Posted by: News Sources on Mar 1, 2020

Journal Issue Date: March 2020

Journal Name: Vol 56 No 3

DISABILITY INACTIVE

The Tennessee Supreme Court transferred the law license of Williamson County lawyer John Ewing Brandon to disability inactive status on Jan. 27. Brandon may not practice law while on disability inactive status but may petition the court for reinstatement by showing by clear and convincing evidence that the disability has been removed, and he is fit to resume the practice of law.

REINSTATED

The following lawyers were reinstated to the practice of law in January:

• Sullivan County lawyer Steven Carl Frazier, who was reinstated to the practice of law on Jan. 31. He had been suspended on Jan. 17 for failure to respond to the Board of Professional Responsibility.

• Ohio lawyer John Edward Gilliland, who was reinstated to the practice of law on Jan. 17 retroactive to Dec. 27, 2019. He had been placed on military exempt status in June 2010. 

• Georgia lawyer Wesley Calvin Jackson, who was reinstated to the practice of law on Jan. 31 retroactive to Jan. 17. Jackson was placed on inactive status in May 2014. 

• Shelby County lawyer Lauren Siegel Spicer, who was reinstated to the practice of law on Jan. 15 retroactive to Dec. 20, 2019. She was placed on inactive status in October 2012.

SUSPENSION VACATED

The Tennessee Supreme Court on Jan. 22 vacated a temporary suspension it had imposed on Jan. 17 on Williamson County attorney Bradley Michael Carter. The court reports that shortly after the order was entered, counsel for the attorney provided documentation that the information being sought had been submitted to the Board of Professional Responsibility. The court found that the information had indeed been submitted to the board but had not been provided to the court in the petition for temporary suspension. The court therefore vacated the suspension order.

DISCIPLINARY

Disbarred

Illinois lawyer Jeffrey Wade Deer was disbarred by the Tennessee Supreme Court on Jan. 7 after the Supreme Court of Illinois disbarred him on May 21, 2019. In September, the Tennessee court asked Deer to show why reciprocal discipline should not be imposed in Tennessee. Deer did not respond. The court reports that the discipline imposed was identical to that imposed in Illinois.

Louisville, Kentucky, attorney Cassidy Teater was prohibited from practicing law in Tennessee  courts by the state Supreme Court on Jan. 27. She also was ordered to pay restitution to one client as a condition of reinstatement. Teater, who is licensed to practice law in Kentucky and Texas, represented an individual in U.S. Immigration Court while living in Nashville. After accepting payment from the client, Teater ceased communication and failed to perform the services for which she was paid, a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct 1.1, 1.3, 1.4(a), 1.5, 1.16(d), 8.1(b) and 8.4(a).

Suspended

The Tennessee Supreme Court on Jan. 8 suspended Hawkins County lawyer Whitney Suzanne Bailey for two years, with 45 days to be served on active suspension and the remainder to be served on probation. During the probationary period, the court ordered Bailey to obtain an evaluation with the Tennessee Lawyers Assistance Program, engage the services of a practice monitor and complete the Board of Professional Responsibility’s three-hour trust accounting workshop. Bailey admitted her conduct — abandoning a client’s case, taking no action in a case she was retained to handle, failing to file adoption paperwork for a client and misleading a client regarding the status of a case — violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3, 1.4, 1.16(d)(4) and (6), and 8.4(d).

The Supreme Court of Tennessee suspended Sullivan County lawyer Steven Carl Frazier from the practice of law on Jan. 17 after finding that he failed to respond to the Board of Professional Conduct regarding a complaint of misconduct. He is immediately precluded from accepting any new cases and must cease representing existing clients by Feb. 17.

The Tennessee Supreme Court suspended Knox County lawyer James Lester Kennedy from the practice of law for two years on Jan. 22. The suspension is to be served consecutive to a three-year suspension imposed on June 5, 2019. The court took the action after finding that Kennedy knowingly (1) engaged in the unauthorized practice of law; (2) engaged in conduct involving misrepresentations and deceit; (3) failed to comply with a Supreme Court order dated July 20, 2017; and (4) failed to remove the indicia of attorney, lawyer and counselor at law from his correspondence. His actions violated Rules of Professional Conduct 3.4, 4.1, 5.5, 8.1(b) and 8.4(a), (c), (d) and (g).

Davidson County lawyer Philip Joseph Perez was suspended on Jan. 27 based on his failure to respond to two complaints of misconduct. He is immediately precluded from accepting any new cases and must cease representing existing clients by Feb. 26.

The Tennessee Supreme Court on Jan. 8 suspended Jefferson County lawyer Capp Peterson Taylor for two years. The court took the action based on three complaints that Taylor failed to adequately communicate with clients and keep them informed of the status of their cases. In addition, the court found that Taylor was in an improper partnership with a non-lawyer and failed to deposit retainer fees into a trust account. His actions were determined to violate Rules of Professional Conduct 1.4, 1.15(a) and (c), 5.4(b) and 8.4(g).

The Supreme Court of Tennessee on Jan. 31 temporarily suspended Sullivan County lawyer Kyle Douglas Vaughan from the practice of law upon finding that he misappropriated funds for his own use and posed a threat of substantial harm to the public. Vaughan is immediately precluded from accepting any new cases and must cease representing existing clients by Feb. 21.

The Tennessee Supreme Court on Jan. 15 suspended Shelby County lawyer Barbara Morris Zoccola from the practice of law until further order. Zoccola was suspended based on her guilty plea in a case before the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee. During her employment with the U.S. Justice Department as an assistant U.S. Attorney, Zoccola misreported and falsely certified her time and attendance records. By doing so, she accrued leave time to which she was not entitled. The matter has now been referred to the Board of Professional Responsibility to determine the extent of final discipline. In the criminal case, sentencing is set for March 5.

Censured

Nashville lawyer Gregory Wade Dawson received a censure from the Tennessee Supreme Court on Jan. 13. The court took the action after determining that Dawson knowingly provided legal services to clients, prepared and filed pleadings, and appeared in court after he was administratively suspended from the practice of law. His actions violated Rules of Professional Conduct 5.5 and 8.4(d). 

Davidson County lawyer A. Sais Phillips Finney received a censure from the Tennessee Supreme Court on Jan. 28 for violations of Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3, 1.4, 1.16, 3.4(c) and 8.4(d). Finney was representing a client in a custody matter in juvenile court when the father of the children asked that a request for rehearing be withdrawn. Finney told her client that she would seek reimbursement of attorney fees against the father, but did not file the motion. She also failed to respond to at least two requests in writing from her client to provide an affidavit to assist in seeking reimbursement of the fees, and failed to respond to an order from the court that she provide an affidavit of fees and signed retainer letter to the court. Because of her lack of response, the client’s request for fees against the father was eventually dismissed.

Shelby County lawyer Michael Leon Harris was censured on Jan. 22 for violating Rules of Professional Conduct 3.1, 8.4(d), 3.3 and 8.1. The Tennessee Supreme Court found that while representing a homeowner in a detainer action by the mortgagor, Harris filed four petitions for bankruptcy, but made no subsequent filings to any of them, resulting in dismissal of the petitions. The court wrote that the petitions “were not meritorious and were, instead, filed to improperly stop execution on valid writs of execution.” The court also found that Harris typed his client’s name as a “signature” for each petition without getting the actual signature, and failed to respond to requests for information on the matter.

Nashville lawyer Lewis Lyman Laska received a censure from the Tennessee Supreme Court on Jan. 10. The court found that Laska (1) improperly sought written discovery from non-parties through subpoena while representing himself in his own divorce proceeding; (2) informed one of the non-parties that they could face criminal action if they failed to properly respond to the subpoena; and (3) engaged in harassing conduct against non-parties, which included a threat to file a disciplinary complaint against a non-party attorney to gain an advantage in his civil proceeding. The court found that these acts violated Rules of Professional Conduct 4.4(a)(1-2) and 8.4(a), (c) and (d).

Nashville lawyer James D. R. Roberts was censured by the Tennessee Supreme Court on Jan. 22. The court took the action after determining that Roberts enlarged the scope of his legal services with a client and altered the terms of his fee agreement without adequately communicating with the client. Roberts later claimed an interest in certain funds paid for the benefit of his client, which led to a dispute and termination of his representation. After a hearing, the court denied the payment of any funds to Roberts. His actions were determined to violate Rules of Professional Conduct 1.5 and 1.8(a).

Lawrence County lawyer and an assistant district attorney general Christi Leigh Thompson was censured by the Tennessee Supreme Court on Jan. 17. The court imposed the censure after determining that Thompson made several inappropriate comments during an opening statement and closing argument that “were clearly impermissible and prejudicial to the defendant.” The court found that her conduct negated the defendant’s right to a fair trial and that the case was reversed on appeal for prosecutorial misconduct. Her actions were determined to violate Rules of Professional Conduct 3.4(e)(3) and 8.4(d).

Memphis lawyer Charles Edgar Waldman received a censure from the Tennessee Supreme Court on Jan. 15. The court took the action after determining that Waldman failed to obtain a written fee agreement from a client and failed to deposit funds into his client trust account. The court also found that Waldman was not diligent in his representation of his client or the expedition of the client’s legal matter. Finally, after the client terminated the representation, Waldman failed to formally withdraw as counsel. His actions violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3, 1.4, 3.2, 1.15 and 1.16(c).

Memphis lawyer Marie A. Washington received a censure from the Tennessee Supreme Court on Jan. 10. The court found that Washington violated a number of ethics rules, including failing to adequately communicate the terms of her fee agreement; applying to the court for payment of fees in excess of what was provided to her client; failing to notify the court she had been paid by her client for some of the fees included in her fee application; and failing to safeguard funds until the dispute with her former client was resolved. The court found that her acts violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.4, 1.5, 1.15, 3.3 and 8.4(a)(c)(d).

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 https://www.tba.org/index.cfm?pg=administrative-suspension-lists


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/for-the-public/online-attorney-directory.