Licensure and Discipline

DISABILITY INACTIVE

The law license of Hawkins County lawyer Renfro Blackburn Baird III was transferred to disability inactive status on May 13 by the Tennessee Supreme Court. Baird may not practice law while on inactive status. He may return to the practice of law after reinstatement, which requires a showing of clear and convincing evidence that the disability has been removed and he is fit to resume the practice of law.
On May 14, the Tennessee Supreme Court transferred the law license of Shelby County lawyer Ryan Bradford Chambers to disability inactive status. Chambers may not practice law while on inactive status. He may return to the practice of law after reinstatement, which requires a showing of clear and convincing evidence that the disability has been removed and he is fit to resume the practice of law.

The Tennessee Supreme Court transferred the law license of Knox County lawyer John Harley Fowler to disability inactive status on May 22. Fowler may not practice law while on inactive status. He may return to the practice of law after reinstatement, which requires a showing of clear and convincing evidence that the disability has been removed and he is fit to resume the practice of law.

The law license of Blount County lawyer Charles Irvin Poole was transferred to disability inactive status on May 1. Poole may not practice law while on inactive status. He may return to the practice of law after reinstatement, which requires a showing of clear and convincing evidence that the disability has been removed and he is fit to resume the practice of law.

The Tennessee Supreme Court transferred the law license of Henry County lawyer Barton F. Robison to disability inactive status on May 6. Robison may not practice law while on inactive status. He may return to the practice of law after reinstatement, which requires a showing of clear and convincing evidence that the disability has been removed and he is fit to resume the practice of law.

REINSTATED

Madison County lawyer Edward Glenn Bryant was reinstated to the practice of law on April 26. Bryant had been placed on inactive status on March 26, 2012. He filed a petition for reinstatement on April 26. The Board of Professional Responsibility found that the petition was satisfactory and recommended that the court reinstate him. The court issued the reinstatement order on May 16.

Davidson County lawyer Brian Philip Manookian was reinstated to the practice of law on May 17 but must comply with certain conditions set out in a sealed report. Manookian was temporarily suspended from the practice of law on Sept. 21, 2018, for posing a threat of substantial harm to the public. On April 9, he filed a petition to dissolve the suspension. On May 6, a panel of the Board of Professional Responsibility recommended the temporary suspension be dissolved with conditions. The court accepted that recommendation.

DISCIPLINARY
Disbarred

The Tennessee Supreme Court disbarred Shelby County lawyer Paul James Springer from the practice of law on May 24. Three complaints had been filed against Springer in May 2015. The Board of Professional Responsibility determined, and the court accepted, that Springer failed to reasonably communicate with clients, provide clients with copies of their file, comply with court orders, issue summonses in a timely manner, file appropriate documents in court, and file timely appeals. The court also found that he made false representations to the court, clients and opposing counsel; engaged in fraud, deceit and misrepresentation; filed frivolous appeals; and made misrepresentations to the Board of Professional Responsibility. These actions were determined to violate Rules of Professional Conduct 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 1.16, 3.3, 3.4, 8.1 and 8.4. Springer was suspended for two years and 60 days on June 23, 2016. He also was disbarred on Oct. 2, 2018. He has not requested, nor been granted, reinstatement from those actions.

On April 25, the Tennessee Supreme Court disbarred Knox County lawyer John O. Threadgill based on his conviction for felony income tax evasion in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee. Following the conviction, the Board of Professional Responsibility recommended that Threadgill be disbarred. He appealed the recommendation to the Chancery Court for Knox County, which affirmed the decision. Threadgill then appealed to the Tennessee Supreme Court. The court affirmed the decision of the Chancery Court and imposed a third disbarment on Threadgill. The disbarment took effect on May 5.

Suspended

On May 7, the Tennessee Supreme Court rejected a petition for reinstatement filed by Chattanooga attorney Nathan E. Brooks, whose law license was suspended in 1998 for two years. At the time, the suspension was imposed with two conditions in lieu of disbarment: that Brooks pay restitution to 12 clients and pay the cost of the disciplinary proceeding. In 2002, Brooks sought reinstatement but was denied because he had not paid either of the required costs. He appealed the decision to the chancery court and then to the Supreme Court, arguing he was indigent. Both appeals were rejected. Some 13 years later, Brooks again filed a petition for reinstatement. The Board of Professional Responsibility rejected the petition in May 2017. Brooks appealed to the Hamilton County Chancery Court, which rejected the petition in December 2017. Brooks appealed to the Supreme Court on Jan. 18, 2018. The court’s action in May affirmed its earlier decision and denied reinstatement.

Dickson County lawyer Jackie Lynn Garton was temporarily suspended from the practice of law on May 29. The Tennessee Supreme Court took the action based on Garton’s guilty plea to wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and tax fraud in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee. That court, in the case of United States of America v. Jackie Lynn Garton, sentenced Garton to 92 months in prison and directed he make $1.7 million in restitution to eight clients.

On April 17, the Tennessee Supreme Court suspended Williamson County lawyer R. W. Hardison for five years, retroactive to a temporary suspension imposed on him on Aug. 29, 2017. The court took the action based on three complaints of misconduct. Two of the complaints centered on Hardison’s trust account, which was below the amount it should have been, resulting in overdraft notices. The third complaint was based on his efforts to assist a client with refinancing of a commercial loan. In that case, Hardison failed to pay off one of the lenders in the original loan transaction. Hardison agreed to a guilty plea, acknowledging his conduct violated Tennessee Rules of Professional Conduct 1.15(a), (b) and (d); 5.3(a) and (c); 8.1(b); and 8.4 (a) and (c). He also refunded the client the unpaid loan amount.

The Tennessee Supreme Court on May 21 suspended Davidson County lawyer Jennifer Elizabeth Jones from the practice of law for 18 months. The court made the suspension retroactive to the date of Jones’s temporary suspension on July 31, 2017. The action was taken based on one complaint of misconduct alleging that while administratively suspended from the practice of law (for non-compliance with IOLTA requirements, non-payment of annual registration fees and defaulting on student loans), Jones notified opposing counsel in an administrative matter that she represented an individual. The signature line of Jones’ e-mail included the word “Esquire” after her name, included the name of the law firm where she purportedly worked, and was sent from the law firm’s e-mail address. Further, Jones filed and signed pleadings containing her attorney registration number and the name of her law firm. She agreed to a guilty plea and acknowledged her actions violated Rules of Professional Conduct 5.5 and 8.1(b). The court also dissolved an order of temporary suspension imposed on July 31, 2017, but kept the administration suspensions in effect.
 
Unicoi County lawyer William Branch Lawson was temporarily suspended from the practice of law on May 24 pending an order for final discipline. The Tennessee Supreme Court took the action after finding that Lawson failed to respond to a complaint of misconduct, misappropriated funds and posed a threat of substantial harm to the public. The immediate summary suspension remains in effect until dissolution or modification by the court.

Censured

Sullivan County lawyer Kay Jeffrey Luethke received a public censure from the Board of Professional Responsibility on May 10. Licensed in both Tennessee and Virginia, Luethke was publicly reprimanded by the Tenth District Subcommittee of Virginia on Jan. 25 for violating Virginia Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3 (diligence) and 1.6 (declining or terminating representation). On March 22, the Tennessee Supreme Court entered a notice of reciprocal discipline asking Luethke why the discipline imposed by Virginia should not also be imposed in Tennessee. The court determined that his response failed to demonstrate why reciprocal discipline should not be imposed.

The Tennessee Supreme Court imposed a public censure on Mississippi attorney Carlos E. Moore on May 13. The court took the action after finding that Moore included a provision in his contingency fee agreement that if a client refused to accept a settlement presented as reasonable, the client would be responsible for fees based on the amount of the rejected settlement. In the specific case, Moore recommended that a plaintiff in a personal injury case accept a settlement offer. The client refused and Moore moved to withdraw as the client’s attorney. The Board of Professional Responsibility recommended that Moore be censured. Moore appealed to the Shelby County Chancery Court, which affirmed the decision. Moore then appealed to the Supreme Court, which upheld the censure. The Supreme Court found that Moore violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.5, 1.8 and 8.4(a) because his fee was not contingent on eventual recovery but on the client’s refusal to accept a settlement offer.

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/directory-listing/administrative-suspension-lists.

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