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Mabry v. Board of Professional Responsibility

Supreme Court of Tennessee, Knoxville

December 30, 2014

THOMAS FLEMING MABRY
v.
BOARD OF PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY OF THE SUPREME COURT OF TENNESSEE

Session May 6, 2014

Page 901

Appeal Pursuant to Tenn. S.Ct. R. 9, § 1.3 ; Judgment of the Chancery Court Affirmed. Direct Appeal from the Chancery Court for Knox County. No. 183743I. Don R. Ash, Judge.

Judgment of the Chancery Court Affirmed.

David A. Lufkin, Sr., Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Thomas Fleming Mabry.

Krisann Hodges, Brentwood, Tennessee, for the appellee, Board of Professional Responsibility of the Supreme Court of Tennessee.

SHARON G. LEE, C.J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which JANICE M. HOLDER, CORNELIA A. CLARK, GARY R. WADE, and WILLIAM C. KOCH, JR., JJ., joined.

OPINION

SHARON G. LEE, C.J.

Page 902

A hearing panel of the Board of Professional Responsibility determined that an attorney failed to act diligently in his representation of a client and suspended the attorney from the practice of law for forty-five days. The trial court affirmed the suspension. After careful consideration, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

OPINION

I.

Thomas Fleming Mabry, an attorney primarily practicing in Knox County, has been licensed to practice law in Tennessee since 1980. On June 22, 2011, the Board of Professional Responsibility (" the Board" ) filed a petition for discipline against Mr. Mabry based on three complaints of misconduct. A hearing panel (" the Panel" ), appointed by the Board pursuant to Tenn. S.Ct. R. 9, section 8.2, heard evidence on the Board's petition for discipline on July 18, 2012.[1] The Panel found that Mr. Mabry violated Tenn. S.Ct. R. 8, RPC 1.3[2] and RPC 8.4(a)[3] by his failure to act diligently during his representation of Velda Shore in a civil conspiracy lawsuit against Robert Goddard and Roger Fields. The Panel also found that the Board failed to prove any of the other

Page 903

violations alleged in its petition. After considering aggravating and mitigating factors, the Panel decided that Mr. Mabry should be suspended from the practice of law for a period of forty-five days. Both Mr. Mabry and the Board appealed to the Knox County Chancery Court, which affirmed the Panel's findings and recommendations. Mr. Mabry appeals the trial court's decision.

II.

The Supreme Court of Tennessee is the source of authority of the Board of Professional Responsibility and all its functions. Brown v. Bd. of Prof'l Responsibility, 29 S.W.3d 445, 449 (Tenn. 2000). As a part of our duty to regulate the practice of law, we bear ultimate responsibility for enforcing the rules governing our profession. Doe v. Bd. of Prof'l Responsibility, 104 S.W.3d 465, 470 (Tenn. 2003). We review judgments under our " inherent power and essential and fundamental right to administer the rules pertaining to the licensing of attorneys." Skouteris v. Bd. of Prof'l Responsibility, 430 S.W.3d 359, 362 (Tenn. 2014) (alterations in original) (quoting Hughes v. Bd. of Prof'l Responsibility, 259 S.W.3d 631, 640 (Tenn. 2008)).

When reviewing a hearing panel's judgment, a trial court must consider the transcript of the evidence before the hearing panel and its findings and judgment. Tenn. S.Ct. R. 9, § 1.3. On questions of fact, the trial court does not substitute its judgment for that of the hearing panel as to the weight of the evidence. See Bd. of Prof'l Responsibility v. Allison, 284 S.W.3d 316, 323 (Tenn. 2009). Any modification to a hearing panel's decision must be based on one of the enumerated factors included in Tenn. S.Ct. R. 9, section 1.3. See Bd. of Prof'l Responsibility v. Love, 256 S.W.3d 644, 652 (Tenn. 2008). Under section 1.3, a trial court has the discretion to reverse or modify a decision of the hearing panel only if the petitioner's rights have been prejudiced by findings, inferences, conclusions, or decisions that are:

(1) in violation of constitutional or statutory provisions; (2) in excess of the panel's jurisdiction; (3) made upon unlawful procedure; (4) arbitrary or capricious or characterized by abuse of discretion or clearly unwarranted exercise of discretion; or (5) unsupported by evidence which is both substantial and material in the light of the entire record.

Tenn. S.Ct. R. 9, § 1.3.

Our standard of review on appeal is the same as that of the trial court. Skouteris, 430 S.W.3d at 362 (citing Hoover v. Bd. of Prof'l ...


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