A dispute surrounding attorneys, a client and a court reporter might play out in Bedford County Circuit Court next week when a state prisoner anticipates he'll be there to complain.
Complaints have already been heard in open court from Grady Lee Flippo, 41, a Chapel Hill-area man who's serving time on a conviction for attempted aggravated assault and who faces a charge of passing worthless checks.
Flippo declined to accept an offer from prosecutors to put the alleged bad check matter behind him. He wants to confront his accuser. And on that same day in court last month, court stenographer Paula Smith of Fayetteville made public her complaints about fees for transcription of Flippo's May 4 sentencing hearing on his assault charge.
Explaining deadlines for production of transcripts to maintain appeal rights, Smith described delays in receiving advance payment for the work on Flippo's sentencing hearing transcript. That was in a letter to Shelbyville-based attorney Robert Marlow. The letter was copied to attorney Beverly P. Sharpe, counsel director of consumer assistance for the Board of Professional Responsibility.
It was the second referral about Flippo's lawyers to the state board that enforces the professional standards for attorneys. Marlow disputes Smith's allegations and produced a public record that indicates he is not Flippo's attorney for the prisoner's appeal.
In the midst of those matters, on May 11 a hearing committee of the Board of Professional Responsibility of the Supreme Court of Tennessee issued a recommendation to the high court to suspend the law license of Flippo's other attorney. That attorney, Matt Bastian of Columbia, had 60 days from June 12 to appeal the recommendation. Friday is the 60th day.
Repeated attempts to reach Bastian have been unsuccessful.
Bastian's alleged ethical violation was failure to file papers for a client, Tim Hunter of Spring Hill, thereby hindering Hunter's chances in his appeal to a decision in his divorce case, according to Charles High, disciplinary counsel at the Board of Professional Responsibility.
"This has been the nastiest thing I've seen," said Vaulene "Pinkie" Stewart at Marlow's law office in the southwest corner of Shelbyville's pubic square. "Everybody blames everybody else. People call me and I don't know anything."
Judge Lee Russell has scheduled an Aug. 18 hearing at 1 p.m. to consider Bastian's request to deal "with issues related to the transcript..."
High said on Monday that if the Tennessee Supreme Court accepts the Board of Professional Responsibility's recommendation on Bastian, then his license to practice law will be suspended for six months, followed by a five-month and 29-day probationary period during which he must show proof of having malpractice insurance.
Marlow said on Monday evening that one potential result of the hearing on Friday afternoon next week is the conclusion that Flippo is indigent, can't afford counsel and therefore would become a potential client for the 17th Judicial District Public Defender's Office, which has headquarters in Lewisburg.
Meanwhile, Flippo complains that the charge selected by his trial jury for his conviction, attempted aggravated assault, does not exist in state law. Marlow says reorganization of the criminal code several years ago resulted in a change, implying that so-called "jailhouse lawyers" are using old books.