In a unanimous Opinion released today, the Tennessee Supreme Court affirmed the disbarment of a Memphis attorney from the practice of law for violating multiple Tennessee Rules of Professional Conduct in his representation of clients.
George E. Skouteris, Jr. represented clients in connection with personal injury lawsuits. In six cases between 2007 and 2011, Mr. Skouteris failed to safeguard his clients’ funds in his attorney trust account after settling their cases. Acting on complaints from Mr. Skouteris’s former clients, the Board of Professional Responsibility conducted an investigation into Mr. Skouteris’s alleged misconduct. The Board ultimately filed petitions for discipline alleging violations of 13 of the Rules of Professional Conduct.
After conducting a hearing and considering evidence that Mr. Skouteris had failed to safeguard his clients’ settlement funds in multiple instances, a board panel disbarred Mr. Skouteris from the practice of law and conditioned any future reinstatement of his law license on his making restitution to two clients who still had not received their settlement funds. Mr. Skouteris appealed to the Shelby County Chancery Court, which affirmed the board panel’s sanction. Mr. Skouteris then appealed to the Tennessee Supreme Court, alleging multiple procedural irregularities in the proceedings.
In the Opinion authored by Justice Sharon G. Lee, the Supreme Court found that the board panel’s decision to disbar Mr. Skouteris from the practice of law was not arbitrary, was supported by the evidence, and that any procedural errors were of no consequence due to the extent and severity of Mr. Skouteris’s misconduct. The Court determined that disbarment was appropriate in light of Mr. Skouteris’s prior disciplinary history, which includes a public censure and two private admonitions, and because misuse of client funds for any period of time is a serious ethical violation.
Read the Court’s Opinion in George Ernest Skouteris, Jr. v. Board of Professional Responsibility, authored by Justice Lee.