DANNY C. GARLAND, II
BOARD OF PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY OF THE SUPREME COURT OF TENNESSEE
Session January 10, 2017
Appeal from the Chancery Court for Knox County No. 189106-3
Jon Kerry Blackwood, Senior Judge No. E2016-01106-SC-R3-BP -
Filed August 10, 2017
hearing panel of the Board of Professional Responsibility
determined that a Knoxville attorney should receive a public
censure based on his violations of Rules of Professional
Conduct 1.3, 1.4, and 8.4(a). The trial court affirmed the
hearing panel's decision. After careful consideration, we
affirm the judgment of the trial court.
Pursuant to Tenn. Sup. Ct. R. 9, § 1.3; Judgment of the
Chancery Court Affirmed
C. Garland, II, Knoxville, Tennessee, pro se.
Krisann Hodges, Brentwood, Tennessee, for the appellee, Board
of Professional Responsibility of the Supreme Court of
G. Lee, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which
Jeffrey S. Bivins, C.J., and Cornelia A. Clark and Roger A.
Page, JJ., joined. Holly Kirby, J., filed a dissenting
G. LEE, JUSTICE
disciplinary action involves Knoxville attorney Danny C.
Garland, II. When this action began, Mr. Garland had
been practicing law for seventeen years. He had one full-time
employee, Jamie Harris, whose responsibilities included
communicating with clients and preparing documents. He also
had one part-time employee, Carol Snyder, who occasionally
worked full time and whose responsibilities included
answering the telephone and filing. Mr. Garland's
practice primarily involved family law and consisted of about
100 active files. He relied on Ms. Harris to talk to clients
and answer questions because he was often in court,
depositions, or meetings. According to Mr. Garland, he
reviewed his active files every thirty to forty-five days to
ensure that no action was needed.
September 2010, Samantha McKeogh hired Mr. Garland to handle
a stepparent adoption for her husband, Jason McKeogh. Mr.
Garland had previously represented Ms. McKeogh in divorce
proceedings. Both Ms. McKeogh and Mr. Garland believed that
it would be difficult to get the child's father, Scott
Atchley, to consent to an agreed order due to his history of
erratic and uncooperative behavior. After Mr. Garland filed a
petition for adoption on January 20, 2011, initial efforts to
get Mr. Atchley's signature were unsuccessful. However,
on July 7, 2011, Mr. Atchley came to Mr. Garland's office
and signed an agreed order consenting to the adoption. Mr.
Garland was not present, and his staff did not advise him
that Mr. Atchley had signed the agreed order. Ms. Harris sent
an email to Ms. McKeogh informing her that Mr. Atchley had
signed the order. Ms. Snyder then mistakenly placed the
agreed order in Ms. McKeogh's closed divorce file rather
than in her open adoption file.
August 8, 2011, Ms. McKeogh sent an email to Ms. Harris
asking about a hearing date, requesting a copy of the agreed
order that Mr. Atchley had signed, and advising that she had
a new address in Clarksville, Tennessee. Over five months
later, on January 17, 2012, Ms. McKeogh emailed Ms. Harris
inquiring about the status of the adoption and noting that
she expected her husband, a staff sergeant in the United
States Army, to be deployed to Afghanistan in a month or two.
The email stated: "I know that you all are busy but
it's been 6 months since [Mr. Atchley] signed his rights
March 23, 2012, the Knox County Chancery Court entered an
order requiring Mr. Garland to prosecute the adoption matter.
Mr. Garland, still unaware that Mr. Atchley had signed the
agreed order over eight months earlier, called Ms. McKeogh to
discuss whether she still wanted to pursue the matter. After
Ms. McKeogh told Mr. Garland that Mr. Atchley had already
signed the order, Mr. Garland reviewed his files and found
the agreed order in Ms. McKeogh's closed divorce file.
Mr. Garland attended a Chancery Court pre-trial conference on
April 24, 2012. After the pre-trial conference, Mr. Garland
decided he needed to prepare and file an amended petition
containing Mr. Atchley's notarized signature. As a
result, the adoption hearing previously set for May 1, 2012,
McKeogh was notified of the postponement, and efforts began
anew to obtain Mr. Atchley's signature on the amended
petition. On September 12, 2012, Mr. Garland's office
received the amended petition for adoption signed by Mr.
Atchley. The same day, Ms. Harris emailed Ms. McKeogh to
inform her that the amended petition had been signed. Later
that day, Ms. McKeogh replied to Ms. Harris, "So where
do we go from here?" Ms. McKeogh also advised Ms. Harris
that Mr. McKeogh might be deployed at the beginning of the
year. Ms. Snyder mailed a copy of the amended petition to Ms.
McKeogh so she and her husband could sign it. However, she
mistakenly mailed the amended petition to Ms. McKeogh's
former address in South Carolina and not to her current
address in Clarksville, Tennessee. On September 20, 2012, Ms.
Harris sent an email informing Ms. McKeogh that a meeting
between Mr. Garland and the Chancellor would not occur
"until MAYBE next week."
McKeogh sent several emails to Ms. Harris in September,
October, and November 2012. She also left numerous messages
and voicemails, most of which were not returned. At one point
when Ms. McKeogh called and asked to speak with Mr. Garland,
she was told that Mr. Garland said she needed to speak with
Ms. Harris. Ms. McKeogh then "kind of gave up trying to
[reach Mr. Garland] and . . . just tried to focus all [her]
efforts on trying to reach [Ms. Harris]." Mr. Garland
agreed that Ms. McKeogh "stopped . . . trying to talk to
me" and that "[h]ad she called . . ., [he] could
have straightened it out." He recalled that he returned
a call from Mr. McKeogh on one occasion but stated that Ms.
McKeogh did not contact him directly and did not set up an
appointment to meet with him.
on January 14, 2013, Ms. McKeogh sent another email to Ms.
Harris that stated:
I've been trying to contact you for several months and
have had no response. I don't know if there is just no
news [and] that is why no one is returning my calls or [if]
you aren't getting my messages. Whatever the reason is, I
would really appreciate it if you or [Mr. Garland] could
please call me or my husband and let us [know] what is going
on. We are getting frustrated at the amount of time this case
is taking. It has been two and a half years since we began
this process, and since then, [Mr. Atchley] has signed his
rights away twice. I understand that we aren't your only
clients, and that the law doesn't happen overnight,
it's a process.
reply email dated January 18, 2013, Ms. Harris stated:
"I want to start by apologizing for the lack of
communication. That will be fixed." Unaware that the
amended petition had been mailed to the wrong address, Ms.
Harris further stated: "I believe the last activity was
sending you the [amended] papers for you and your husband to
sign." On January 21, 2013, Ms. McKeogh responded to Ms.
Harris she had not received a copy of the amended petition.
At that point, it was discovered that in September 2012, the
amended petition had been sent to Ms. McKeogh's previous
address, not to her current address in
Clarksville. After receiving the amended petition, Ms.
McKeogh and her husband signed it in late January 2013 and
immediately returned it to Mr. Garland's office. In
February, March, and April 2013, Ms. McKeogh emailed Ms.
Harris inquiring about the status of the case and the date of
the final hearing. The amended petition for adoption was
filed on March 23, 2013. On July 19, 2013, the adoption was
7, 2013, Ms. McKeogh filed a complaint with the Board of
Professional Responsibility. Ms. McKeogh alleged in the
complaint that she hired Mr. Garland to handle an adoption
case and that there had been an initial delay due to the
difficulty in obtaining a response from Mr. Atchley. The
complaint further stated:
In September 2012, [Mr. Atchley] signed away his rights for a
second time. Since then, we have had little or no
communication from Mr. Garland's office. We have called
and emailed repeatedly, only to hear answering machines or
excuses. I emailed [Ms. Harris] on January 14th, , . .
. telling her that we would contact the [Bar] Association if
our calls continued to be ignored. She replied, telling us
she was sorry for the communication issues and promising to
fix them. However, since then we have had little to no
communication, only being able to reach the secretary who
takes our number and never returns our calls/emails. We
understand that lawyers are very busy and that things
don't happen overnight. However, it has been 3 years and
we are paying clients that just want our little girl to have
the same last name as us.
October 14, 2013, Mr. Garland responded to the complaint,
asserting that he had drafted both a petition and an amended
petition for adoption, that Mr. Atchley had been
uncooperative, and that the adoption was granted after Mr.
Atchley signed the amended petition. Mr. Garland said that
his office was in frequent communication with Ms. McKeogh
regarding efforts to obtain Mr. Atchley's signature for
27, 2014, the Board of Professional Responsibility filed a
Petition for Discipline against Mr. Garland, alleging
violations of Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3,
8.4(a) regarding his representation of Samantha
and Jason McKeogh. On December 11, 2014, a hearing panel
heard the testimony of Mr. Garland, Ms. Harris, and Ms.
Snyder and later reviewed the deposition testimony of Mr. and
Ms. McKeogh. On December 22, 2014, the hearing panel issued
[1.] By failing to timely proceed with the petition for
adoption after execution of the agreed order by Mr. Atchley
on July 7, 2011, which led to a significant delay in the
resolution of the adoption, Mr. Garland failed to act with
reasonable diligence in the representation of his clients.
[2.] By failing to timely proceed with the petition for
adoption after execution of the amended petition for adoption
by Mr. Atchley on September 20, 2012, which led to a
significant delay in the resolution of the adoption, Mr.
Garland failed to act with reasonable diligence in the
representation of his clients.
[3.] Mr. Garland is responsible for a failure to reasonably
communicate with Ms. McKeogh regarding the status of the
determining that Mr. Garland violated Rules of Professional
Conduct 1.3, 1.4, and 8.4(a), the hearing panel considered
the following American Bar Association Standard ("ABA
Standard") with respect to the appropriate sanction:
4.43 LACK OF DILIGENCE
Reprimand is generally appropriate when a lawyer is negligent
and does not act with reasonable diligence in representing a
client, and causes injury or potential injury to a client.
Standards for Imposing Lawyer Sanctions § 4.43 (1992).
As aggravating factors, the hearing panel considered Mr.
Garland's prior disciplinary record,  pattern of
misconduct, multiple offenses, and substantial experience in
the practice of law. See id. § 9.22(a), (c),
(d), (i). As mitigating factors, the hearing panel found that
Mr. Garland did not act with a dishonest or selfish motive
and that he was cooperative in these proceedings. See
id. § 9.32(b), (e). The hearing panel concluded
that Mr. Garland should be publicly censured. See
Tenn. Sup. Ct. R. 9, § 4.5.
Garland filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari in the Knox
County Chancery Court. On September 1, 2015, the trial court
affirmed the hearing panel's decision. The trial court
found that Mr. Garland's "office policy and . . .
supervision enabled the lack of communication and delay in
this case" and that the hearing panel's findings
were supported by the record and were neither arbitrary nor
capricious. The trial court also determined that a
"reprimand is generally appropriate when a lawyer is
negligent and does not act with reasonable diligence in
representing a client and causes injury or potential injury
to a client." Mr. Garland appealed to this Court.