Tennessee Supreme Court Suspends Shelby County Attorney For Two Years

The Tennessee Supreme Court has suspended Shelby County attorney Gerald D. Waggoner, Jr. from the practice of law in Tennessee for two years for violating disciplinary rules.

In 2017, the Tennessee Supreme Court suspended Mr. Waggoner for three years from the practice of law for removing client funds from his trust account and converting them to his personal use. During his suspension, Mr. Waggoner continued to communicate with his former clients and participated in the management and marketing of his law firm, in the supervision of its staff, and in the recruitment and hiring of attorneys.

The Board of Professional Responsibility filed petitions for discipline against Mr. Waggoner, alleging that he had continued to practice law after his suspension, that he had mishandled cases involving children who had been injured in a car accident by not complying with a court order to deposit their funds with the court clerk, and that he did not refile a case after it was dismissed for failure to prosecute. A Board hearing panel found that Mr. Waggoner had engaged in misconduct and should be suspended from the practice of law for four years. On appeal, the Chancery Court for Shelby County reversed the hearing panel’s decision that Mr. Waggoner engaged in the unauthorized practice of law and reduced Mr. Waggoner’s suspension to one year. The Board appealed to the Tennessee Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court ruled that Mr. Waggoner had engaged in the unauthorized practice of law during his suspension by indirectly communicating with his former clients, by participating in the management and marketing of his law firm, by continuing to supervise its staff, and by recruiting and hiring attorneys. The Court suspended Mr. Waggoner from the practice of law for two years, with eighteen months served on active suspension. This sanction was based on Mr. Waggoner’s misconduct, which included practicing law while suspended, mishandling funds of children he had represented, and failing to refile a child’s case; his previous disciplinary history; his substantial experience in the practice of law; his failure to acknowledge the wrongful nature of his conduct; his multiple offenses; and his dishonest or selfish motive. The Court also required him to pay restitution to the children, obtain additional continuing legal education, and engage a practice monitor during his probated suspension.

To read the unanimous opinion of the Court in Gerald D. Waggoner, Jr. v. Board of Professional Responsibility of the Supreme Court of Tennessee, authored by Justice Sharon G. Lee, please visit the Opinions section of tncourts.gov.