Tennessee Supreme Court Affirms Assessment of Costs for Disciplinary Proceeding Against Memphis Attorney

March 8, 2021

The Tennessee Supreme Court has affirmed the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility’s assessment of costs from a disciplinary proceeding to Memphis attorney Larry E. Parrish and ordered him to pay the costs within 45 days.

Effective January 1, 2014, Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 9, which governs attorney discipline, was amended. The revised Rule 9 changed the process for assessing costs against attorneys in disciplinary cases filed or initiated on or after January 1, 2014. This case arose in 2013 when the Board received complaints of misconduct about Mr. Parrish. The Board filed a disciplinary proceeding against Mr. Parrish that resulted in findings of misconduct and sanctions against him. The Tennessee Supreme Court reviewed Mr. Parrish’s case, affirmed the findings of misconduct, and suspended him from practicing law for six months, with 30 days to be served on active suspension and the remainder on probation. After Mr. Parrish served his 30-day suspension, he agreed to a payment plan for the Board’s costs and made one payment. The Supreme Court reinstated Mr. Parrish to the practice of law. Soon after he was reinstated, Mr. Parrish petitioned the Board to revoke the costs assessed against him. Mr. Parrish claimed that the Board should have assessed costs based on the revised version of Rule 9 in effect when he was reinstated rather than Rule 9 in effect in 2013 when his disciplinary proceeding was initiated.

A hearing panel of the Board heard Mr. Parrish’s claims and denied him relief, finding that the Board had properly assessed costs against Mr. Parrish under the version of Rule 9 in effect when his disciplinary proceeding began in 2013. Mr. Parrish appealed to the Tennessee Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court affirmed the hearing panel’s decision, holding that the version of Rule 9 that applies in the assessment of costs depends on when the disciplinary case was filed or initiated, not when the attorney was reinstated. Therefore, the Board properly assessed costs against Mr. Parrish under the version of Rule 9 in effect when his misconduct was reported to the Board in 2013. The Supreme Court ordered Mr. Parrish to pay the costs he owes to the Board within 45 days of the filing of the Court’s opinion. Mr. Parrish’s failure to timely pay the costs may serve as a ground for revocation of his reinstatement to practice law.

To read the unanimous opinion of the Court in In re Larry E. Parrish, authored by Justice Sharon G. Lee, please visit the Opinions section of TNCourts.gov.