Tennessee Supreme Court Rules on Knoxville Attorney’s Suspension

July 3, 2012

Nashville, Tenn. The Tennessee Supreme Court has reversed a lower court’s decision and reinstated a Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility (TBPR) hearing panel’s ruling suspending a Knoxville attorney due to misconduct. 

While working at the Knoxville law firm of Kennerly, Montgomery & Finley, William S. Lockett, Jr. received payments for legal services and failed to remit those payments to the firm as required by his employment agreement. Lockett pleaded guilty to theft and to willful failure to file income tax returns. After considering all aggravating and mitigating factors, a TBPR hearing panel found that Lockett should be suspended for four years and, if reinstated, should be supervised for one year. 

Lockett appealed to the Chancery Court of Knox County. Following oral argument, the chancery court applied additional mitigating factors and reduced the suspension to two years.

In a unanimous opinion, the Tennessee Supreme Court reversed the chancery court’s decision, holding that the chancery court failed to base its discipline modification on any of the criteria set forth in Supreme Court Rule 9, section 1.3. The Court conducted its own review of the hearing panel’s decision and agreed that the four-year suspension was consistent with sanctions imposed on other attorneys for similar criminal conduct.

To read the William S. Lockett, Jr. v. Board of Professional Responsibility opinion authored by Justice Janice M. Holder, visit  http://www.tncourts.gov/sites/default/files/lockettwsopn.pdf