In a statement that ended years of double-track disciplinary proceedings against Morristown attorney Douglas Ralph Beier, the Tennessee Supreme Court on Friday suspended Beier's license for two years. Beier argued his own case in the Supreme Court.
The unanimous court ruled in a 28-page statement that both a Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility hearing panel and a senior judge who negotiated the appeal in exchange as Hamblen County's Chancellor correctly concluded that Beier was in two unrelated cases showed ethical errors.
One of them was Beier's portrayal of a 62-year-old man suffering from an intellectual disability in an inheritance case in which Beier – for the first time in his more than 40-year practice – treated the case with a third of the cases and ultimately received it $ 78,614 to handle the estate matter, the statement said.
The hearing panel concluded that Beier had convinced the client to agree to an "inappropriate" contingent fee agreement. taking advantage of his client's disability; misrepresented that his client was the only heir; has not disclosed the existence of other heirs; and caused the probate court to shut down the property without detailed accounting records to avoid judicial review, the 28-page statement said.
The other matter concerned Beier's forgery of his client's signature on an affidavit in a custody case in the Hamblen County Juvenile Court. Beier claimed that he forged the signature and notarized it so as not to harm a 5-year-old girl.
The Boaard Hearing Board suspended the Beier license for two years, with three months being actively suspended with the remainder of the parole.
Judge Robert E. Lee Davis upheld the hearing panel's findings on violations of rules and aggravating and mitigating factors – five aggravating and zero mitigating factors – but changed the sentence to a two-year active suspension.
Beier appealed, arguing that his behavior was not dishonest. he didn't take advantage of a vulnerable customer; and his estate fee was not unreasonable.
Judge Holly Kirby, who wrote for the unanimous court, concluded that the Hearing Panel was entitled to knowingly act Beier when he initially claimed that his client was the only heir. when he did not correct himself when the mother of his client's cousins contacted him and he did not inform the court about these cousins.
"Put simply, the Hearing Panel did not believe Mr. Beier's allegation of ignorance," the statement said. "There is enough evidence to support this conclusion … it is undeniable that Mr. Beier was told about the half-cousins …"
In calculating the fee he charged in the estate proceedings, Beier included real estate that belonged to the deceased but "was never actually part of the estate," which in his opinion increased his percentage significantly.
"The only work Mr. Beier did in relation to the property was preparing an administrative deed … Since the property was closed without detailed accounting, there was no judicial approval of the fee," the statement said.
When Kirby gave the green light to the use of an Enhancement Factor for refusing to acknowledge the inaccuracy of his conduct, he denied that Beier continued to deny that his contingency agreement was inadequate or that he made a misrepresentation by having his client's signature on the affidavit signed.
"Lawyers often offer defense while acknowledging that their behavior was wrong," the statement said. "Mr. Beier doesn't. In this case, much of Mr. Beier's defense essentially insists that his behavior was not wrong."
Beier unsuccessfully argued that the hearing panel and judge wrongly failed to take into account that he himself reported both crimes and repaid the $ 78,614 with interest.
"Mr. Beier only reported his misconduct under threat of another lawyer and … he only returned his fee in the … estate matter after (the) new lawyer (his client) had requested it," the statement said.
"We also agree with the hearing body that it cannot be said that Mr. Beier fully cooperated with the investigation when his testimony was not considered credible and that to this day he has not acknowledged the illegality of his conduct," it says in the opinion further.