Posted by: BPR Reports on Sep 1, 2020

Journal Issue Date: Sept-Oct 2020

Journal Name: Vol. 56 No. 9

DISABILITY INACTIVE

The Tennessee Supreme Court transferred the law license of New Jersey lawyer Deon Devall Owensby to disability inactive status on May 21. Owensby may not practice law while on inactive status. He may return to the practice of law by showing clear and convincing evidence that the disability has been removed and he is fit to resume the practice of law.

The Tennessee Supreme Court entered an order on June 12 transferring the law license of Maury County lawyer Angela Kay Washington to disability inactive status. She may not practice law while on inactive status. She may be reinstated if she can prove by clear and convincing evidence that the disability is removed and she is fit to return to the practice of law.

REINSTATED

Williamson County lawyer Christopher D. Birkel was reinstated to the practice of law on June 25, retroactive to June 2. Birkel requested reinstatement and the Board of Professional Responsibility found the petition to be satisfactory. He had been placed on inactive status in May 2009. 

Williamson County lawyer Renata Dash was reinstated to the practice of law on June 5, retroactive to May 18. She requested reinstatement and the Board of Professional Responsibility found the petition to be satisfactory. She had been placed on inactive status in March 2012

Williamson County lawyer David Dwayne Harris was reinstated to the practice of law on July 15. He had been suspended by the Tennessee Supreme Court on May 1 for two years with 60 days to be spent on active suspension. Harris filed a reinstatement petition and the Board of Professional Responsibility found it to be satisfactory.

Davidson County Lawyer Newton S. Holiday was reinstated to the practice of law by the Tennessee Supreme Court on July 14. Newton had received a temporary suspension on June 18 for failure to respond to the Board of Professional Responsibility’s request for information. Holiday provided an appropriate response and filed a motion to set aside the suspension. The board acknowledged the sufficiency of the response.

California lawyer Tisha Leigh Morris was reinstated to the practice of law on June 24, retroactive to June 12. She had been placed on inactive status in June 2013. She requested reinstatement and the Board of Professional Responsibility found the petition to be satisfactory.

Sullivan County lawyer Kellye Lambert Walker was reinstated to the practice of law on July 16, retroactive to June 8. She had been placed on inactive status in July 2012. She requested reinstatement and the Board of Professional Responsibility found the petition to be satisfactory.

Arizona attorney Matthew Brian Wenzlau was reinstated to the practice of law on June 11, retroactive to June 3. He requested reinstatement and the Board of Professional Responsibility found the petition to be satisfactory. Wenzlau had been placed on inactive status in May 2012.

DISCIPLINARY
Disbarred

On June 10, the Tennessee Supreme Court disbarred Williamson County lawyer Matthew David Dunn from the practice of law and ordered him to make restitution in the amount of $95,621 to a client. The court took the action based on 31 separate disciplinary complaints. In 12 of those cases, Dunn promised to pursue timeshare relief for clients. He did send a form letter to the timeshare agency, but then abandoned each client. The remaining complaints involved Dunn assigning client files to associates at his firm. When the associates would leave, the client would remain with the firm, but Dunn failed to communicate with the clients or work on their cases. The court also found that Dunn abandoned his practice and failed to respond to the disciplinary complaints against him. Dunn admitted violating Tennessee Rules of Professional Conduct 1.2, 3.2, 3.4(c), 5.1, 5.3, 5.4(a), 7.1, 7.6, 8.1(b), 8.1(a) and (b), and 8.4(a) and (d).

The Tennessee Supreme Court disbarred Loudon County lawyer Arthur Wayne Henry from the practice of law on July 15. Henry consented to disbarment, acknowledging that he could not successfully defend the charges alleged in a complaint filed against him. The court found his conduct violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.1, 1.3, 1.4, 8.1(b) and 8.4(a), (c), (d) and (g).

Washington County lawyer William E. McManus Jr. was disbarred from the practice of law on June 26. He consented to the action after acknowledging that he could not successfully defend himself against the charges filed against him. The Tennessee Supreme Court determined that McManus violated Rules of Professional Conduct 8.4(a), (b), (c), (d) and (e).

Suspended

On June 22, the Tennessee Supreme Court suspended Davidson County lawyer Andrew Harrison Maloney retroactive to Sept. 18, 2019, for 18 months, with 10 months to be served on active suspension and the remainder on probation. The court found that Maloney improperly used funds in escrow for business and personal use, failed to timely disburse funds owed to third parties, and failed to escheat certain funds to the state. The court directed Maloney to disperse $56,327.60 from his escrow account to third parties. During the probationary period, Maloney must engage the services of a practice monitor who will assess his case load and management, accounting and office management procedures, and compliance with trust account rules. Maloney also must ensure that funds are maintained in appropriate accounts, reconcile his trust account monthly, develop a written plan to promptly disburse funds owed to others, and ensure that his financial software accounts for all third-party funds received. Maloney entered a conditional guilty plea on May 29.

The Tennessee Supreme Court suspended Arkansas attorney Kimberly Ogden Sutton from the practice of law on June 5 after finding that she failed to respond to the Board of Professional Responsibility regarding a complaint of misconduct. Sutton is precluded from accepting any new cases and must cease representing existing clients by July 5. The suspension will remain in effect until dissolution or modification by the court.

Davidson County lawyer Kevin William Teets Jr. was suspended from the practice of law on June 10 for 30 days. For one year following reinstatement, Teets must engage a practice monitor. The Tennessee Supreme Court found that Teets assisted with the incorporation of a non-profit entity in exchange for being named treasurer of the group, and later admitted to misappropriating funds while in the role. His actions were determined to violate Rules of Professional Conduct 8.4.

On July 20, the Tennessee Supreme Court suspended Mississippi lawyer Candace Lenette Williamson from the practice of law for two years, retroactive to the date of a suspension imposed on Dec. 21, 2018. Williamson was directed to serve one year on active suspension, followed by one year of probation. The court took the action based on four complaints of misconduct and one self-reported instance of misconduct. The court found that Williamson failed to adequately communicate with clients, did not provide competent and diligent representation, engaged in the unauthorized practice of law, and failed to advise opposing counsel, clients and the court that she had been suspended from the practice of law. Her actions were determined to violate Rules of Professional Conduct 1.1, 1.3, 1.4, 1.16(d), 3.2, 3.3, 5.5, 8.1 and 8.4 (a) and (g).

Censured

The Tennessee Supreme Court censured Jackson lawyer Bede O. M. Anyanwu on July 17 and stipulated that he must not seek payment for any outstanding balance owed by a client. The court found that Anyanwu raised claims in a civil pleading that had no factual or legal basis, and though he had an obligation to withdraw such claims upon determination that the claims could not be supported, he failed to do so. The court also found that Anyanwu failed to keep his client informed of fees billed, charged unreasonable fees for the work done, and revealed confidential information in his motion to withdraw. His actions were determined to violate Rules of Professional Conduct 1.4, 1.5, 1.6, 3.1 and 8.4(a) and (d).

On July 17, the Tennessee Supreme Court censured Sullivan County lawyer Steven Carl Frazier and ordered him to reimburse his client $2,500 within 90 days. The court found that Frazier (1) improperly shared a fee with an attorney outside his firm without obtaining the written consent of his client; (2) failed to diligently prosecute a civil action, which resulted in the court’s dismissal of the action for lack of prosecution (though he later was able to have the dismissal set aside); and (3) failed to adequately communicate with his client and the Board of Professional Responsibility. His actions were determined to violate Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3, 1.4, 1.5(e), 3.2, 8.1(b) and 8.4(a) and (d).

The Tennessee Supreme Court censured Davidson County lawyer Jason Daniel Holleman on July 21 based on his representation of clients who sought to obtain a cemetery by adverse possession and move it to another location. Holleman filed a petition to quiet title and terminate the Rains Cemetery. He delegated to a non-lawyer the responsibility of contacting descendants of the Rains family and publishing notice of the petition though he did not provide appropriate direction. Holleman also misrepresented to the court that (1) notice of the petition to quiet title had been published when it had not, and (2) a descendant of the family buried in the cemetery had agreed to re-inter the bodies at a perpetual care cemetery. Holleman obtained a default judgment on pleadings that, at the time the motion was filed, were no longer true as the historic cemetery had been restored. The court found his conduct violated Tennessee Rules of Professional Conduct 1.1, 1.3, 3.1, 5.3 and 5.4.

Hamilton County lawyer Kent Thomas Jones received a censure from the Tennessee Supreme Court on July 6. Jones received a $2,000 flat fee for representing a client on a DUI. The client had signed a written fee agreement but the agreement did not state that the fee was nonrefundable. On the client’s court date, Jones appeared late and was acting erratically. Court personnel removed him from the courthouse and he was charged with public intoxication, though the charges eventually were dropped. By email later that day, Jones agreed to provide a full refund of the fee. Two and a half years later, Jones has made three partial payments amounting to $1,650. The court directed him to pay the remaining $350 within 60 days. The court also found that Jones did not keep the fee in a trust account. His actions violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.5, 1.15 and 8.4(b) and (d).

Williamson County attorney Eric Trygve Olson received a censure from the Tennessee Supreme Court on July 8. Olson was hired in September 2016 as in-house counsel, but did not complete his registration with the Tennessee Board of Law Examiners within 180 days of the start of his employment. In January 2019, on his application for comity admission to the Board of Law Examiners, Olson incorrectly stated that he had never registered as in-house counsel. In April 2019, he went to work as in-house counsel for a different company, but did not notify the board of his termination with the first company and did not register as in-house counsel within 180 days of the date the second employment began. His actions were found to violate Rule of Professional Conduct 5.5.

Hamilton County lawyer Michael Eugene Richardson received a public censure from the Tennessee Supreme Court on June 10. Richardson represented a client in a detainer and eviction action and designated his fee as nonrefundable, but failed to obtain a written agreement signed by his client confirming that arrangement. His conduct was determined to violate Rules of Professional Conduct 1.5 and 8.4.

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.