Licensure & Discipline

Disability Inactive

By order of the Tennessee Supreme Court entered July 11, the law license of Shelby County lawyer Robert C. Brooks was transferred to disability inactive status pursuant to Section 27.3 of Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 9. Brooks cannot practice law while on disability inactive status. He may return to the practice of law after reinstatement by the Tennessee Supreme Court upon 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 Josette Michelle Chambers of Smyrna, Georgia, was transferred to disability inactive status on July 5, pursuant to Section 27.3 of Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 9. Chambers cannot practice law while on disability inactive status. She may return to the practice of law after reinstatement by the Tennessee Supreme Court upon showing of clear and convincing evidence that the disability has been removed and she is fit to resume the practice of law.

DISCIPLINARY

Disbarred

Effective July 30, the Supreme Court of Tennessee disbarred Sumner County lawyer Andy Lamar Allman from the practice of law and ordered restitution in the amount of $511,386.50 and costs of the disciplinary proceeding be paid. This is the third order disbarring Allman and is based upon three petitions for discipline, including one that involved 74 separate complaints. Allman submitted a conditional guilty plea on June 8, admitting he knowingly and intentionally misappropriated client funds received in the sale of real estate and/or the settlement of litigation claims; knowingly, intentionally and systematically misappropriated unearned retainer fees and converted the funds to his personal or business use; failed to provide the substantive professional services for which he was retained; and misled clients regarding the status of their cases and the filing of pleadings. Allman failed to notify his clients of his temporary suspension, engaged in the unauthorized practice of law, and failed to respond to the board regarding a disciplinary complaint. Allman admitted violating the Rules of Professional Conduct 1.1, competence; 1.2, scope of representation; 1.3, diligence; 1.4, communication; 1.5, fees; 1.15, safekeeping property and funds; 1.16, declining or terminating representation; 3.2, expediting litigation; 5.5, unauthorized practice of law; 8.1, disciplinary matters; and 8.4, misconduct.

Suspended

The Tennessee Supreme Court suspended Thomas Patrick Cooper of Miami Beach, Florida, from the practice of law on July 20. Cooper was suspended based upon his criminal conviction for grand theft and defrauding a financial institution in the matter of The State of Florida v. Thomas Patrick Cooper, in the 17th Judicial Circuit Court in Broward County. The court’s order is effective immediately. The matter has been referred to the board to institute formal proceedings to determine the extent of the final discipline to be imposed upon Cooper as a result of his conviction of a serious crime.

Coffee County lawyer Judith-Anne Ross St. Clair was suspended from the practice of law on July 20 by order of the Tennessee Supreme Court for three years, with six months to be served as an active suspension, and the remainder to be served on probation. A petition for discipline was filed against St. Clair concerning multiple complaints of misconduct. Prior to the final hearing, she entered into a conditional guilty plea admitting that on April 10, 2017, she was arrested for a schedule II drug violation in a drug-free school zone. St. Clair entered a plea to amended lesser charges, received judicial diversion, and a suspended sentence of 11 months and 29 days. During the period of her arrest and subsequent drug treatment, she failed to communicate with her clients, failed to provide diligent legal services, and abandoned their cases. She has made restitution to two clients and has agreed to make restitution to a third client. St. Clair has admitted violating the Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3, diligence; 1.4, communications; 1.5, fees; 1.15, safekeeping property; and 8.4(a), (b) and (d), misconduct.

The Tennessee Supreme Court on July 25 temporarily suspended Shelby County lawyer Martin Alan Weiss from the practice of law upon finding that he misappropriated funds and poses a threat of substantial harm to the public and failed to respond to the Board regarding a complaint of misconduct. 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 and in cases of an attorney’s failure to respond to the board regarding a complaint of misconduct. Weiss was immediately precluded from accepting any new cases and was to cease representing existing clients by Aug. 24.

On July 18, the Supreme Court of Tennessee temporarily suspended Candace Lenette Williamson of Southaven, Mississippi, from the practice of law upon finding that she failed to respond to the board regarding a complaint of misconduct. Section 12.3 of Supreme Court Rule 9 provides for the immediate summary suspension of an attorney’s license to practice law in cases of an attorney’s failure to respond to the board regarding a complaint of misconduct. Williamson was immediately precluded from accepting any new cases, and she was to cease representing existing clients by Aug. 17.

Censured

Franklin County lawyer Joseph Scott Bean Jr. on July 19 received a public censure from the Board of Professional Responsibility of the Tennessee Supreme Court. During the duration of his four-year disciplinary suspension, Bean has maintained a trust account and used it as his personal checking account. Although there was no evidence that client funds were involved, Bean’s conduct was improper, and violated Rule 1.15 regarding trust accounts.

Sevier County lawyer Dawn Elaine Bowie received a public censure from the Board of Professional Responsibility of the Tennessee Supreme Court on July 25. Bowie filed a guardianship action while a dependent and neglect petition was pending involving the same custody dispute. Bowie filed a motion for Rule 11 sanctions after being served with a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. She did not provide opposing counsel with an opportunity to withdraw the motion to dismiss, as required by the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure, and there was no merit to the motion for sanctions. She also communicated with the opposing parties about the subject matter of the custody dispute despite being aware that they were represented by counsel. Bowie has violated the Rules of Professional Conduct 1.1, competence; 3.1, meritorious claims and contentions; 3.4(c), knowing disobedience of an obligation under the rules of a tribunal; and 4.2, communication with a person represented by counsel.

Carter County lawyer Dennis Dwayne Brooks received a public censure from the Board of Professional Responsibility on July 13. Brooks entered into an agreement to publish a book about the convictions of three people for murder, after he was successful in getting murder convictions as the lead prosecutor in the matters. Brooks’ book was published prior to the conclusions of the appeals of two of the convictions. After Brooks’ book was published, one of the defendants filed a motion for a new trial and a writ of error coram nobis alleging that the book contained evidence that had not been provided to the defense. The appeals of two of the convictions were stayed for 18 months pending a hearing on these matters. Brooks violated Rule 1.8, conflict of interest; and 8.4(d), prejudice to the administration of justice.

Shelby County lawyer LaTrena Davis Ingram received a public censure from the Board of Professional Responsibility on July 17. In the representation of a client pursuing a medical malpractice claim, Ingram failed to comply with Tennessee’s statutory pre-suit requirements, which led to the dismissal of the lawsuit. On appeal, Ingram failed to file a transcript or statement of the evidence as required by the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure, which resulted in the dismissal of the appeal and the assessment of court costs against her client. Ingram violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.1, competence; 1.3, diligence; 3.2, expediting litigation; and 3.4(c), disobedience to an obligation under the rules of a tribunal.

On July 9, Hamblen County lawyer Alan C. Lee received a public censure from the Board of Professional Responsibility of the Tennessee Supreme Court. Lee issued two checks from his trust account to two clients for settlement funds to those clients. At the end of the month, he mistakenly believed the two checks had been cashed by the clients, so he took the remaining funds on those matters as a fee. The two clients later cashed the checks, and the checks were covered by other funds in the account. Lee discovered the error, but did not replace the funds in his trust account that had been inadvertently taken as a fee for almost two months. Lee was in violation of 1.15(e), safekeeping funds.

On July 17, Knox County lawyer Brennan Patrick Lenihan received a public censure from the Board of Professional Responsibility. In three separate cases, Lenihan engaged in a pattern of neglecting client matters. In the first case, Lenihan ignored his client’s attempts to obtain information about his case as well as requests from the board’s Consumer Assistance Program during this time period. In the second case, Lenihan allowed deadlines that were important to his clients to pass, he did not provide them with draft pleadings as they requested, and he did not reply to a number of their text messages inquiring as to the status of the matter. In the third case, he did not complete his client’s amendment to a custody order, he ignored her numerous attempts to communicate with him, including her request for her file and a refund of fees paid, and he ignored inquiries from the board’s Consumer Assistance Program. In addition, Lenihan failed to respond timely to a disciplinary complaint. Lenihan has violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.2, scope of representation; 1.3, diligence; 1.4, communication; 1.5, unreasonable fee; 1.16, terminating representation; and 8.1, disciplinary matters.

On July 10, Sullivan County lawyer Kay Jeffrey Luethke received a public censure from the Board of Professional Responsibility of the Tennessee Supreme Court. Luethke improperly commingled trust funds into his operating account and personal funds into his trust account on several different occasions. Luethke also held funds in his trust account that were not related to any representation, withdrew funds without allowing adequate time for a check to clear, and inadvertently used trust funds to pay a personal debt without reconciling his account and correcting the problem. Luethke has violated Rule of Professional Conduct 1.15, safekeeping property.

On July 10, Davidson County attorney Thomas Howard Miller received a Public Censure from the Board of Professional Responsibility of the Tennessee Supreme Court. Miller failed to adequately communicate with his client and failed to diligently address the client’s needs. Miller’s fee was unreasonable based upon the time and labor involved and lack of complexity of the case, the results obtained, and the failure to reduce the fee to writing. Miller has violated Rule of Professional Conduct 1.3, diligence; 1.4, communication; and 1.5, fees.

On July 20, Davidson County attorney Karl Emmanuel Pulley received a public censure from the Board of Professional Responsibility of the Tennessee Supreme Court. In representing a client in a criminal case, Pulley failed to request a jury instruction as to the lesser offense of facilitation, which was fairly raised by the proof, thereby waiving any chance his client had of being convicted of a lesser charge. In response to a post-conviction petition in which Pulley’s client alleged that Pulley rendered constitutionally deficient representation, the state, rather than attempting to defend the convictions, entered into an agreed order vacating the convictions and the client, was permitted to enter a plea to a lesser charge for a shorter sentence. Pulley has violated the Rules of Professional Conduct 1.1, competence; and 1.3, diligence.

James D. R. Roberts Jr. received a public censure on July 12 from the Board of Professional Responsibility of the Tennessee Supreme Court. During a period of suspension from the practice of law, Roberts worked for the mailing service used by his law firm. While working for the mailing service, Roberts utilized his law firm email address to communicate with a client and to provide him with copies of letters being sent from his law firm through the mailing service. Roberts has violated Rule of Professional Conduct 5.5, unauthorized practice of law.

On July 9, Putnam County lawyer Elizabeth Ann Shipley received a public censure from the Board of Professional Responsibility of the Tennessee Supreme Court. Shipley represented clients in defense of a boundary line suit, failing to file an answer or enter an appearance in the action, which led to entry of a default judgment. Shipley failed to take prompt remedial action once notified of the default judgment or protect her clients’ interests following her discharge as counsel. She also failed to maintain good communication with her clients throughout the representation. As a condition of the censure, Shipley was directed to refund $1,500 in attorney fees to her former clients within 30 days.

On July 17, Shelby County attorney Shantell S. Suttle received a public censure from the Board of Professional Responsibility of the Tennessee Supreme Court. Suttle failed to timely file a client’s personal injury lawsuit and also failed to respond to requests for information from her client for three months in late 2016 and for six months in 2017. In another client matter, Suttle failed to timely pursue the closing of an estate after the initial filing opening the matter. Suttle took no action on the estate for more than a year and failed to timely file an accounting. Suttle also failed to respond to requests for information from her client for eight months. The client paid Suttle a $2,300 fee for the estate matter. Suttle has violated Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3, diligence; and 1.4, communication, and was publicly censured for this violation with the condition that she refund $2,000 to the second client.

Administrative Suspensions

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 on the TBA website at www.tba.org/directory-listing/administrative-suspension-lists.

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