The Tennessee Supreme Court has upheld the 45-day suspension of a Chattanooga attorney’s law license. In a unanimous opinion, the Court affirmed the decision of a hearing panel of the Board of Professional Responsibility that Fred T. Hanzelik violated ethics rules governing the collection of fees, communication with clients, expediting litigation, and cooperating with ethics investigations.
Mr. Hanzelik was disciplined for attempting to bill a client twice for the same legal services. Shortly before his death, the client paid Mr. Hanzelik for his services in a property dispute. Mr. Hanzelik’s office then filed a claim against the client’s estate requesting payment for the same services. Mr. Hanzelik did not withdraw this claim until the estate confronted him with evidence that he had already been paid in full.
Another claim involved a physician who had hired Mr. Hanzelik to represent him in a Georgia divorce and to file suit against his former employers for wrongful termination. The physician was eventually held in contempt of court because Mr. Hanzelik failed to inform him of mandatory court appearances. Mr. Hanzelik also failed, for over a year, to tell the physician that he did not intend to file the wrongful termination suit the physician had requested him to file. Mr. Hanzelik also failed to provide the physician with a written fee agreement which resulted in a misunderstanding between Mr. Hanzelik and the doctor about the purpose of $8,500 in retainer fees.
Finally, Mr. Hanzelik was disciplined for failing to cooperate with the disciplinary counsel during its lengthy investigation into complaints filed by his clients.
To read the Fred T. Hanzelik v. Board of Professional Responsibility opinion, authored by Justice William C. Koch, Jr., visit http://www.tncourts.gov/sites/default/files/hanzelikftopn.pdf.