Posted by: BPR Reports on Jul 1, 2021

Journal Issue Date: July/August 2021

Journal Name: Vol. 57 No. 4

DISABILITY INACTIVE

The Tennessee Supreme Court transferred the law license of the following lawyers to disability inactive status. They may not practice law while on inactive status. They may return to the practice of law after reinstatement by the court upon showing that the disability has been removed.

Shelby County lawyer Kathleen Laird Caldwell, April 7

Knox County lawyer Stephen Alexander McSween, April 13

REINSTATED

Rutherford County attorney Benjamin Douglas Groce was reinstated to the practice of law on April 19 after paying all delinquent fees. He had been suspended for fee violations in 2011 and 2013.

The following lawyers were reinstated to the practice of law after being moved to inactive status more than five years ago:

Hawaii lawyer Semmes Hill Bobo was reinstated May 3

Davidson County lawyer Jing Geng was reinstated April 19

Kentucky lawyer Casey Marie Keller was reinstated April 21

Shelby County lawyer Daniel H. Kiel was reinstated May 5

Florida lawyer Jason Matthew Mayberry was reinstated April 12

Reinstatement Denied

Colorado lawyer Katrina M. Jones recently filed a petition for reinstatement. On Jan. 7, the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility notified Jones that she had not paid reinstatement fees or the professional privilege tax. The CLE Commission also notified her that she was not compliant with CLE requirements for 2018, 2019 and 2020. The board sent a second letter advising that if she did not respond by April 15, the petition would be dismissed. Jones did not respond so the Tennessee Supreme Court dismissed her petition on April 19.

DISCIPLINARY
Disbarred

On April 27, the Tennessee Supreme Court permanently disbarred Knox County lawyer Wendell Kyle Hall from the practice of law in the state. The court found that Hall failed to (1) provide competent representation to his clients; (2) act with reasonable diligence and promptness in his representation; (3) respond to requests for information; (4) communicate with clients and keep them informed about their cases; (5) inform clients of his suspension; (6) notify clients of his withdrawal as attorney of record; (7) expedite litigation; (8) respond to complaints filed with the Board of Professional Responsibility; and (9) comply with court orders. Finally, the court found that Hall improperly requested and received a loan from a client without memorializing the loan in writing and without advising the client in writing to seek independent legal counsel.

The Tennessee Supreme Court permanently disbarred Virginia lawyer Kurt J. Pomrenke from practicing law in the state on April 23. The court took the action after Pomrenke pled guilty to a charge of conspiracy to defraud the United States in a federal court in Virginia. He was subsequently disbarred from practicing law in Virginia. In March, the Tennessee Supreme Court asked Pomrenke why the same discipline should not be imposed here. He did not respond.

Suspended

On April 16, Hamilton County lawyer Glen Roy Fagan was suspended by the Tennessee Supreme Court for six years, with five years to be served on active suspension and the remainder on probation. The court directed Fagan to engage the services of a practice monitor, complete six additional continuing legal ethics hours, and reimburse all costs of the disciplinary proceeding. The court found that Fagan, a Georgia lawyer employed as in-house counsel in Tennessee, created a fictitious complaint and settlement, and authorized the transfer of funds from his employer to himself under the company’s mistaken belief it was settling the complaint. The court also found that Fagan falsified a second complaint and authorized the transfer of money from his employer to himself. His actions violated Rules of Professional Conduct 4.1 and 8.4(b), (c) and (d).

On May 27, the Tennessee Supreme Court suspended Madison County lawyer Sherry Marie Percival from the practice of law for five years, with six months to be served on active suspension and the remainder on probation. Percival entered a conditional guilty plea acknowledging that she failed to reconcile her trust account, mismanaged the account and the settlement funds it contained, executed a release on behalf of her client, and endorsed the client’s name on a settlement check without permission. The court directed her to enter into a practice monitoring agreement with the Tennessee Lawyers Assistance Program, engage an accountant to reconcile her trust account, and attend the Board of Professional Responsibility’s Trust Account Workshop.

The Tennessee Supreme Court suspended Davidson County lawyer C. LeAnn Smith from the practice of law on May 7 after finding that she was “substantially non-compliant with a Tennessee Lawyers Assistance Program monitoring agreement and her non-compliance posed a threat of substantial harm to the public.” Smith is immediately precluded from accepting any new cases. She must cease representing existing clients by June 6.

Sullivan County lawyer Kyle Douglas Vaughan was suspended from the practice of law on April 27 by the Tennessee Supreme Court. Vaughan pled guilty in July to theft of property over $60,000 and under $250,000. The court directed the Board of Professional Responsibility to institute a formal proceeding to determine the extent of final discipline to be imposed as a result of the guilty plea. On Jan. 21, Vaughan was temporarily suspended by the court for misappropriating funds and posing a threat of substantial harm to the public. Vaughan’s temporary suspension remains in effect pending further order of the court.

Censured

The Tennessee Supreme Court issued a public censure for Knox County lawyer Terrill Lee Adkins on April 13. The court found that Adkins agreed to represent a defendant in a pending product liability trial while an attorney in his office had previously been involved in the same matter at a law firm that still represented the plaintiff. Though Adkins attempted to put screening procedures in place, the court ruled that such procedures would not avoid the imputed disqualification of the firm under Rule 1.10(d). In another case, the court found that Adkins drafted a subpoena that contained “crass, sexist language.” These actions resulted in harm to the client and prejudice to the administration of justice, and violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.10(d), 8.4(d) and 4.4.

Shelby County attorney Robert Harris Golder was publicly censured by the Board of Professional Responsibility on April 13. Golder represented two clients in petitions for post-conviction relief and a third client in a petition for habeas relief. In all three matters, Golder delayed in taking proper action on behalf of his clients, failed to respond to inquiries from his clients and failed to keep his clients updated on the status of their cases. In the habeas proceeding, Golder also missed applicable court deadlines and failed to deposit unearned fees into his trust account.

Washington County lawyer Jeffrey Dennis Johnson was censured by the Board of Professional Responsibility on April 8. Johnson responded to an online review from a former client in which he gave details about the former client, including health and medical conditions and the type of case in which Johnson represented the client. Johnson also stated that the former client asked him to make false representations to the court. The board found these acts violated Rule of Professional Conduct 1.9(c).

Davidson County lawyer Mark Christopher Scruggs was censured by the Tennessee Supreme Court on May 25. Scruggs represented a client against criminal charges alleging rape of a child. The victim in the case had been removed from the home and removed from the mother’s custodial rights. Scruggs arranged with the mother for the victim to be interviewed by a private investigator but failed to seek and obtain permission from the court-appointed custodian prior to the interview.

Davidson County lawyer Memorie Kristina White received a public censure from the Tennessee Supreme Court on April 15. The court found that White, with knowledge that a corporation was represented by counsel, knowingly contacted corporate employees and negotiated a reduction of a judgment lien held by the corporation.

Referral to BPR

On May 27, the Tennessee Supreme Court asked the Board of Professional Responsibility to review the case of Mohamad Akbik to determine what, if any, action is warranted. Akbik agreed to a pre-trial intervention in the state of Florida in December 2020. The court stated that because pre-trial intervention agreements in Florida are akin to judicial diversion in Tennessee, Akbik is not subject to immediate summary suspension.

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.