'Panic mode': Attorney must respond to disciplinary complaint despite claimed mental illness

By Kasey Schefflin-Emrich | Jan 3, 2019

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (Legal Newsine) – The Supreme Court of Tennessee has upheld the Chancery Court for Knox County’s ruling that a North Carolina attorney wasn’t incapacitated from responding or defending against a disciplinary complaint.  

In the ruling filed Dec. 4, the Supreme Court found that attorney Thomas Mabry showed no evidence that he has a disability making it impossible for him to respond to or defend himself against disciplinary proceedings.

"We affirm the Chancery Court's conclusion that Mr. Mabry has not shown by a preponderance of the evidence that he has a disability making it impossible for him to respond to or defend against disciplinary proceedings. Consequently, we order that his disability inactive status be removed and that any pending disciplinary proceedings against him shall be resolved prior to the effective date of any reinstatement," Justice Roger A. Page wrote. 

According to the opinion, Mabry claimed he was suffering from a disability by reason of mental illness. He testified in a hearing that he has experienced suicidal thoughts and is “in a panic mode” anytime he has to do something related to the practice of law. 

While Mabry submitted his medical records and a letter from social worker Doug Ernst to show proof that he had suicidal thoughts and generalized anxiety disorder, the opinion states the proof didn’t address Mabry’s ability to defend against the complaints.

“Mr. Ernst wrote that Mr. Mabry tied his anxiety and suicidal ideations to his disciplinary proceedings, but Mr. Ernst did not opine whether Mr. Mabry’s mental illness had any impact on his capacity to respond to or defend against the disciplinary complaint,” the wrote in the ruling. “Likewise, Mr. Mabry did not testify that his disability made it impossible for him to respond to or defend himself against the disciplinary complaint. 

"Because there is no evidence that Mr. Mabry’s disability makes it impossible for him to respond to the disciplinary complaint, we agree with the hearing panel and Chancery Court that he has not met his burden of proof,” Page wrote.

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