On November 30, 2022, the Supreme Court of Tennessee at Nashville publicly reprimand Chattanooga attorney, Justin Grey Woodward over the case of failure to properly communicate with its clients. The case is entitled “In the matter of Justin Grey Woodward with Case #M2022-01486.
The charges cited Georgia’s Rules of professional conduct 1.2(a), 1.4, 1.15 (I)(a), 1,15 (II) (b), 1.7 (a) (2), which states:
A lawyer shall abide by a client’s decisions concerning the scope and objectives of representation and, as required.
A lawyer shall reasonably consult with the client about the means by which the client’s objectives are to be accomplished; keep the client reasonably informed about the status of the matter; and promptly comply with reasonable requests for information.
A lawyer shall hold funds or other property of clients or third persons that are in a lawyer’s possession in connection with a representation separate from the lawyer’s own funds or other property.
No personal funds shall ever be deposited in a lawyer’s trust account, except that unearned attorney’s fees may be so held until the same are earned. Sufficient personal funds of the lawyer may be kept in the trust account to cover maintenance fees such as service charges on the account. Records on such trust accounts shall be so kept and maintained as to reflect at all times the exact balance held for each client or third person. No funds shall be withdrawn from such trust accounts for the personal use of the lawyer maintaining the account except earned lawyer’s fees debited against the account of a specific client and recorded as such.
This matter is filed by the Board of Professional Responsibility consisting of a certified copy of the per Curiam opinion entered by the Supreme Court of Georgia on January 19, 2022, imposing a public reprimand on Justin Grey Woodward. Woodward requested the imposition of discipline for conduct ‘involving three separate matters, and he requested a State Disciplinary Review Board reprimand or a public reprimand. The Respondent allegedly failed to answer and communicate with his clients over their cases in several instances.
The filing states:
‘Woodward, who has been licensed to practice, the law in Georgia since 2007, admits the. at a couple hired him in September 2014 to represent them in a dispute with their: general contractor, who had placed a lien, on their home; that the couple paid him for the representation; that he filed a lawsuit on their behalf on July 20, 2015; that he ‘failed to “timely or adequately” respond to the client’s requests for information and updates on their case; and that he failed to “adequately consult with them]about the case and how to accomplish the objectives for which they retained him.” According to Woodward, the case was tried in April 2018, and a judgment was entered against his clients for approximately $51,000 plus interest and costs. After the trial, the clients contacted Woodward several times to discuss how best to proceed, but Woodward admits that he failed to “timely and adequately respond to their requests.’
The filing continues:
‘With regard to SDB Docket Nos. 7422 and 7423, Woodward admits that, at all relevant times, he maintained an IOLTA trust account; that on July 23, 2018, when implementing a one-time transfer of $500 in earned fees from that account into his operating account, he “inadvertently set the transfer to be a recurring weekly transfer; that the following week, the inadvertent recurring transfer caused an overdraft in his trust account; and that he later deposited money to resolve the overdraft. The following year, on 2 April 2019, a check was presented for payment against his trust account, but the account balance was insufficient to cover the check. With regard to the 2019 incident, Woodward asserts that he “believed that a Pay Pal transaction payment from the client had already processed,” whereas the “Pay Pal transaction did not process until after the check was presented.” Woodward once again deposited funds into the trust account to resolve the overdraft.’
The filing further states:
‘With regard to SDB Docket Nos. 7422 and 742 He explains that both of these transactions involved “payment systems [that he] was not as competent in as he should have been”; that he “immediately” sought to rectify the overdrafts in his trust account; and that he has instituted new procedures to ensure more reliability in those types of transactions. Woodward also states that, in 2019, he was assisting with the care of his father, who was hospitalized for several months in Florida and Puerto Rico, and while those circumstances did not excuse his actions, “they did take away from [his] attentiveness during that period.’
The State Bar of Georgia after reviewing these facts and circumstances decided to publicly reprimand the Respondent. On October 21, 2022, the Supreme Court of Tennessee entered a Notice of Reciprocal Discipline requiring Mr. Woodward to inform the Court within 30 days of receipt of the Notice why reciprocal discipline should not be imposed in Tennessee, or, in the absence of a response demonstrating the grounds set forth, the Supreme Court of Tennessee will impose a similar discipline with identical terms and conditions based upon the Public Reprimand issued by the Supreme Court of Georgia. However, the Court received no response from Mr. Woodward. Hence, this order.
The Order states:
“IT IS, THEREFORE, CONSIDERED, ORDERED, ADJUDGED, AND DECREED BY THE COURT THAT:
(1) Justin Grey Woodward is hereby publicly reprimanded.
(2) Pursuant to Tenn. Sup. Ct. R. 9, § 28.1, this Order shall be effective upon entry. ORDER OF RECIPROCAL DISCIPLINE 11/30/2022
(3) The Board of Professional Responsibility shall cause notice of this discipline to be published as required by Tenn. Sup. Ct. R. 9, § 28.11″
As of today, Mr. Woodward is listed on the website of the law firm Law Office of J.G. Woodward as a practicing attorney. His info can be found on Martindale.com. He attended the Appalachian School of Law, graduating in 2007. Woodward practices in Chattanooga, Georgia. He has been licensed in Tennessee, license #26709, as well as Georgia.
A copy of the original filing can be found here.