Session: February 7, 2018
of Board of Professional Responsibility Panel No.
Court suspended attorney James Carl Cope pursuant to
Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 9, section 22.3, based on his
federal felony conviction for insider trading and referred
the matter to the Board of Professional Responsibility
("Board") to initiate proceedings to determine his
final discipline. A hearing panel ("Panel") imposed
a final discipline of twenty-five months' suspension,
retroactive to the date of his initial suspension by this
Court, which was on October 25, 2016. Neither the Board nor
Mr. Cope appealed this judgment. The Board petitioned this
Court for an order enforcing the Panel's judgment.
Pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 9, section 15.4(b)
and (c), we determined that the punishment imposed by the
Panel appeared inadequate and proposed that it be increased.
Mr. Cope subsequently requested oral argument, which we
granted. We now consider whether the punishment imposed by
the Panel is appropriate under the circumstances of this case
and is in uniformity with prior disciplinary decisions in
this state. Following a thorough review of the record and the
law, we conclude that it is not. Therefore, we modify the
Panel's judgment to impose the twenty-five-month
suspension prospectively from the filing of this opinion.
Sup. Ct. R. 9, § 15.4, Judgment of the Hearing Panel
B. Harwell, Jr.; Jon D. Ross; and Marie T. Scott, Nashville,
Tennessee, for the appellant, James Carl Cope.
Krisann Hodges, Brentwood, Tennessee, for the appellee, Board
of Professional Responsibility of the Supreme Court of
A. Page, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which
Jeffrey S. Bivins, C.J., and Cornelia A. Clark, Sharon G.
Lee, and Holly Kirby, JJ., joined.
A. PAGE, JUSTICE
Facts and Procedural History
Carl Cope is an attorney originally licensed to practice law
in Tennessee in 1974. On October 21, 2016, Mr. Cope pleaded
guilty in federal district court to one count of the felony
offense of insider trading in violation of United States Code
title 15, section 78j(b) and Code of Federal Regulations
title 17, section 240.10b-5. The federal court ultimately
sentenced him to twenty-four months of probation, the first
nine months of which required home confinement, with a fine
of $200, 000.
October 25, 2016, this Court suspended Mr. Cope's license
to practice law and referred the matter to the Board for
determination of final discipline to be imposed pursuant to
Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 9, section 22.3. On November 7,
2016, the Board filed a Petition for Final Discipline.
matter came before the Panel on April 12 and 18, 2017. The
only issue before the Panel was the extent of final
discipline to be imposed as a result of the admitted criminal
act. See Tenn. Sup. Ct. R. 9, § 22.3. During
the hearing, Mr. Cope admitted that while he was on the Board
of Directors for Pinnacle Financial Partners, he received
non-public material information that Pinnacle was initiating
a conversation with Avenue Bank about purchasing Avenue Bank.
Mr. Cope purchased a total of 10, 179 shares of Avenue Bank
using limit orders through his personal TD Ameritrade account
on two separate dates. He did not share the information with
anyone else. At the hearing, several witnesses, including
judges, respected members of the bar, a county mayor, and a
university president, testified to Mr. Cope's otherwise
impeccable career in Rutherford County.
1, 2017, the Panel entered its Final Order of Discipline. The
Panel first determined that the appropriate presumptive
discipline under the American Bar Association Standards for
Imposing Lawyer Sanctions ("ABA Standards") was
disbarment. See ABA Standard 5.11. The Panel found
two aggravating factors to be applicable: (1) dishonest or
selfish motive and (2) substantial experience in the practice
of law. See ABA Standard 9.22. The Panel also found
applicable the following mitigating factors: (1) absence of a
prior disciplinary record; (2) full and free disclosure to
the Board or cooperative attitude toward proceedings; (3)
character and reputation of the attorney; and (4) remorse.
See ABA Standard 9.32. The Panel then weighed the
factors and imposed a period of twenty-five months'
suspension, reasoning as follows:
The mitigating factors clearly outweigh aggravating factors
and the additional mitigating factors justify a deviation
from the generally appropriate discipline of disbarment as
the public is sufficiently protected by a discipline of a
suspension for a period of twenty-five (25) months
retroactive to the date of the Order of Enforcement on
October 25, 2016, which ...