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of the few journalistic pit bulls on the Internet'
Matt Welch, tabloid.net
of all lawyers publicly disciplined by the Tennessee Board of Professional
Local lawyers had biggest rise in ethics complaints in 1996
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. -- Complaints to the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility about local lawyers increased 61 percent in 1996 over the preceding year -- the greatest increase in complaints against lawyers in any of the other eight disciplinary districts established by the state supreme court.
In its latest report, the board noted it received 135 complaints this year against the 771 attorneys active in Putnam and the 22 other counties that make up District IV. In 1995, the board received 84 complaints against the 726 lawyers practicing in this district that year.
District IV includes Putnam, White, Van Buren, Pickett, Overton, Clay, Franklin, Moore, Bedford, Rutherford, Wilson, Trousdale, Warren, Fentress, Cumberland, Smith, Jackson, Coffee, Lincoln, Marshall, Cannon, DeKalb and Macon counties.
The next highest increase in complaints over the preceding year was 45 percent in District VIII, which includes Weakley, Lake, Gibson, Haywood, Tipton, Obion, Dyer, Crockett and Lauderdale counties. In 1996, 32 complaints were received by the board against lawyers in that district, compared to 22 in 1995.
Of the 1996 complaints in District IV, 11 resulted in some form of disciplinary action:
one attorney was suspended, one was publicly censured, three received private reprimands, six received private admonitions.
In a sweeping repudiation of unethical and criminal behavior by the state's lawyers, the board reported that in 1996 it received 1,519 complaints against lawyers statewide, an increase of nine percent over 1995. By comparison,the number of lawyers in the state increased a scant five percent.
Of the complaints against Tennessee lawyers in 1996, 116 alleged trust violations, including embezzlement; 96 claimed conflict of interest; 476 were for neglect in preparation of cases, failure to communicate with the client, and failure to appear in court or perform; 12 claimed an attorney was convicted of a criminal offense; 41 complaints reported shortcomings in lawyers' personal behavior, including competence, mental disability, aiding unauthorized practice and ineffective assistance.
Other complaints cited lawyers refusing to refund money to clients and charging excessive fees.