Licensure & Discipline

ADMINISTRATIVE SUSPENSIONS

Online Notice of attorneys suspended for, and reinstated from, administrative violations — including failure to pay the Board of Professional Responsibility fee, file the IOLTA report, comply with continuing legal education requirements and pay the Tennessee professional privilege tax — is now available exclusively on the TBA website.

Visit http://www.tba.org/directory-listing/ administrative-suspension-lists to see administrative suspensions imposed since 2006.

REINSTATED

Sumner County attorney Jocelyn D. Mims was reinstated by the Tennessee Supreme Court on July 12. Mims had been disbarred in August 2009 upon pleading guilty to a serious crime. At an April 2017 hearing, a panel found that Mims met her burden of proving by clear and convincing evidence that she has the moral qualifications, competency and learning in the law required for admission to practice law in Tennessee, and that the resumption of the practice of law will not be detrimental to the integrity and standing of the bar or the administration of justice, or subversive to the public interest.

Disability Inactive
The law licenses of the following lawyers have been transferred to disability inactive status. They may not practice law while on disability inactive status. They may be reinstated by the Tennessee Supreme Court upon showing clear and convincing evidence that they are fit to resume the practice of law:

  • Joel Robert Bellis of Maury County, transferred July 28 pursuant to Section 27.4 of T.S.C. Rule 9.
  • Bobby Gene Gray of McNairy County, transferred July 27, pursuant to Section 27.3 of T.S.C. Rule 9, after he had been temporarily suspended from practice for conduct that poses a risk of substantial harm to the public. Gray cannot practice law while on disability inactive status. He may be reinstated by the Tennessee Supreme Court upon showing clear and convincing evidence that he is fit to resume the practice of law; however, he cannot be reinstated until he has requested, and been granted, reinstatement from the temporary suspension.
  • Alyse Dwyer Masserano of Memphis, transferred July 17, pursuant to Section 27.3 of T.S.C. Rule 9.
  • Al’Reco Le’Juan Yancy of Knoxivlle, transferred to disability inactive status July 17, pursuant to Section 27.3 of T.S.C. Rule 9.

Status Removed
The disability inactive status of James Prentice DeRossitt IV, a Tennessee attorney who resides in Austin, Texas, was removed July 18 by the Tennessee Supreme Court. DeRossitt was placed on inactive status on Oct. 13, 2013. His license to practice law will not be returned to active status until the resolution of any disciplinary proceedings pending before the Board of Professional Responsibility.

DISCIPLINARY

Censured
Memphis lawyer John Louis Dolan Jr. was publicly censured by the Board of Professional Responsibility on July 31. Dolan was found to have shown a lack of understanding of the Rules of Appellate Procedure in his representation of a client, failed to act diligently in meeting deadlines or otherwise expedite the appeal process, failed to comply with rules and orders of the court, and engaged in conduct that was prejudicial to both the client and the court. Dolan therefore violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.1 (competence); 1.3 (diligence); 1.4 (communication); 3.2 (expediting litigation); 3.4 (knowing disobedience of an obligation under the rules of a tribunal); 8.4(d) (conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice); and 8.4(g) (knowing failure to comply with a court order in which the attorney is a party).

Knox County attorney Randall Keith Hatfield was publicly censured on July 10. Hatfield failed to diligently represent his client or expedite the litigation in his client’s post-conviction proceeding. He also failed to adequately communicate with his client and other persons associated with the representation and was ultimately removed as appointed counsel by the court. Hatfield violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3 (diligence); 1.4 (communication); 3.2 (expediting litigation); and 8.4(d) (conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice).

Lewis County attorney Larry Joe Hinson Jr. was publicly censured on July 11. Hinson failed to diligently represent his client, expedite litigation, adequately communicate with his client and comply in a timely manner with the court’s direction to submit a scheduling order in the case. He also failed to respond in a timely manner to multiple communications sent to him by the board. He violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3 (diligence); 1.4 (communication); 3.2 (expediting litigation); 8.1(b) (disciplinary matters); and 8.4(d) (conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice).

On July 10 Knox County attorney William Arnold Hotz was publicly censured by the Board of Professional Responsibility. Hotz failed to satisfy a third-party lien, which he knew to exist at the time he received settlement funds and paid the settlement funds directly to his client, to the detriment of the third-party lienholder. Hotz violated Rule of Professional Conduct 1.15 (safekeeping property).

On July 11 Williamson County attorney Erica May Lotz was publicly censured by the Board of Professional Responsibility. In her representation of a client in a divorce action, Lotz withdrew unearned client fees from her trust account and commingled these fees with her own personal funds. After being discharged by her client, she failed to promptly return the unearned fees. Lotz has violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.15(a) (comingling client fees with personal funds); 1.15(c) (withdrawal of unearned client fees from trust account); and 1.16(d)(6) (returning unearned fees following discharge).

Shelby County attorney Samuel Lee Perkins was publicly censured on July 10 by the Board of Professional Responsibility. Perkins failed to timely file a motion for new trial for his client, which prohibited the client from raising issues on appeal other than insufficiency of the evidence. More than five years later, the client’s petition for post-conviction relief was granted. The delay caused injury to his client and to the administration of justice. Perkins violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3 (diligence) and 8.4(d) (conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice).

Suspended
On July 17, the Tennessee Supreme Court suspended Erich Webb Bailey from the practice of law after finding he failed to comply with a June 28 court order. The order directed him to contact the Tennessee Lawyers Assistance Program for evaluation. Bailey may not accept any new cases and was to cease representing clients by Aug. 16.

On July 25, the Supreme Court of Tennessee suspended Stephen Christopher Brooks from the practice of law for five years. Brooks pleaded guilty to simple possession and possession of paraphernalia. A petition for discipline included one complaint alleging commission of a criminal act, conduct involving dishonesty, conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice, failure to comply with a final court order and violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct. A hearing panel in May 2016 agreed to suspend Brooks for three years, but Brooks violated his probation and failed to comply with his Tennessee Lawyers Assistance monitoring agreement. Brooks’ ethical misconduct violates Rules of Professional Conduct 8.4 (a) (b) (c) (d) and (g) misconduct.

On July 20, the Tennessee Supreme Court suspended Knox County lawyer James Lester Kennedy from the practice of law for one year. Kennedy served as the executor of an estate that was opened in 1987. In 2009, the beneficiaries discovered that the estate had not been closed, that Kennedy had ignored repeated orders by the court to appear and settle, and in 2000, the court had retired the case due to inactivity. Kennedy was found in contempt and the court removed him as executor. Kennedy’s conduct violated Tennessee Rules of Professional Conduct 1.1 (competence); 1.3 (diligence); 3.4 (fairness to opposing party and counsel); and 8.4 (misconduct).

The Tennessee Supreme Court suspended Putnam County attorney Albert Fitzpatrick Officer III on July 12, upon finding that he poses a threat of substantial harm to the public. He may not accept any new cases and was to cease representing existing clients by Aug. 11. This suspension remains in effect until dissolution or modification by the Supreme Court. Section 12.3 of Supreme Court Rule 9 provides for the immediate summary suspension of an attorney’s license to practice law if an attorney poses a threat of substantial harm to the public.

Knox County lawyer Jere Franklin Ownby III was suspended from the practice of law for one year, with 30 days served as an active suspension, effective July 7. His reinstatement and grant of probation are conditioned upon payment of restitution to two clients. Ownby was found to have missed scheduled deadlines and court appearances in several matters, failed to provide the legal services for which he was retained, and failed to maintain confidentiality. Ownby admitted his conduct violated Tennessee Rules of Professional Conduct 1.1 (competence); 1.2 (scope of representation and allocation of authority between client and lawyer); 1.3 (diligence); 1.4 (communication); 1.6 (confidentiality); 3.4 (fairness to opposing party and counsel); and 8.4 (misconduct).


Compiled by Katharine Heriges from information provided by the Board of Professional Responsibility of the Tennessee Supreme Court. Licensure and disciplinary notices are included in this publication as a member service. The official record of an attorney’s status is maintained by the board. Current information about a particular attorney may be found on the board’s website at www.tbpr.org/consumers/attorneysearch.

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