduct.

Shelby County lawyer Urura W. Mayers was immediately and temporarily suspended from the practice of law on Nov. 30, 2020. The Tennessee Supreme Court found that Mayers misappropriated a client’s funds and posed a threat of substantial harm to the public. She is immediately precluded from accepting any new cases and must cease representing existing clients by Dec. 30.

Davidson County lawyer David Scott Parsley was suspended from the practice of law on Oct. 12, 2020, for one year, with three months to be served on active suspension and the remainder on probation. During the probationary period, Parsley must meet monthly with a practice monitor who will assess his case load, case management, trust account, compliance with trust account rules, accounting procedures, and office management procedures. The court found that Parsley engaged in a business transaction with a client and friend without properly informing them of the conflict of interest. His actions violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3 and 1.8.

Illinois lawyer Stephen Kenneth Perry was suspended from the practice of law in Tennessee on Oct. 2, 2020. The state Supreme Court suspended him for two years, retroactive to Jan. 2, 2019, the date of his temporary suspension. The court also directed Perry to make restitution to his client in the amount of $3,500 and enter into a monitoring agreement with the Tennessee Lawyers Assistance Program.

Censured

Nashville lawyer Jamaal L. Boykin received a public censure from the Tennessee Supreme Court on Oct. 23, 2020. The court found that Boykin, after he was retained to represent a client in a bankruptcy proceeding, never filed a petition with the court but led his client to believe that he did. Boykin then ceased communicating with his client and effectively abandoned the representation. In mitigation, Boykin corrected the issues which led to his misconduct and provided a full refund to the client. His actions were determined to violate Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, 1.16 and 8.4(a)(c)(d).

The Tennessee Supreme Court imposed a censure on Knoxville lawyer Michael Edward Casas — who is licensed to practice law in Florida and New York — on Oct. 23, 2020. The court found that Casas accepted a corporate counsel position in Tennessee without timely registering with the Board of Law Examiners and the Board of Professional Responsibility. In fact, he waited eight months before he completed the registration requirements. His actions violated Rule of Professional Conduct 5.5(a).

On Oct. 23, 2020, Memphis lawyer Shannon David Elsea received a public censure from the Tennessee Supreme Court after the court found that he failed to diligently represent and adequately communicate with two clients. With regard to the first case, the court found that Elsea provided deceptive information to the client as well as to the Board of Professional Responsibility. With regard to the second case, the court found that Elsea deceived his client into believing a settlement had occurred and deceived the court clerk and opposing counsel as to the true status of the case. In mitigation, Elsea acknowledged that he was experiencing personal issues that caused him undue stress and anxiety, which he is addressing. His actions violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, 3.2, 4.1, 8.1(b) and 8.4(a)(c)(d).

Knoxville lawyer George Turner Howard III received a public censure from the Tennessee Supreme Court on Oct. 16, 2020. Howard shared fees with outside counsel without first obtaining the informed consent of his clients in writing. He also provided financial assistance to clients, held out certain nonlawyer staff as persons holding corporate officer positions in his firm, and made deceptive statements through his advertising. Howard has corrected these issues and has agreed to discontinue such conduct. His actions violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.5(e), 1.8(e), 5.4(d), 7.1 and 7.4.

Davidson County lawyer Scott David Johannessen received a censure from the Tennessee Supreme Court on Oct. 12, 2020. The court found that Johannessen violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.7, 8.4(d) and 1.1. As the sole member of a limited liability company who was a member of another company called FYI, Johannessen was appointed as the attorney for FYI for particular issues. He then hired an attorney and filed an involuntary bankruptcy petition against FYI. The next day, he filed a notice of appearance in the bankruptcy proceeding as a pro se creditor, alleging FYI owed him personally. The court found that these action created a significant risk that representation of his client would be materially limited by his interest as sole member of the other company and by his personal interest as a creditor against FYI.

The Tennessee Supreme Court imposed a censure on Jackson lawyer James Randall Krenis on Oct. 23, 2020. The court found that Krenis was paid a portion of a nonrefundable fee to assist a client but failed to provide legal services until the full fee was paid. He also charged other unreasonable fees, and changed the scope of his representation and increased his fees without obtaining his client’s written consent or giving his client the opportunity to meet with independent counsel. Finally, the court found that Krenis failed to file any pleadings or make any court appearances on behalf of his client and failed to adequately communicate with his client about the status of the representation. These actions violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, 1.8(a) and 8.4(a)(d).

Davidson County lawyer Ivan Omar Lopez received a public censure from the Tennessee Supreme Court on Nov. 12, 2020. The Board of Professional Responsibility filed a petition for discipline after Lopez failed to ensure the timely entry of a final decree of divorce in 2015 and for his failure to take timely action in 2019 after being advised the final decree was not in the court file and had not been entered. Lopez executed a conditional guilty plea acknowledging he violated Tennessee Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3 and 8.4 (d).

Memphis lawyer Keisha Moses Richardson received a public censure from the Tennessee Supreme Court on Oct. 23, 2020, after she was convicted of violating of an order of protection. The jury conviction was also affirmed on appeal. In addition, the court found that she failed to respond to a disciplinary complaint. The court determined that Richardson’s conduct violated Rules of Professional Conduct 8.1(b) and 8.4(a)(b)(d)(g) and reflected adversely upon her fitness as a lawyer.

Davidson County attorney C. LeAnn Smith received a public censure from the Tennessee Supreme Court on Oct. 21, 2020. In a custody matter in which she was a party, Smith lied under oath during a deposition in response to questions about her use of alcohol in the presence of the child. Smith’s conduct was not done in the representation of a client, and she admitted her conduct under oath in her trial testimony in the same proceeding. The public censure does not affect Smith’s ability to practice law, but she must complete an assessment with the Tennessee Lawyers Assistance programs within 60 days, and follow any recommendations. Her actions violated Rules of Professional Conduct 8.4(c) and 8.4(d).

The Tennessee Supreme Court imposed a censure on Mississippi lawyer Candace Lenette Williamson on Oct. 23, 2020. The court found that Williamson was paid to represent a client but did not take any substantive action on behalf of the client. She also was found to have deceived the client into believing she filed petitions in both Mississippi and Tennessee though no petitions were filed. Finally, the court found that she failed to respond to the disciplinary complaint against her. Her actions were determined to violate Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, 1.16, 8.1(b) and 8.4(a)(c)(d).

Hamilton County lawyer Charles Gammons Wright was censured on Nov. 24, 2020, by the Tennessee Supreme Court. The court found that he negligently disclosed client confidential information in an affidavit filed with a motion to withdraw from representation. His actions violated Rule of Professional Conduct 1.6.

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/administrative_suspensions.