Licensure & Dicipline

DISABILITY INACTIVE

The Tennessee Supreme Court transferred the law license of Shelby County lawyer J. Lester Crain to disability inactive status on April 18. Crain 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

Davidson County lawyer Travis Waymon Tipton was reinstated to the practice of law on April 16. He had been temporarily suspended on July 2, 2018, for failure to substantially comply with a Tennessee Lawyers Assistance Program (TLAP) monitoring agreement. After the initiation of formal disciplinary proceedings by the Board of Professional Responsibility, Tipton resumed compliance with the agreement.

Hamilton County lawyer James Ellis Ward was reinstated to the practice of law on April 3. He had been on inactive status since March 1, 2004. Ward filed a petition for reinstatement on April 3. The Board of Professional Responsibility found that the petition was satisfactory and recommended that the court reinstate him. The court issued the order on April 18.

DISCIPLINARY
Disbarred

David W. Lanier was disbarred from the practice of law by the Tennessee Supreme Court on April 24, 1998. On July 11, 2018, he filed a petition for reinstatement. On Dec. 20, 2018, a hearing panel of the Board of Professional Responsibility recommended the court dismiss the petition, which the court did. Lanier therefore remains disbarred and subject to all conditions provided in the original order.

On April 3, Sullivan County lawyer Everett Hoge Mechem was disbarred from the practice of law by the Tennessee Supreme Court. The court also directed him to pay $30,000 in restitution to one client. The court found that Mechem represented clients in a personal injury lawsuit and accepted a settlement that was not authorized by the clients. Then after depositing the settlement funds into his trust account, he misappropriated the funds and made no distribution to the clients. Mechem entered a conditional guilty plea admitting that he violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.1, 1.2(a), 1.3, 1.4, 1.15, 8.1 and 8.4 (a), (b), (c) and (d). Mechem was previously disbarred on April 28, 2017, and has not been reinstated from that disbarment.

Gregory Eric Schwartz, an attorney licensed to practice law in Tennessee and Florida, was disbarred by the Tennessee Supreme Court retroactive to Jan. 20, 2019. Schwartz’s license to practice law in Florida was revoked by the Supreme Court of Florida on Nov. 21, 2018. On Feb. 27, the Tennessee Supreme Court entered a notice of reciprocal discipline directing Schwartz to demonstrate why the discipline imposed in Florida should not also be imposed in Tennessee. Schwartz did not respond. The court entered its order on April 2.

Knox County lawyer John O. Threadgill was disbarred on April 25 after being convicted for felony income tax evasion in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee. After a hearing panel of the Board of Professional Responsibility recommended disbarment, Threadgill appealed the decision to the Knox County Chancery Court, which affirmed the decision. Threadgill then appealed that decision to the Tennessee Supreme Court of Tennessee, which also affirmed the decision and imposed a disbarment on him for the third time.

Censured

Shelby County lawyer Joyce Diane Bradley received a public censure from the Board of Professional Responsibility on April 18. On Aug. 22, 2018, Bradley’s license to practice law was suspended for CLE noncompliance. Despite the suspension, Bradley continued practicing law by appearing in court and discussing clients’ cases with other attorneys. The censure was imposed for violations of Rule of Professional Conduct 5.5.

On April 16, Shelby County lawyer Lewis K. Garrison was publicly censured by the Tennessee Supreme Court after the court determined that he improperly provided financial assistance to a client. The court found that in representing a client in a personal injury claim, Garrison paid a deposit so the client could rent a car and advanced money to the client so he could pay rent. The Board of Professional Responsibility determined he violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.8(e) and 8.4(a). The board also noted that Garrison had been disciplined on four prior occasions for improperly providing financial assistance to clients.

Maury County lawyer Kevin S. Latta received a public censure from the Board of Professional Responsibility on April 30. The board found that over the course of two years, Latta failed to respond to five orders from the Court of Appeals instructing him to report on the status of an appeal for his client, a criminal defendant. The board also found that he failed to respond to three orders from the court setting filing deadlines for an appellate brief, and that he did not adequately communicate with or respond to inquiries from his client. In mitigation, the court permitted the client’s appeal to move forward. Latta’s actions were determined to violate Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3, 3.4(c), 1.4 and 8.4(d). The board conditioned the censure on the requirement that Latta engage a practice monitor for one year to monitor management of his law office.

Hamilton County lawyer Lisa Bowman Luthringer received a public censure from the Board of Professional Responsibility on April 8. After being retained in a child visitation case in November 2012, Luthringer waited more than seven months to file a motion for mediation. The case then languished another 13 months until October 2014, when she finally filed a motion to modify the parenting plan. Finally, Luthringer waited another 19 months to file a motion to set the case for a hearing. By the time the parties completed discovery, another year and a half had passed. The board determined her failure to take reasonable steps to litigate the case in a timely fashion violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3 and 3.2.

Benton County lawyer Alan George Ward received a public censure from the Board of Professional Responsibility on April 8. The board determined that Ward failed to timely file (1) a motion for new trial for a criminal client, which limited appellate review solely to sufficiency of the evidence; (2) an appeal, which resulted in the dismissal of the client’s appeal; and (3) appellate briefs for the client even after being directed to do so by the court. Based on these actions, Ward was determined to have violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3, 3.2, 3.4(c) and 8.4(a)(d).

On April 11, Hamilton County lawyer Justin Grey Woodward received a public censure from the Board of Professional Responsibility. The board found that while representing a client in a domestic relations matter, Woodward created a conflict of interest by exchanging sexually explicit text messages and emails with his client. According to the board, this created a significant risk that Woodward’s personal interests materially limited his representation of the client. It also found that the action violated Rule of Professional Conduct 1.7(a)(2).

Board of Judicial Conduct

Shelby County Circuit Court Judge Robert Weiss was recently reprimanded for unreasonable delays in rulings on two cases. The public reprimand, issued Jan. 18 by the Tennessee Board of Judicial Conduct, found that Weiss took up to five years to make a ruling in one case and three years in another. In the first case, Weiss delayed a ruling in a domestic relations case despite indicating to the parties that a ruling would be forthcoming. In the second case, Weiss delayed responding to a question from the Tennessee Supreme Court in a remand involving a jury award in a motor vehicle accident. The board also reports that Weiss failed to respond to its inquiry for information about these two complaints. In meeting with the board, Weiss admitted his error in failing to promptly file these orders and committed to not letting future matters become overdue in his court. The board determined that his actions violated Canons 1 and 2 of the Code of Judicial Conduct.

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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