Recent Supreme Court Opinions

 

Carlos Eugene Moore v. Board of Professional Responsibility 

Carlos Eugene Moore (“Attorney”) entered into a written contingent fee agreement to represent a client in a personal injury matter. The agreement, which was signed by the client, provided that if the client refused to accept any settlement offer which Attorney advised her was reasonable and should be taken, the client was responsible for the contingency fee “on the basis of that offer” unless Attorney waived the provision. When Attorney received an offer to settle the matter, he advised the client to accept the offer. She refused. Attorney filed a motion to withdraw which was granted. Attorney also sought to place a lien against the client’s eventual recovery for his fees and expenses “presently owe[d].” After the client filed a complaint with the Board of Professional Responsibility (“BPR”), the BPR filed a petition for discipline. A hearing panel was appointed and, after an evidentiary hearing, the panel concluded that (1) Attorney had “made an agreement for and has sought to collect an unreasonable fee,” violating Rule of Professional Conduct (“RPC” or “Rule”) 1.5(a) and 1.5(c); and (2) Attorney had “violated Rule 1.8(i) because [the client] became obligated when [Attorney] advised [her] that the settlement offer . . . was ‘reasonable and should be taken.’” The hearing panel imposed a sanction of public censure. Attorney sought review in chancery court, and the chancery court affirmed the hearing panel’s decision. Attorney then sought review in this Court, arguing that the hearing panel’s findings that he had violated the Rules of Professional Conduct were arbitrary and capricious and not supported by substantial and material evidence. Attorney further contends that the sanction imposed was arbitrary and capricious and not supported by substantial and material evidence. We hold that the record supports both the findings of violations and the imposition of a public censure. Accordingly, we affirm the chancery court’s ruling upholding the hearing panel’s decision.   

Nathan E. Brooks v. Board of Professional Responsibility

Nathan E. Brooks petitioned to have his law license reinstated. Rather than pay an advance cost deposit under Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 9, section 30.4(d)(9), Mr. Brooks filed a pauper’s oath and indigency affidavit. A Board of Professional Responsibility hearing panel dismissed the petition without prejudice, giving Mr. Brooks the opportunity to refile the petition with a cost deposit. The trial court agreed with the hearing panel and, now, so does the Tennessee Supreme Court. 

John O. Threadgill v. Board of Professional Responsibility of the Supreme Court of Tennessee

After attorney John O. Threadgill was convicted of tax evasion, this Court ordered that the Board of Professional Responsibility (“Board”) initiate proceedings to determine his final discipline. A hearing panel (“Panel”) imposed a final discipline of disbarment. Mr. Threadgill sought review of the Panel’s judgment in the Knox County Chancery Court, and the chancery court affirmed Mr. Threadgill’s disbarment. Pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 9, section 1.3, Mr. Threadgill has appealed the chancery court’s judgment to this Court. In this appeal, he argues: (1) that the Panel and the trial court lacked jurisdiction to impose disbarment; (2) that the judgment was unsupported by substantial and material evidence; and (3) that the judgment is contrary to the intent of the American Bar Association guidelines. Following a thorough review of the record and the applicable legal authorities, we affirm the judgment of the Knox County Chancery Court. 

Gerald Stanley Green v. Board of Professional Responsibility of the Supreme Court of Tennessee

This direct appeal involves a lawyer disciplinary proceeding against a Memphis attorney arising from two client complaints and the lawyer’s failure to satisfy fully Mississippi’s requirements for pro hac vice admission before representing a criminal defendant in Mississippi. A Hearing Panel of the Board of Professional Responsibility (“Hearing Panel”) determined that the lawyer had violated four provisions of the Tennessee Rules of Professional Conduct (“RPC”). After consulting the ABA Standards for Imposing Lawyer Sanctions (“ABA Standards”) and considering the mitigating and aggravating circumstances, including the lawyer’s seventeen prior disciplinary sanctions, the Hearing Panel suspended the lawyer for six months and directed thirty days of the sanction to be served on active suspension with the remainder to be served on probation with conditions, including a practice monitor, restitution, and continuing legal education focused on law office management, client communication, and client relations. The lawyer appealed the Hearing Panel’s judgment, and the Chancery Court for Shelby County affirmed. The lawyer then appealed to this Court. After carefully reviewing the record, we affirm.