Sometimes after a court case finds someone guilty, the person convicted moves elsewhere in hopes of starting over. However, there will be no starting over for one former Tennessee lawyer who will not be allowed to have his law license reinstated after pleading guilty to child pornography charges in 2007.
The Supreme Court has overturned the decision of a chancery court, which held that an attorney's license to practice law should be reinstated.
Drayton Beecher Smith, II, a former attorney, agreed to disbarment in conjunction with his 2007 guilty plea to federal charges of receipt and possession of child pornography. The disbarment was ordered in 2008. In 2014, he sought reinstatement of his license to practice law in Tennessee.
Smith is currently on the TN Sex Offender Registry and is listed as a "Violent" offender.
The issue of reinstating the law license of Smith was addressed before the Board of Professional Responsibility of the Supreme Court of Tennessee....
The end result was that the Tennessee Supreme Court said no to reinstating Smith's law license.
In court, the attorney testified about the conduct that resulted in his convictions - "At the time I was suffering from chronic clinical depression. I was having trouble sleeping. I was staying up late at night. I was working on researching an appeal for my brother, who was convicted of a felony in California. And I would get tired of research, so then I would go to play games, video games, on the computer, like Spades or Hearts with other people. Online live video games. ""
After that, if I got tired, I would go to look at other websites and then sometimes I would go to porn sites. I went to a couple of the porn sites, and there were things called pop-ups which said come to this site and see this, and one of them mentioned minors, and I was just curious to see what it was. It was curiosity that got me in trouble.
I went there and looked at it, and I guess I downloaded--I did download a few images, not a whole lot, but enough to get me in trouble. Some people have thousands and thousands and thousands. I think I had less than 40, but they were enough to get me in trouble, and I did download some of those images."
Mr. Smith's reinstatement petition was heard before a hearing panel of the Board of Professional Responsibility ("BPR"), which ultimately denied the petition. He then appealed the denial of reinstatement to the chancery court. Upon review, the chancery court reversed the decision of the hearing panel and ordered that Mr. Smith be reinstated to the practice of law. The BPR filed an appeal with the Tennessee Supreme Court.
In a unanimous decision authored by Chief Justice Jeff Bivins, the Tennessee Supreme Court overturned the decision of the chancery court, which had reversed the decision of the hearing panel. Instead, the Court concluded the hearing panel was within its authority to deny reinstatement of Mr. Smith's law license. In so doing, the Court held that the chancery court misapplied the standard of review applicable in appeals for disciplinary cases. Specifically, the Court held that the hearing panel's decision to deny reinstatement based on the attorney's failure to prove his moral qualifications was supported by substantial and material evidence in the record and that the chancery court inappropriately reweighed the evidence in determining that reinstatement was appropriate.
The Supreme Court also reversed the chancery court's decision regarding the award of costs in the matter and determined that costs should be awarded to the BPR, even though the BPR's application for costs was late-filed.