Schoolfield v. Bean

CourtSupreme Court of Tennessee
Writing for the CourtKetchum
Citation167 S.W.2d 359
PartiesSCHOOLFIELD et al. v. BEAN et al.
Decision Date23 September 1942
167 S.W.2d 359
SCHOOLFIELD et al.
v.
BEAN et al.
Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Middle Section.
September 23, 1942.
Certiorari Denied by Supreme Court January 9, 1943.

Page 360

Appeal in Error from Circuit Court, Hamilton County; Wallace J. Smith, Judge.

Disbarment proceeding by Henson Schoolfield and others as Grievance Committee of the Chattanooga Bar Association against Crawford Bean and another. Judgment suspending defendants and depriving them of their license to practice law for a period of one year and defendants appeal in error.

Decree in accordance with opinion.

Page 361

J. Clifford Curry, Silas Williams, and Joseph B. Roberts, all of Chattanooga, for appellants.

S. F. Fowler, of Knoxville, amicus curiæ.

Walter M. Haynes, of Winchester, for appellees.

KETCHUM, Judge.


This is a disbarment proceeding instituted by the Grievance Committee of the Chattanooga Bar Association against the defendants Crawford Bean and Joe S. Bean, members of the Chattanooga Bar engaged in the practice of law as partners under the firm name and style of Bean & Bean. In the petition the defendants are charged with the violation of the ethics of the profession of the practice of law in seeking out persons having claims for personal injury or other causes of action for the purpose of obtaining employment by such claimants, and in employing agents or runners for such purposes, and paying or rewarding, directly or indirectly, those who might bring, or influence the bringing, of such cases to them or their office. And the petition particularly charges the defendants, and each of them, with the violation of the provisions of section 1, subsections (2) and (5) of chapter 42 of the Acts of 1919, which are carried into the Code as section 9974, subsections (2) and (5), which read as follows:

"Any attorney, solicitor or counselor at law admitted to practice in the courts of this state may be disbarred or suspended from the practice of law — * * *

"(2) Who shall seek out any person having a claim for personal injury, or having any other ground of action, in order to obtain employment by such claimant, or shall employ agents or runners for like purposes, or pay or reward, directly or indirectly, those who bring, or influence the bringing, of such cases to him or his office. * * *

"(5) Who shall be guilty of any unprofessional conduct, dishonesty, malpractice, or any conduct which renders him unfit to be a member of the bar".

The petition specified in some detail 27 separate instances in which the defendants had violated the above statutes by either personally, or by their agents or runners, soliciting employment by persons having claims for damages for personal injuries sustained by themselves, or for the wrongful death of members of their families; and alleged that the defendants had solicited, either personally or through their agents, employment in numerous other instances, as would be shown on the hearing of the cause.

The defendants in their answer denied that they had been guilty of the violation of the statutes pleaded, or had been guilty of any of the acts of unprofessional conduct charged against them in the petition; and alleged that said unwarranted charges were inspired and actuated by petty jealousies and factional politics, or based on false information furnished to petitioners by persons who were hostile to the defendants; they emphatically deny that they have either personally or through the agency of runners solicited employment in any personal injury cases, or that they have ever engaged or employed any agents or runners to solicit business of any kind for them. They aver that they have at all times sought to maintain the highest standards of their profession and to uphold the dignity and purity of both Bench and Bar; that they have always endeavored to be courteous and honorable in their dealings with their professional brethren, and have always dealt fairly and honorably with their clients; and attribute such success as they have attained to the strict adherence to this policy.

The defendants further aver that since the filing of the petition against them they have investigated and learned that the Association of Casualty and Surety Executives had employed one Morgan Wood, who posed as a member of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, to investigate the charges against the defendants, and that the said Wood had by co-ercion, intimidation and bribery obtained false statements from some of their former clients, which statements were used as the basis of the false charges made against them. And they aver "that this undertaking is a pure and unadulterated frame-up on the part of certain venomous enemies of the defendants who have imparted the grossly false information to petitioners upon which the charges were based".

The investigation was prompted at the outset by what the defendant Crawford Bean describes as a "big wrangle" which occurred in Judge Fred W. Ballard's court (circuit court) over the right of the defendants to prosecute a suit which they had brought for a negro boy named Charlie Watts Mitchell for damages for personal injuries sustained in an automobile accident.

Page 362

Shortly after the filing of this suit another firm, Wood & Dietzen, filed an affidavit of the said Charlie Watts Mitchell in which he swore that the defendants had solicited the case and that he had not signed the summons (meaning the pauper's oath); and as the result of this wrangle Judge Ballard referred the matter to the Grievance Committee of the Bar Association for investigation of the charges of solicitation of business made against the defendants. The Grievance Committee after an investigation of the facts reached the conclusion that the facts warranted a judicial investigation of the charges and they filed the petition in the instant case. Judge Ballard, out of a sense of delicacy, because he felt that he would probably be called as a witness in the case, recused himself. Thereupon, the Honorable Grafton Green, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, designated the Honorable Wallace J. Smith, Judge of the 17th Judicial Circuit, to hear and determine the case.

The case was heard by the court on oral testimony, but not as a chancery case. The trial was begun on June 23, 1941, and was finally concluded on July 3. There were 134 witnesses examined in all and the record is a voluminous one. The trial judge filed his written opinion and finding of facts on August 2, in which he found that the defendants had been guilty of 20 of the charges of soliciting employment specified in the petition, "and had been guilty of such acts of unprofessional conduct as are violative of the statute, and inconsistent with the character and faithful discharge of the duties of the profession" for which they and each of them should be suspended or deprived of the right to practice law for a period of one year. The defendants filed a motion for a new trial on August 7, but subsequently withdrew it; the petitioners also filed a motion for a new trial on August 29, 1941, upon the ground that the period of suspension was wholly inadequate and incommensurate with the seriousness of the offense of which the defendants had been adjudged guilty. The defendants thereafter on September 19, 1941, (which was at a subsequent term of court which began on September 1, 1941), filed another motion for a new trial which was in all respects identical with that which had been originally filed and withdrawn except that it added one additional ground.

The petitioners on September 19, filed their motion to strike the defendants' motion for a new trial because it was filed too late, and at a term of court subsequent to the term at which the cause had been heard and disposed of. On October 17, 1941, the cause was heard upon the petitioner's motion for a new trial, and upon their motion to strike that of the defendants; whereupon the defendants again asked leave to withdraw their motion, which leave was granted; and the court overruled the petitioners' motion for a new trial, and adjudged that the period of suspension of the defendants did not become effective until the date of the withdrawal of their second motion for a new trial, to-wit, October 17, 1941, and decreed that the defendants would be suspended and deprived of their license to practice law in any of the courts of Tennessee for a period of one year from that date.

The petitioners excepted to the ruling of the court in overruling their motion for a new trial, and prayed and were granted an appeal to the next term of the supreme court, and upon motion there made the cause was transferred to the court of appeals at Knoxville, and that court of its own motion transferred it to the middle division of the court to be heard at Nashville.

On this appeal the findings of fact of the trial judge must be regarded as amply sustained by the proof, the defendants having waived any objections thereto by their voluntary withdrawal of their motions for a new trial. The assignments of error raise the single question that the period of suspension was entirely inadequate and incommensurate with the seriousness of the charges of which the defendants were found to be guilty; or, to state it differently, that the trial judge failed to exercise a reasonable discretion in fixing so light a punishment in view of the gravity of the charges of which the defendants were adjudged to be guilty.

We concur in the finding of the trial court that "The record shows many instances in which undertakers, ambulance drivers and cab drivers have called the defendants, or one of them, and taken them to hospitals or homes, at practically all hours of the day and night, and in many instances these interested friends of the defendants have appeared at hospitals before patients were taken from the emergency room, and at times when the victims of disaster were in no condition, mentally or

Page 363

physically, to resist the efforts of anyone...

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9 practice notes
  • Heirich, In re, No. 33455
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Illinois
    • 15 Junio 1956
    ...of attorneys under charge of unprofessional conduct, noting that such practice was condemned in Schoolfield v. Bean, 26 Tenn.App. 30, 167 S.W.2d 359, and State ex rel. Turner v. Denman, 259 S.W.2d 891. The court stated further (74 So.2d 266): 'It is perfectly evident that these companies we......
  • Keith v. Murfreesboro Livestock Market, Inc.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Tennessee
    • 30 Agosto 1989
    ...Lackey v. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co., 30 Tenn.App. 390, 402-03, 206 S.W.2d 806, 812 (1947); Schoolfield v. Bean, 26 Tenn.App. 30, 58, 167 S.W.2d 359, 370 (1942); E. Cleary, McCormick's Handbook of the Law of Evidence Sec. 197 (3d ed.1984); 2 J. Wigmore, Evidence in Trials at Common Law Sec.......
  • State ex rel. Florida Bar v. Murrell
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • 30 Julio 1954
    ...conduct alleged in the complaint filed in this matter', such practice was condemned in Schoolfield v. Bean, 26 Tenn.App. 30, 167 S.W.2d 359 and State ex rel. Turner v. Denman, 36 Tenn.App. 613, 259 S.W.2d The main witness in support of the charges against respondent was A. M. Crabtree, Sr.,......
  • Doughty v. Grills
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Tennessee
    • 18 Febrero 1952
    ...within the knowledge of the defendants and, if true, the burden was on them to show it. Cf. Schoolfield v. Bean, 26 Tenn.App. 30, 167 S.W.2d 359. The evidence considered as a whole, together with the admissions of the answers, showed prima facie that both defendants were engaged in influenc......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
9 cases
  • Heirich, In re, No. 33455
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Illinois
    • 15 Junio 1956
    ...of attorneys under charge of unprofessional conduct, noting that such practice was condemned in Schoolfield v. Bean, 26 Tenn.App. 30, 167 S.W.2d 359, and State ex rel. Turner v. Denman, 259 S.W.2d 891. The court stated further (74 So.2d 266): 'It is perfectly evident that these companies we......
  • Keith v. Murfreesboro Livestock Market, Inc.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Tennessee
    • 30 Agosto 1989
    ...Lackey v. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co., 30 Tenn.App. 390, 402-03, 206 S.W.2d 806, 812 (1947); Schoolfield v. Bean, 26 Tenn.App. 30, 58, 167 S.W.2d 359, 370 (1942); E. Cleary, McCormick's Handbook of the Law of Evidence Sec. 197 (3d ed.1984); 2 J. Wigmore, Evidence in Trials at Common Law Sec.......
  • State ex rel. Florida Bar v. Murrell
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • 30 Julio 1954
    ...conduct alleged in the complaint filed in this matter', such practice was condemned in Schoolfield v. Bean, 26 Tenn.App. 30, 167 S.W.2d 359 and State ex rel. Turner v. Denman, 36 Tenn.App. 613, 259 S.W.2d The main witness in support of the charges against respondent was A. M. Crabtree, Sr.,......
  • Doughty v. Grills
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Tennessee
    • 18 Febrero 1952
    ...within the knowledge of the defendants and, if true, the burden was on them to show it. Cf. Schoolfield v. Bean, 26 Tenn.App. 30, 167 S.W.2d 359. The evidence considered as a whole, together with the admissions of the answers, showed prima facie that both defendants were engaged in influenc......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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