A longtime Knoxville criminal defense attorney has filed multiple complaints in several state, federal and Chancery courts, including Nashville, accusing officials — primarily judges and regulators — of negligence, conspiracy and other illegalities, all tied to alleged unconstitutional disciplinary actions levied by those officials which have essentially disbarred the attorney.
The most recent two court filings occurred here. One complaint was filed in Davidson County Circuit Court, the other in the U.S. District Court. Both were dated Feb. 6 and were filed by criminal defense attorney Herbert Moncier, of the Moncier Law Office.
The Circuit Court complaint names Nancy S. Jones and other unknown officers of the State of Tennessee as defendants. Jones is the chief disciplinary counsel for the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility. Moncier accuses Jones and others of conspiring to violate his state constitutional rights. That conspiracy allegation connects to the negligence charge detailed in the complaint. The District Court filing mirrors the state court filing. The only difference is which constitution Moncier thinks officials breached: Circuit would involve the state constitution, District would be the federal constitution.
Local officials are nonplussed.
“This is the latest response from Mr. Moncier complaining about the discipline the Tennessee Supreme Court imposed,” Jones told NashvillePost.com. “The first 27 paragraphs are the same. The only difference is the relief he’s pursuing can only be attained through federal law.”
Moncier's dispute with state officials have their roots its two disciplinary actions taken against him by Jones, one on July 30, 2008 and the other Sept. 28, 2009. Jones said the actions followed complaints filed by two judges against Moncier for ethical and conduct violations in their courtrooms.
On Jan. 12, 2010, a Board of Professional Responsibility Hearing Panel issued a judgment convicting Moncier of five acts of misconduct. Moncier’s complaint states the Hearing Panel’s decision was based on the mistakes, errors and unconstitutional violations caused by and prosecuted by Jones.
On Sept. 10, 2010, following Moncier’s appeal to the Circuit Court, that court reversed and dismissed two acts of misconduct and ordered a new disciplinary hearing, meaning the matter would be addressed again by the same Hearing Panel. A court document dubbed “Plaintiff’s Favorable Judgment” was entered into the record, which memorialized the Circuit Court’s opinion that some of the Hearing Panel’s findings were partial.
Moncier then accused Jones of illegally seeking to reverse that ruling, stating that she did not have the legal authority to pursue such action.
On March 17 of last year, Jones filed a Protocol Memorandum seeking review from the Tennessee Supreme Court. On June 1, Jones appointed two attorneys from Baker Donelson Bearman Caldwell & Berkowitz as monitors, who were to review Moncier’s client engagement letters for appropriateness, check for any conflict-of-interest violations and confirm the proper handling of clients' trust accounts.
Other punishments rendered Moncier were a law practice suspension for 11 months and 29 days, 45 days of which was active suspension, the remainder probation. And he must perform 150 hours of community service.
Moncier then appealed to the Tennessee Supreme Court. That court appointed a special judge, who dismissed two of five charges against him. The Special Judge then remanded the matter back to the Hearing Panel for the purpose of confirming that the punishment originally determined was still appropriate given the reduced number of convictions.
When Jones was first contacted about the Moncier filings, she wasn’t surprised, and knew of the difficulty surrounding the attorney. The case has become a labyrinth and the topic of much discussion in the upper echelons of the law in the state.
These are only the tip of the iceberg as Moncier has apparently infuriated at least two judges from Chattanooga to Memphis and now finds himself on the outside looking in on his own profession especially since the Baker Donelson monitors — one in Nashville, the other in Knoxville — have been assigned to his practice and to his courtroom appearances. Moncier said he’s been made to pay for the time of these monitors.
“$200 per hour for both and they had the audacity to send one from Nashville. How ridiculous is that?” Moncier told NashvillePost.com.
Jones said that while the Hearing Panel was considering Moncier’s punishment modifications, the state supreme court ruled in a separate and unrelated matter that the original document Moncier used to make his first appeal to the state's top court was defective. That nullified the decisions made and reinstated all of the initial disciplinary action against Moncier, leaving him with no recourse except an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“I’ve had to defend the rights of my clients and I’ve done what I’ve always done and that’s fight,” Moncier said from his Knoxville law office Thursday. “I’ve practiced law in this state for over 40 years and I’ve never had a complaint until now.”
Jones said the U.S. Supreme Court has placed the matter on their Feb. 17 conference schedule. As to whether the famous nine will hear Moncier’s case is another matter altogether.
“I’ll bet they have better things to do than listen to this upset lawyer sitting over here in East Tennessee,” he said.
Moncier is fighting for his legal life on several fronts. The Circuit Court matter still needs closure although a positive outcome for Moncier doesn’t seem possible. He’s seeking $1 million of compensatory damages and $1 million punitive.
“In the meantime,” Moncier said, “I’ll just keep fighting.”