Lawyer Butler’s hearing delayed

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By Damon Lawrence

The hearing that had been scheduled this week for Harriman attorney Donice Butler has been continued.

Butler has been accused of misconduct by some of her former clients.

The Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility, which oversees the conduct of attorneys, is seeking to have her disciplined over the allegations.

The hearing before a three-member panel composed of attorneys had been scheduled for Jan. 16.  

“All most attorneys want is a fair panel, selected the right way,” said attorney Chris Cawood, who represents Butler. “They (Board of Professional Responsibility) select the panel, but there’s a procedure they’re supposed to do it from to be fair, and they didn’t do that.”

Cawood said a Tennessee Supreme Court rule requires the hearing panel attorneys to be selected on a rotating basis.

Cawood said he and some other attorneys learned the board was selecting the attorneys on a random basis.

“Some people might think that’s a minor thing, but the board picking them randomly is not me picking them randomly,” he said. “How do we know they’re not selecting the ones that they want on the panel when the Supreme Court says the way to do it is rotate.”

In November Cawood filed a motion for recusal or disqualification of the hearing panel that had been picked in the Butler case. The motion was granted.

“In the absence of any explanation from the board with respect to its process of selecting panel members and the obvious potential differences between the words ‘rotating’ and ‘random,’ the panel finds that, for this reason only, respondent’s motion is well taken and shall be granted,” Danny P. Dyer, chairman of the hearing panel, wrote in the order.

Sandy Garrett was named chief disciplinary counsel of the Board of Professional Responsibility last month. She said the board did not object to Cawood’s motion.

“We do have a new hearing panel, and therefore the hearing date was continued,” Garrett said.

Rita Webb, executive secretary for the board, said a new hearing date has not been set in Butler’s case.

“Check back in a couple of weeks,” Webb said.

Among the allegations against Butler is she failed to competently represent clients, failed to reasonably communicate with them, was dishonest, deceptive and lied to a tribunal.

Butler has denied the allegations and said she expects to be exonerated.

“I don’t believe that any merit will be found when the panel hears the proof,” she said last year.

Cawood has a long acrimonious history with the board. Several years ago, the board tried to have him disciplined for a sexual tryst he had with two women in his law office.

The hearing panel selected for that case determined no discipline was warranted.

Cawood later wrote a book critical of the board called “The Board of Unprofessional Irresponsibility.”