Tennessee Disbars Attorney Sean K. Hornbeck: Metal Pipe Injury Defense Rejected 

View More Categories

It is certainly true attorney Hornbeck must have bump his head. That just proves his disbarment was a necessary decision.

Tennessee Disbars Attorney Sean K. Hornbeck: Metal Pipe Injury Defense Rejected 

The web page of the Tennessee Supreme Court

The Tennessee Supreme Court disbarred Nashville attorney, Sean K. Hornbeck, revoking his law license. The Court rejected attorneys’ requests to make the disbarment retroactive in order to enable them to apply for reinstatement of his law licenses sooner.

In the first case, Mr. Hornbeck persuaded a client to advance him over $5 million as part of a proposed financial venture that he promised would produce substantial payouts. Mr. Hornbeck deposited the client’s money into his trust account.  When the payouts did not materialize, the client demanded his money back. Mr. Hornbeck returned only $1 million of the over $5 million entrusted to him. The rest of the client’s money was never recovered.

In December 2008, a complaint was filed with the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility, which is responsible for investigating complaints against lawyers and disciplining them for ethical violations. The Tennessee Supreme Court immediately suspended Mr. Hornbeck’s law license while the Board investigated the complaint. 

A hearing panel of lawyers heard the evidence against Mr. Hornbeck. Mr. Hornbeck claimed that his mental state was affected by family crises and an injury from being hit in the head with a metal pipe. The hearing panel rejected this explanation and held that Mr. Hornbeck should be disbarred. 

Mr. Hornbeck appealed to the chancery court. The chancery court affirmed the hearing panel’s judgment of disbarment, and Mr. Hornbeck appealed to the Tennessee Supreme Court.

The Court rejected attorneys’ requests to make their disbarments retroactive to the date of their temporary suspension. The Court explained that when serious complaints are received and are being investigated by the Board, the Court will typically suspend an attorney’s law license during the investigation.  If the attorney is disbarred, the disbarment becomes effective when the Court enters its order of disbarment, after all appeals are over. Disbarment is almost never retroactive.

The Court acknowledged that, under the ethics rules, five years after disbarment, a disbarred lawyer is allowed to apply for reinstatement of his or her law license. Regardless of a lawyer’s hope of reinstatement, the Court explained, “disbarment does not contemplate that the disbarred attorney will return to the practice of law. The purpose of disbarring an attorney is to remove from the profession a person who has proven to be unfit or unworthy of being entrusted with the duties and responsibilities accorded to those who have gained the privilege of a law license.”

The Court affirmed the chancery courts’ judgments of disbarment and refused to make the disbarments retroactive. Therefore, disbarment became effective when the Court entered its order of disbarment.                                   

To read the unanimous opinion in Sean K. Hornbeck v. Board of Professional Responsibility of the Supreme Court of Tennessee, authored by Justice Holly Kirby, go to the Opinions section of TNCourts.gov.

Source: Professional Legal Blog