Friday, May 15, 2009
From the web page of the Tennessee Supreme Court:
This is a direct appeal of a trial court judgment that modified a hearing panel’s order suspending an attorney from the practice of law for sixty days. The trial court did not disagree with the hearing panel’s findings regarding the attorney’s misconduct but determined that the punishment was too harsh and, instead, ordered a public censure. After an independent review of the record, we conclude that the hearing panel’s findings that the attorney commingled his personal funds with client funds, paid personal bills out of his trust account, failed to maintain proper trust account records, and failed to timely respond to Board inquiries were supported by substantial and material evidence and that this conduct violated the Rules of Professional Conduct. These violations, coupled with the aggravating factor that in 1998, the attorney was publicly reprimanded for commingling his personal funds with trust account funds and for paying personal expenses from his trust account, warrant the sanctions imposed by the hearing panel which require that the attorney be suspended from the practice of law for sixty days, that his trust account be monitored for a period of one year following reinstatement of his law license, that he submit trust account bank statements and ledger sheets every thirty days during this one-year period, and that he pay all costs of the proceeding. Accordingly, we reverse the trial court’s judgment to the extent that it modifies the sanctions imposed by the hearing panel.
The court is clearly correct in determining that a censure is unduly lenient in light of the misconduct.
The decision is linked here. (Mike Frisch)