Disciplinary Notices, 0919 ALBJ, 80 The Alabama Lawyer 382 (2019)

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DISCIPLINARY NOTICES

Vol. 80 No. 5 Pg. 382

Alabama Bar Lawyer

September, 2019

▲ Reinstatements

▲ Transfer to Inactive Status

▲ Disbarments Suspensions

Reinstatements

• Birmingham attorney Joel Robert Good was reinstated to the practice of law in Alabama by order of the Supreme Court of Alabama, effective March 21, 2019. Good petitioned for reinstatement to the practice of law in Alabama on November 9, 2018 and was subsequently reinstated by order of the Supreme Court of Alabama. [Rule 28, Pet. No. 2018-1287]

• On May 8, 2019, the Alabama Supreme Court entered an order reinstating former Foley attorney Matthew Alan Seymore to the practice of law in Alabama based upon the decision of Panel III of the Disciplinary Board of the Alabama State Bar. On April 21, 2016, the Alabama Supreme Court entered an order suspending Sey-more's license to practice law due to his failure to complete the Mandatory Continuing Legal Education Requirements. [Rule 28, Pet. No. 2017-03]

Transfer to Inactive Status

• Dothan attorney Thomas Kirven Brantley, Jr. was transferred to inactive status, effective May 15, 2019, by order of the Supreme Court of Alabama. The Alabama Supreme Court entered its order based upon the May 15, 2019 order of Panel II of the Disciplinary Board of the Alabama State Bar in response to a petition filed on Brantley's behalf and submitted to the Office of General Counsel requesting he be transferred to inactive status.

Disbarments

• Opelika attorney Ben Elton Bruner was disbarred from the practice of law in Alabama, effective June 21, 2019. The Alabama Supreme Court entered its order based upon the report and order entered May 8, 2019 by Panel III of the Disciplinary Board of the Alabama State Bar, disbarring Bruner in ASB No. 2014-1336 for violating Rules 1.3, 1.16(b), 8.4(a) and 8.4(g), Alabama Rules of Professional Conduct, and in ASB No. 2016-459 for violating Rules 1.3, 1.4, 1.16(a), 8.1(b), 8.4(a) and 8.4(g), Alabama Rules of Professional Conduct. In ASB No. 2014-1336, a client retained Bruner to represent him in an immigration matter, for which the client paid Bruner $5,000 in cash. Thereafter, the client experienced difficulty communicating with Bruner and spoke with Bruner once after he engaged Bruner to represent him, at which time Bruner informed the client he was not working on the case and would refund h is retainer and return his file. Bruner failed or refused to refund the client's retainer and return his file. In ASB No. 2016-459, a client hired Bruner to represent her regarding immigration issues with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services ("USCIS"). The client and her husband filed an 1-751 petition to remove conditions of marriage in 1999, but were not scheduled for an interview until May 2003. Between filing the application and the interview, the client divorced her husband and remarried. The client's new husband accompanied her to the interview. The USCIS subsequently denied her application. In May 2003, the client hired Bruner to represent her in a new petition and adjustment of her status due to her new marriage. Over the next few years, the client and Bruner appeared at various court hearings. On two occasions, at Bruner's request, the client went to Buner's office for a telephonic hearing and waited all day but her case was not called. The client later learned that the USCIS placed her in removal proceedings as a result of her failure to personally appear for her hearing in Atlanta. Bruner moved the USCIS to reopen the matter, which the agency granted, but the agency's order specified that the client never waived presence at the prior hearings. Bruner accompanied her to court several more times over the next few years. In early 2008, the client updated her address with USCIS. The client later discovered the agency set a court date shortly thereafter, but she never received a notice, and Bruner failed to inform her of the court date. Asa result, the client failed to appear for her hearing, and the USCIS entered an order of removal against her. Beginning in early 2013, the client thereafter experienced difficulty reaching Bruner. The client received an interview notice in 2015, 12 years after her initial application, and attended without counsel because she was unable to contact Bruner. It was not until the 2015 USCIS interview that the client learned of the pending order for removal against her; because she was unable to reach Bruner, she was forced to hire another attorney to handle her matter. In the above-referenced matters, Bruner failed to answer the charges filed against him by the bar. [ASB Nos. 2014-1336 and 2016-459]

• Huntsville attorney Annary Aytch Cheatham was disbarred from the practice of law in Alabama by order of the Supreme Court of Alabama, effective April 1, 2019. The Alabama Supreme Court entered its order based on the Disciplinary Board's order wherein Cheatham was found guilty of violating Rules 1.1 [Competence], 1.4 [Communication], 1.8(a) [Conflict of Interest: Prohibited Transactions], and 8.4(c) and (g) [Misconduct], Ala. R. Prof. C. In 2009, after a son satisfied a mortgage, the son's father agreed to have the title to the home transferred to the son. Cheatham was retained to have a title transferred from the father's name into the son's name. Cheatham informed them they first needed to execute a quit claim deed transferring the home from the father to one of Cheatham's businesses, Cheatham Group, LLC. Cheatham informed the son that she would then execute a statutory warranty deed from her business to him. In July 2009, Cheatham had the father execute a quit claim deed in which the home was deeded from the father to Cheatham Group, LLC. That same day, Cheatham had the son sign a fraudulent settlement statement indicating that the son had paid the Cheatham Group, LLC $80,000 to purchase the property. Cheatham subsequently failed to deed the home from her business to the son. In January 2011, a federal tax lien was placed on the son's property for approximately $22,000. At the time, the property was still recorded in the name of the Cheatham Group, LLC. The federal tax lien was issued against the Cheatham Group, LLC for unpaid payroll and employment taxes. Only after the tax lien had been filed on the property did Cheatham file a statutory warranty deed transferring the property from the Cheatham Group, LLC to the son. In 2012, the son began attempting to sell the property and only then learned a federal tax lien had been filed against the property. The son contacted Cheatham in an effort to get her to resolve the tax lien so he could sell the property. Cheatham repeatedly assured him that she was working to resolve the lien with the IRS and through her bankruptcy proceeding. However, Cheatham's Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition was dismissed in May 2013 for her failure to appear. Cheatham texted the son and informed him she was awaiting a court order and would be moving forward with resolving the debt with the IRS. Cheatham did not inform him that her bankruptcy petition had been dismissed. Cheatham offered to sign a repayment agreement if the son chose to sell the property and use the sale proceeds to satisfy the tax lien on her behalf. Relying on Cheatham's promise to repay him, the son used the sale proceeds from his home to satisfy Cheatham's federal tax lien in the amount of $22,131.79. Cheatham subsequently agreed to repay him $1,000 a month beginning in August 2013. However, Cheatham failed to do so. Cheatham agreed to repay him a lump sum payment amount of $ 15,000 by December 15, 2013. Cheatham failed to make the payment and, thereafter, quit communicating with him. [ASB No. 2018-280]

• Birmingham attorney Benjamin Howard Cooper was disbarred from the practice of law in Alabama, effective June 21, 2019. The Alabama Supreme Court entered its order based upon the report and order entered May 8, 2019 by Panel III of the Disciplinary Board of the Alabama State Bar, disbarring Cooper in ASB No. ASB 2015-1600 for violating Rules 1.4, 1.15(a), 8.1(b), 8.4(a) and 8.4(g), Alabama Rules of Professional Conduct; in ASB No. 2015-1626 for violating Rules...

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