Licensure & Discipline

DISCIPLINARY

Censured
Knox County lawyer William James Taylor was publicly censured March 24 by the Tennessee Supreme Court. The court took the action after Taylor’s actions in two separate matters. In the first matter, Taylor failed to respond to a motion for summary judgment and failed to timely file an appeal. The cost of the appeal was taxed to the client and was left unpaid for over two years; Taylor later paid the cost of the appeal. He also stated in a motion to withdraw the appeal that he had advised the client the appeal would be a “waste of time.” In a separate matter, Taylor failed to respond to a client and communicate with opposing counsel regarding a settlement in a personal injury matter. His actions resulted in the funds not being distributed for more than two years. Eventually, the funds were distributed and Taylor waived his fee. The court found that his actions violated Tennessee Rules of Professional Conduct (TRPC) 1.3, 1.4, 1.6, 1.16, 3.2 and 8.4(d). 

Suspended
On March 9, the state Supreme Court temporarily suspended Blount County lawyer Charles Michael Clifford from the practice of law upon finding that he failed to respond to the Board regarding a complaint of misconduct. Clifford was immediately precluded from accepting any new cases, and was required to cease representing existing clients by April 8. He must notify all clients being represented in pending matters, as well as co-counsel and opposing counsel of this order. Clifford is required to deliver to all clients any papers or property to which they are entitled. This suspension remains in effect until dissolution or modification by the state Supreme Court.

Davidson County lawyer James D. R. Roberts Jr. was suspended on March 8 by the Tennessee Supreme Court for six months. The court took the action after Roberts gave false testimony while testifying before the Davidson County Chancery Court while he was representing a client in a declaratory judgment action involving a family company. Roberts attempted to stop the sale of company stock, including a plan to use a friend to assert an interest in the sale. When opposing counsel sought a finding of contempt against Roberts for his efforts to interfere with the sale, Roberts falsely testified about his role in the plan to stop the sale. A hearing panel determined that his conduct violated TRPC 3.3(a)(1) and (b), 4.4(a), and 8.4(a)(c) and (d). Roberts filed an appeal on Oct. 21, 2011, and the decision of the hearing panel was affirmed. He sought further appeal to the state Supreme Court; however, the appeal was dismissed on Jan. 26, 2016, as untimely.

Disbarred
Shelby County lawyer Christopher Lee Brown was disbarred from the practice of law on March 30 by the Tennessee Supreme Court. The court took the action because Brown: took a fee from a client and failed to perform the work for which he was retained; failed to refund the unearned fee; made misrepresentations to his client leading him to believe that he was continuing to work on his matter when he was not; and abandoned the representation of his client and also abandoned his law practice. Brown, of Memphis, was previously suspended for three years by the court on Oct. 7, 2013, and disbarred on July 20, 2015.  He has not been reinstated from the suspension or disbarment and failed to advise a client of his prior suspension in violation of a Tennessee Supreme Court order. The court found Brown’s ethical misconduct violated TRPC 1.3, 1.4, 1.16, and 8.4(a), (c) and (g). He is required to make restitution as a condition of reinstatement and pay the Board’s costs and expenses and the court costs.

The Tennessee Supreme Court suspended Rhea County lawyer John Arnold Fitzgerald from the practice of law on March 28 for four years. The suspension was made retroactive to Fitzgerald’s temporary suspension entered Sept. 10, 2014, and was effective immediately upon entry. The Board of Professional Responsibility filed a Petition for Discipline and a Supplemental Petition for Discipline against Fitzgerald based upon three complaints of misconduct alleging: he improperly used his trust account for personal and business purposes; he failed to properly handle and protect client and third-party funds provided to him; and he failed to account for client and third-party funds and failed to comply with a final court order. His actions violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.15, 3.4(c), and 8.4(a) and (d). Fitzgerald must pay the Board’s costs and expenses and the court costs within 90 days of the entry of the Order of Enforcement.

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