Licensure & Discipline

DISABILITY INACTIVE

The law license of Knox County lawyer James Douglas Busch was transferred to disability inactive status on Aug. 14, pursuant to Section 27.4 of Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 9. Busch 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.

By order of the Tennessee Supreme Court entered Aug. 23, the law license of Davidson County attorney Andrea Elaine Phelan was transferred to disability inactive status pursuant to Section 27.4 of Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 9. Phelan 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.

By order of the Tennessee Supreme Court entered Aug. 30, the law license of George Ernest Skouteris was transferred to disability inactive status after the Board of Professional Responsibility filed a petition for discipline against Skouteris. By orders filed Feb. 21, 2014, April 21, 2015, and Feb. 9, 2016, the Tennessee Supreme Court previously disbarred Skouteris. He has not requested, nor been granted, reinstatement from these disbarments and they remain in effect. Skouteris cannot practice law while on disability inactive status and may not return to the practice of law unless and until he is reinstated from his disbarments, his disability status is removed, he is determined to be fit to resume the practice of law by the Tennessee Supreme Court, and his pending disciplinary action is resolved.

The Tennessee law license of South Carolina attorney David W. Spence was transferred to disability inactive status on Aug. 28, pursuant to Section 27.3 of Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 9. Spence 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.

 

DISCIPLINARY

Disbarred

Homer L. Cody of Memphis was disbarred on Aug. 28 by the Tennessee Supreme Court. Cody must pay the Board of Professional Responsibility’s costs and expenses and the court costs within 90 days. This is the fifth disciplinary proceeding brought against Cody arising from his representation of one client. The first case resulted in a public censure. The second resulted in a 180-day suspension. The third resulted in a one-year suspension. The fourth resulted in a two-year suspension. While the first two suspensions were in effect, Cody filed two pleadings on behalf of the client in the Chancery Court for Shelby County. After the third suspension took effect, Cody filed an additional pleading in the case. In addition to his unauthorized practice of law, by filing pleadings on behalf of the client, Cody continued his conflict of interest that formed the basis for the previous suspensions. Cody’s actions violated the following Rules of Professional Conduct: 1.7(a), conflict of interest; 5.5(a), unauthorized practice of law; and 8.4(a), (b) and (g), misconduct.

On Aug. 31, the Supreme Court of Tennessee entered an order of reciprocal discipline disbarring Robert Alan Lenter of Boca Raton, Florida. The Board of Professional Responsibility submitted a notice of reciprocal discipline based upon an order of the Supreme Court of Louisiana accepting Lenter’s permanent resignation from the practice of law in lieu of discipline. The Office of Disciplinary Counsel in Louisiana was conducting an investigation of Lenter into allegations that he mishandled client settlement funds, among other misconduct. Lenter must comply with the requirements of Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 9, Sections 28 and 30, regarding the obligations and responsibilities of disbarred attorneys.

On Aug. 24, the Supreme Court of Tennessee disbarred Davidson County lawyer Judson Wheeler Phillips from the practice of law effective immediately. Phillips consented to disbarment because he could not successfully defend himself on charges alleged in a petition for discipline that includes 18 disciplinary complaints and 91 additional pending disciplinary complaints. Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 9, Section 23, requires that Phillips’ consent to disbarment be maintained under seal.

 

Suspended

On Aug. 16, the Supreme Court of Tennessee temporarily suspended Carroll County lawyer Benjamin S. Dempsey from the practice of law upon finding that Dempsey misappropriated funds and poses a threat of substantial harm to the public. Section 12.3 of Supreme Court, Rule 9, provides for the immediate temporary suspension of an attorney’s license to practice law in cases of an attorney’s misappropriation of funds. Dempsey is immediately precluded from accepting any new cases, and he must cease representing existing clients by Sept. 15. After Sept.15, he may not use any indicia of lawyer, legal assistant or law clerk, nor maintain a presence where the practice of law is conducted.

Effective Aug. 13, the Tennessee Supreme Court suspended Williamson County lawyer Michael Gibbs Sheppard from the practice of law for 60 days, followed by two years of probation under the supervision of a practice monitor. The Board of Professional Responsibility (BPR) filed a petition for discipline against Sheppard based upon two complaints of ethical misconduct. A hearing panel found that he failed to properly maintain and monitor client trust accounts, which resulted in the commingling of client funds, use of client funds to pay for operating expenses, and a diminished balance of client funds in the trust account. Sheppard also knowingly misled at least one client about the status of the client’s trust funds; however, the hearing panel found his acts were not intentional and did not seriously injure any clients. The BPR, seeing the need for additional punishment, appealed the hearing panel's decision but the Tennessee Supreme Court sided with the panel.

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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