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Law School Case Brief

Hoover v. Bd. of Prof'l Responsibility - 395 S.W.3d 95 (Tenn. 2012)

Rule:

The state supreme court, as the source of authority of the Board of Professional Responsibility of the Supreme Court of Tennessee and all of its functions, has the ultimate disciplinary authority pertaining to the licensure of attorneys. Absent allegations of irregularities in the procedure before the hearing panel, the trial court's review of the decision by the hearing panel shall be on the transcript of the evidence before the hearing panel and its findings and judgment.

Facts:

On July 22, 2010, the Board of Professional Responsibility (BPR) filed a petition for discipline against M. Josiah Hoover, III, who has been licensed to practice law in Tennessee since 1981. The petition contained allegations of five instances of misconduct by the following complainants: Norman Whitton, Ronald and Deborah Titus, and Wayne LeQuire, all of whom were former clients of Hoover, and attorney Roy Neuenschwander. After Hoover responded to the petition, a hearing panel (Panel) scheduled the matter to be heard on December 8, 2010. In a judgment filed on December 17, 2010, the Panel sustained each of the complaints against Hoover, and determined that the latter violated Tenn. Sup. Ct. R. Prof. Conduct 8, 1.3, 1.4(a) and (b), 3.2, and 8.4(a), and (d). The Board of Professional Responsibility of the Supreme Court of Tennessee decided to disbar Hoover; the decision was affirmed by the Chancery Court for Knox County (Tennessee).  Hoover challenged the judgment.

Issue:

Was Hoover’s disbarment proper?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The Supreme Court of Tennessee held that the record contained substantial and material evidence that supported the hearing panel's findings. According to the Court, the panel's decision to impose disbarment was not arbitrary, capricious, or characterized by an abuse of discretion. On multiple occasions, Hoover knowingly failed to perform services for his clients and violated his professional duties, which caused serious or potentially serious injuries to his clients and the legal system. The Court averred that the panel properly found multiple aggravating factors warranting disbarment, including the Hoover’s substantial experience practicing law, his commission of multiple offenses in violation of numerous disciplinary rules, his pattern of misconduct, his failure to acknowledge wrongdoing, and his incompetence.

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