Posted by: BPR Reports on Jun 1, 2020

Journal Issue Date: June 2020

Journal Name: Vol. 56 No. 6

REINSTATED

Knox County Lynda Nine Blankenship was reinstated to the practice of law on May 8, retroactive to May 1. She had been placed on inactive status in March 1994.

Virginia lawyer Cameron Ray Edlefsen was reinstated to the practice of law on May 7, retroactive to May 1. He had been placed on inactive status in February 2008.

Williamson County lawyer Natasha N. Hazlett was reinstated to the practice of law on April 15, retroactive to Feb. 28. She had been placed on inactive status in March 2012.

Sumner County lawyer Randy Paul Lucas was reinstated to the practice of law on May 1, subject to certain conditions. He had been suspended in February 2019 for a period of three years, with six months to be served on active suspension and the remainder on probation. During the probationary period, Lucas must engage a practice monitor and incur no new complaints of misconduct related to the suspension.

South Carolina lawyer John Robert Sokohl Jr. was reinstated to the practice of law on May 7, retroactive to April 20. He had been placed on inactive status in May 2008.

Shelby County lawyer Barbara Morris Zoccola was reinstated to the practice of law on May 6. She had been suspended on April 20 for a period of two months, retroactive to a Jan. 15 suspension (see below).

 

DISCIPLINARY

Suspended

The Tennessee Supreme Court on May 1 suspended Williamson County lawyer David Dwayne Harris from the practice of law for two years, with 60 days to be served on active suspension and the remainder to be served on probation. The court also directed him to make restitution in the amount of $10,000. Harris admitted that in five cases he failed to communicate with clients, failed to file petitions, engaged in a conflict of interest and communicated with a party that he knew was represented by counsel. His conduct violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, 1.7, 4.2 and 8.4 (a).

The Tennessee Supreme Court suspended Nashville attorney George H. Thompson III on April 28 for one year, with 30 days to be served on active suspension and the rest on probation. After filing a nonsuit on behalf of a client, Thompson failed to refile his client’s case in a timely manner, resulting in the personal injury claim being barred by the statute of limitations. Thompson later paid the client to settle a malpractice claim against him, but failed to advise the client to seek independent legal counsel in reaching a settlement. His actions were determined to violate Tennessee Rules of Professional Conduct 1.1, 1.3, 1.8(h)(2) and 8.4(c) 

On April 20, the Tennessee Supreme Court suspended Shelby County lawyer Barbara Morris Zoccola for two months, retroactive to a suspension imposed on Jan. 15. She has since been reinstated. In November 2019, Zoccola pled guilty in federal court to the misdemeanor charge of theft for falsely reporting work time and failing to report leave time as an assistant U.S. attorney. She was sentenced to one year probation and ordered to pay restitution and a fine, and resign her position. In the disciplinary proceeding, she admitted her conduct violated Rule of Professional Conduct 8.4.

Censured

Stewart County lawyer Erin Danielle Bryson was censured by the Tennessee Supreme Court on April 14. Bryson, an assistant district attorney in Stewart County, was found to have violated Rules of Professional Conduct 3.3(h), 3.8(d) and 8.4(d). At a court hearing, an investigator for the district attorney told Bryson he had samples of the evidence at issue in his car. On direct and cross examination, however, he said the evidence was in the sheriff’s office. After the hearing, Bryson checked with the sheriff’s office and found that the evidence was not there. The investigator later prepared an amended report explaining his incorrect testimony. However, Bryson did not inform opposing counsel of the false testimony for six months and did not inform the court at any time.

The Tennessee Supreme Court censured Shelby County attorney Addie Marie Burks on April 14 after it found she violated Rules of Professional Conduct 3.3, 1.1 and 8.4(d). Burks was hired to represent a client in defense of a civil collection matter. After the plaintiff filed a motion for default, Burks filed a notice of appearance with a certificate of service indicating it was mailed to opposing counsel on that date, but it was not mailed until a few days later. Burks did not appear at the hearing on the motion for default and the motion was granted. She then filed a motion to set aside the default, but that motion was never served on opposing counsel and was eventually struck by the court. Burks did not appear at the hearing on the final judgment, and a final judgment was entered against her client for $40,000.

Sevier County lawyer Maria Grace Dajcar received a censure from the Tennessee Supreme Court on April 23 for violating Rule of Professional Conduct 1.1 regarding the safekeeping of funds. In March 2018, Dajcar deposited $17,500 into her trust account for a client who was the mother of one of her employees. The client eventually retrieved $7,500 of the funds. In May 2018, Dajcar’s employee told her his mother would allow her to borrow $5,000 of the funds to open a business. Dajcar withdrew the funds without speaking to or informing her client. Then in August 2018, Dajcar’s employee told her his mother wanted her to remit the remaining $5,000 to him to pay a debt. Again, Dajcar withdrew the funds without speaking to or informing her client. Dajcar admitted the conduct and agreed to return $10,000 to her client within 180 days.

The Tennessee Supreme Court censured Knox County lawyer Margaret Beebe Held on April 13 after it found that she engaged in a conflict of interest between her client and her client’s expert witness. Held self-reported the incident and made a good faith effort to mitigate adverse consequences. She was ordered to make restitution to her client as a condition of the censure. Her actions violated Tennessee Rules of Professional Conduct 1.4 and 1.7.

Nashville lawyer Jason Daniel Holleman was censured by the Tennessee Supreme Court on April 15. The court took the action after determining that Holleman placed a concealed tracking device on the vehicle of an ex-girlfriend and traced her whereabouts without her consent for six months. The court noted that Holleman’s actions were prohibited by law and violated Rule of Professional Conduct 8.4(a), (b) and (c).

The Tennessee Supreme Court censured Fayette County lawyer Angela Lashanda Jenkins-Hines on April 8 after finding that she notarized a Release and Indemnity Agreement but did not witness the signature and did not have personal knowledge of the individual who signed or the signature itself. Her actions were determined to violate Rule of Professional Conduct 8.4(a), (c) and (d).

Davidson County lawyer Janet L. Layman received a censure from the Tennessee Supreme Court on March 31. The court took the action after finding that Layman retained funds belonging to her former law partner for more than a year after they dissolved their partnership. The court also found that she deposited some of the funds into her operating account or transferred the funds to herself. The former partners filed civil lawsuits against each other. Layman eventually turned over all funds due to her former partner, but the court determined that her actions violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.2, 1.15 and 1.16.

The Tennessee Supreme Court censured Rutherford County lawyer Stephen Walker Pate on April 8 after finding that he engaged in an inappropriate personal relationship with a client who retained him for representation in a pending divorce action. The court determined that Pate’s conduct risked his independent professional judgment and communications protected by attorney-client privilege. His actions were determined to violate Rule of Professional Conduct 1.7.

Nashville attorney Harold Scott Saul received a censure from the Tennessee Supreme Court on April 20. The court found that he failed to adequately communicate with his client and was not diligent in his representation. Saul partially reimbursed his client, but failed to reimburse additional fees advanced to him that were deemed unreasonable as he had not provided any substantive representation in the matter. The court directed him to reimburse his client $750 within 60 days. His actions were determined to violate Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3, 1.4, 1.15 and 8.4(a) and (d)..

The Tennessee Supreme Court censured Nashville lawyer John Terence Tennyson on April 8 after finding that he failed to comply with the conditions of a prior censure requiring him to reimburse funds to a former client. While Tennyson ultimately reimbursed the funds, he was 100 days delinquent in doing so. His actions were determined to violate Rules of Professional Conduct 3.4(c) and 8.4(a) and (d).

The Tennessee Supreme Court censured Knox County lawyer Lisa Collins Werner on April 13. While representing a father in a custody dispute, Werner met privately with a minor outside of the presence of a guardian ad litem. She entered a conditional guilty plea acknowledging she violated Tennessee Rule of Professional Conduct 4.2.

Sevier County lawyer Andrew Nicholas Wilson received a censure from the Tennessee Supreme Court on April 20. The court found that he failed to deposit unearned fees into a client trust account and failed to keep his client adequately informed as to the amount of fees billed during the course of the representation. His actions violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.4, 1.5(f) and 1.15.

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