Wednesday, May 27, 2020
The web page of the Tennessee Supreme Court has a preview of a matter scheduled on May 28
In re: Winston Bradshaw Sitton– This attorney-discipline case originated after attorney Winston Sitton commented on a woman’s public Facebook post, identifying himself as a lawyer and discussing whether she should carry a gun in her vehicle and how to present a defense to avoid criminal responsibility if she killed her ex-boyfriend in her own home. Mr. Sitton also urged the woman to delete the thread from Facebook. A hearing panel of the Board of Professional Responsibility (“the Board”) concluded that Mr. Sitton’s conduct violated two rules of professional conduct. Based on the violations and certain aggravating factors, the hearing panel proposed as the sanction a sixty-day active suspension of Mr. Sitton’s law license. Neither Mr. Sitton nor the Board appealed the hearing panel’s findings, conclusions, or proposed sanction. Upon the Board’s submission of the proposed order of enforcement to the Tennessee Supreme Court, the Court rejected the proposed punishment, stating that the “punishment seem[ed] inadequate” and proposing that the punishment be increased. The parties were given the opportunity to respond to the Court’s Order, and Mr. Sitton raised five issues in his response, four of which relate to the evidentiary rule of completeness, Mr. Sitton’s intent, the presumption of innocence, and alleged ex post facto legislation. In the fifth issue, Mr. Sitton argues that suspension or disbarment under the circumstances is not supported by the ABA Standards for Imposing Lawyer Sanctions or consistent with prior disciplinary cases in Tennessee. He contends that he did not engage in criminal conduct or submit false statements to the court, and he did not practice law in Tennessee after his license was provisionally suspended. The Board argues that Mr. Sitton’s issues pertaining to anything other than the proposed sanction are not properly before the Court because Mr. Sitton failed to pursue an appeal of the hearing panel’s decision as provided by Supreme Court Rules. Regarding Mr. Sitton’s proposed punishment of a sixty-day suspension, the Board contends that, given the unique facts of this case, disbarment or a lengthy suspension would be appropriate and in line with the ABA Standards.
The court will livestream the oral argument in a number of cases, while this matter is submitted on the briefs. (Mike Frisch)