Friday, July 31, 2020

Grave Misconduct; Public Censure

A public censure has been imposed by the Tennessee Supreme Court  for misconduct in a civil action involving an historical Nashville cemetery.

From the circuit court findings of fact

Through his actions as an attorney, human remains were removed from a number of graves at this historical cemetery and moved without compliance with applicable statutes. Other graves in the cemetery were undisturbed; however, these remaining graves are now covered by an asphalt parking lot. Furthermore, the descendants of this historical cemetery were not properly notified of the court proceedings seeking removal and relocation.

The web page of the Tennessee Bar Association summarized the case

Holleman filed a petition to quiet title and termination of a cemetery known as the Rains Cemetery. He delegated to a non-lawyer the responsibility of contacting descendants of the Rains family and publishing notice of the petition though he did not provide appropriate direction. Holleman also misrepresented to the court that (1) notice of the petition to quiet title had been published when it had not, and (2) a descendant of the family buried in the cemetery had agreed to re-inter the bodies at a perpetual care cemetery. Holleman obtained a default judgment on pleadings that, at the time the motion was filed, were no longer true as the historic cemetery had been restored. The court found his conduct violated Tennessee Rules of Professional Conduct 1.1, 1.3, 3.1, 5.3 and 5.4.

Nashville Scene exhumed the underlying controversy.

The legal proceedings surrounding the Rains family cemetery have reached a dramatic climax. As you may recall, in April I wrote about the destruction of the Rains family cemetery on Nolensville Road. It seemed like a tragedy, but a legal tragedy that could be guarded against in the future by mandating that people check in with the Metro Historical Commission and get help finding descendants of people buried in the cemetery before taking any action on said cemetery.

But no! It turns out that things were much, much juicier. In May, the Rains family argued in court that David Ashkarari and Akbari Fariborz (who own the used-car lot next to the cemetery) and their lawyer, Jason Holleman, aided by Metro Councilwoman Davette Blalock, were not honest with the court about many facts about the cemetery.

The petition states that Ashkarari, Fariborz and Holleman gave the wrong address to the cemetery in legal documents, which means, if you were a Rains family member and you heard about some issue with a cemetery on Ash Grove Drive, you wouldn’t realize it was your family cemetery, because that’s on Nolensville Road.

The petition recounted many occasions when Fariborz and Ashkarari spoke with people who were at the cemetery taking care of it, even though they told the court they had never seen anyone doing so.

(Mike Frisch)

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