Posted by: Stacey Shrader Joslin on Mar 1, 2021

Journal Issue Date: March/April 2021

Journal Name: Vo. 57 No. 2

DISABILITY INACTIVE

The following lawyers have been transferred to disability inactive status: Anderson County lawyer Kevin Carmack Angel on Dec. 9, 2020; Shelby County lawyer Debra Dawnn Davis Antoine on Dec. 2, 2020; Montgomery County lawyer Robert Hamm Moyer on Dec. 22, 2020; and New Jersey lawyer Deon Devall Owensby on Jan. 4

Campbell County lawyer Jody Rodenborn Troutman was placed on disability inactive status on Oct. 23, 2015, and subsequently suspended by the Tennessee Supreme Court on Dec. 21, 2020. On Oct. 13, 2020, she petitioned the court to remove her from disability inactive status. On Jan. 21, she also petitioned the court for reinstatement to active status. On Feb. 1, the court removed Troutman from disability inactive status but conditioned reinstatement on the resolution of pending disciplinary proceedings.

REINSTATED

The following lawyers have been reinstated:

Louisiana lawyer Monica Victoria Harris Bowers was reinstated on Dec. 1, 2020, retroactive to Nov. 12, 2020;

California lawyer Cicely Alexander Dickerson was reinstated on Feb. 3, retroactive to Jan. 19;

North Carolina lawyer Laura Beth Greene was reinstated on Jan. 15, retroactive to Dec. 14, 2020;

Davidson County lawyer Greer Tidwell Jr. was reinstated on Dec. 1, 2020, retroactive to Nov. 22, 2020;

Maury County lawyer Angela Kay Washington was reinstated from disability inactive status on Dec. 10, 2020;

Davidson County lawyer David Scott Parsley was reinstated to the practice of law on Feb. 3. He had been suspended on Oct. 12, 2020, for one year with three months to be served on active suspension and the remainder on probation. The court reinstated him with the condition that he fulfill the conditions of his probation.

DISCIPLINARY
Disbarred

On Jan. 29, the Tennessee Supreme Court disbarred Williamson County lawyer Matthew David Dunn and ordered him to pay restitution of $5,995. Dunn accepted a referral from an intermediary organization not properly registered with the Board of Professional Responsibility, received a fee from a client but did not perform any legal services, failed to respond to a client’s requests for information and abandoned the client. His conduct violated Tennessee Rules of Professional Conduct (RPC)  1.3, 1.4, 1.5, 7.6 and 8.1.

The Tennessee Supreme Court disbarred Knox County lawyer James Lester Kennedy on Jan. 7. The court took the action after finding that Kennedy distributed attorneys’ fees and personal expenses in a probate matter to himself and others who were not authorized to receive the funds. The court also found that Kennedy failed to demonstrate good faith, diligence, prudence, caution, loyalty and fidelity to his client and the estate. His actions violated Tennessee RPC 1.3, 3.4 and 8.4 (c) and (d).

Suspended

On Jan. 7, the Tennessee Supreme Court suspended McNairy County lawyer Bobby Gene Gray Jr. from the practice of law for three years, with eight months to be served on active suspension and the remainder to be served on probation. Gray admitted taking controlled substances from an evidence room while he served as an assistant district attorney. He pleaded guilty to official misconduct, theft of less than $1,000 and simple possession of a controlled substance, and received judicial diversion. The court said these actions violated RPC 8.4 (b) and (c).

On Jan. 29, the Tennessee Supreme Court suspended Delaware lawyer Matthew Ledvina from the practice of law for six years, with four years to be served on active suspension and the remainder to be served on probation retroactive to March 11, 2020. The court also directed Ledvina to file a petition to surrender his Tennessee law license. The action was taken after Ledvina’s felony conviction for conspiracy to commit securities fraud in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts. Ledvina submitted a conditional guilty plea admitting his conduct violated Tennessee RPC 8.4(a), (b) and (c).

Lauderdale County lawyer Jennifer Lynn Mayham was suspended from the practice of law by the Tennessee Supreme Court on Jan. 29 for five years, with one year to be served on active suspension and the remainder on probation. The court also directed her to obtain an evaluation by the Tennessee Lawyer’s Assistance Program, engage a practice monitor and pay restitution of $4,700. Mayham was convicted of misdemeanor drug possession and pled guilty to misdemeanor perjury. The court found that she failed to reasonably communicate with seven clients regarding the status of their cases, and accepted retainers but failed to perform the work. She also failed to respond to the board’s request for information during the investigation or comply with a suspension imposed in 2018.

The Tennessee Supreme Court suspended the law license of Shelby County lawyer TeShaun David Moore on Dec. 11, 2020, for six years retroactive to March 7, 2018, with four years to be served on active suspension and the remainder on probation. The court also ordered Moore to obtain an evaluation with the Tennessee Lawyers Assistance Program, engage a practice monitor and pay restitution to multiple clients. Moore admitted he failed to distribute settlement funds to clients and to insurance companies with liens, missed scheduled court dates, failed to communicate with clients, and failed to notify clients he had been suspended. Moore agreed to a conditional guilty plea acknowledging his conduct violated RPC 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, 1.15, 1.16, 3.2, 3.3, 4.1, 8.1 and 8.4.

The Tennessee Supreme Court on Jan. 22 suspended Nashville attorney Winston B. Sitton for four years, with one year to be served on active suspension and the rest on probation. The court found that Sitton posted comments on Facebook with instructions on how to shoot someone and make it look like self-defense. The court exercised its discretion to review disciplinary recommendations from the Board of Professional Responsibility, overturning the BPR’s recommended 60-day suspension. The decision reflects the first time the court has found that lawyers who make unethical statements may receive harsher discipline if they post those statements publicly on social media.

Censured

Knox County attorney Nicholas D. Bunstine received a public censure on Jan. 14. Bunstine represented a client in defense of a civil proceeding brought by the client’s mother for rescission of a quit claim deed. While the suit remained pending, the mother of the client decided to no longer have the quit claim deed rescinded. Bunstine prepared an affidavit for the mother’s signature, presented the affidavit to her mother, who proceeded to execute the affidavit. Bunstine filed a motion to dismiss the suit based on the content of the affidavit, which was granted by the court. The court found that at all relevant times, Bunstine was aware that his client’s mother was represented by counsel. His actions were found to violate RPC 4.2.

Shelby County attorney Addie Marie Burks received a public censure on Jan. 15. The court found that Burks received funds from a client’s case in November 2019, but did not distribute the funds until August 2020, when she directly distributed the funds to the client instead of resolving existing medical liens. According to the court, Burks also did not have a written fee agreement for a contingency fee, commingled a portion of her fee with client fund, and failed to timely distribute funds to a medical provider. The court directed her to attend a trust account workshop.

Hamilton County lawyer Wilfred Shawn Clelland received a public censure from the Tennessee Supreme Court on Jan. 20. In 2017, Clelland settled a client’s personal injury claim and received settlement funds, but the proceeds were subject to outstanding medical bills and/or liens. The court found that Clelland performed little, if any, work in negotiating the liens for more than three years, and (1) failed to provide updates to the client, (2) held settlement funds in his IOLTA account for three years, and (3) provided false or misleading statements to his client. These actions violated RPC 1.3, 1.4 (a)(3), 1.15 and 8.4.

Maryville attorney Charles David Deas received a public censure from the Tennessee Supreme Court on Jan. 26. The court found that Deas deposited personal funds in his trust account in order to issue a cashier’s check, failed to adequately protect the bank checks for his trust account, and failed to have proper procedures in place to make sure his assistant was in compliance with the Rules of Professional Conduct. His actions were found to violate RPC 1.5 (safekeeping funds) and 5.3 (nonlawyer assistance).

The Tennessee Supreme Court issued a public censure for Shelby County lawyer Jahari Mabry Dowdy on Jan. 7. The court found that Dowdy violated RPC 1.15, 5.1 and 5.3 when she paid a portion of her client’s rent arrears before receiving funds to cover the check, failed to take proper remedial action after becoming aware of the error, and eventually comingled personal funds with trust account funds to cover the check. In addition to imposing the censure, the court directed Dowdy to attend a trust account workshop.

Nashville lawyer Samantha Flener received a public censure on Jan. 13. Flener was licensed to practice law only in New York when she relocated to Tennessee and began working at a firm. She applied for permission to be admitted by UBE Score Transfer with the Board of Law Examiners. Her application referenced the need to apply for practice pending admission if she was working as a lawyer or in another law-related position. Flener did not apply for practice pending admission and was not authorized to practice law in the state until after she had been employed by a firm for eight months. Her actions violated RPC  5.5.

Nashville lawyer Lawrence Buford Hammet II received a public censure on Jan. 20. The court found that Hammet withdrew disputed funds from his client trust account and paid himself a fee that exceeded the amount to which his client allegedly agreed. The client filed a civil suit against Hammet that was appealed after trial. The appeals court found that Hammet failed to keep the disputed funds in his trust account until the dispute was resolved and that he asked for unreasonable fees. The appeals court awarded judgment of more than $67,000 and remanded the case to the trial court for a determination of pre-judgment interest. The trial court subsequently awarded interest of more than $22,000.. These actions were determined to violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.5 and 1.15(e).

Shelby County attorney Eric John Montierth received a public censure from the Tennessee Supreme Court on Jan. 12 for failing to timely file an appellate brief in two criminal cases. The criminal court ordered Montierth to file the brief within 10 days; Montierth failed to do so and did not ask for an extension. He appeared before the court months later to explain his conduct in both cases and the court accepted the late-filed brief in each case. The court found that Montierth’s conduct resulted in potential harm to his clients.

BOARD OF JUDICIAL CONDUCT

Lewis County General Sessions and Juvenile Court Judge Michael E. Hinson received a public reprimand from the Board of Judicial Conduct on Dec. 15, 2020. In a letter to Hinson, the board said he was being reprimanded for conducting judicial business outside the parameters of the COVID-19 plan approved for his judicial district, including failing to limit the number of individuals in the courtroom and enforce social distancing requirements. The board also noted that Hinson made a disrespectful comment about Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Jeff Bivins. Hinson cooperated with the disciplinary counsel and accepted the reprimand.

The Board of Judicial Conduct entered into a deferred discipline agreement with Stewart County Judicial Commissioner Joyce Tomlinson on Feb. 1 in which she agreed to resign her position before Feb. 14 and not seek an appointed or elected judicial office in the future. The board alleged that Tomlinson “injected herself into an active criminal case involving a family member and acted in a discourteous and intemperate manner inappropriate for a judicial officer.” The board says she “questioned and challenged” members of the sheriff’s department; taunted an officer who had investigated the case; and was “sarcastic, argumentative, raised her voice, and banged her hands on the table.”