On Wednesday, September 6, 2023, the Supreme Court of Georgia issued an opinion in the consolidated disciplinary matters of Nevada Michael Tuggle, an attorney licensed in Georgia since 2011. The Court rejected the recommendations of the State Disciplinary Review Board and a Special Master to suspend Tuggle for one month. Instead, the Court remanded the case back to the Board to order additional fact-finding on limited issues.
The case is entitled “In the Matter of Nevada Michael Tuggle,” with case nos. S23Y0500 and S23Y0501.
Tuggle’s conduct involved violations related to two client matters that occurred between 2016 and 2019. In the first matter, Tuggle represented a young client in a civil suit but filed her answer late without paying the required court costs. He then abandoned the client, failing to notify her of case developments or respond to communications. This resulted in a $815,460 default judgment against the client.
In the second matter, Tuggle was hired in late 2018 to assist an elderly client’s wife in applying for Medicaid benefits for long-term nursing home care. However, he did not file the Medicaid application until July 2019, causing the family to incur over $26,000 in nursing home expenses not covered by Medicaid during the months-long delay.
The Court found that Tuggle violated Rules of Professional Conduct related to competence, diligence, candor, communication, and agreements to dismiss disciplinary complaints. Aggravating factors included serious harm to vulnerable clients, a pattern of misconduct, and failure to acknowledge wrongdoing or fully make restitution.
Rather than the recommended one-month suspension, the Court found Tuggle’s actions warranted a “lengthy suspension with conditions or disbarment.” It remanded for additional fact-finding on post-hearing developments in a malpractice suit arising from one matter, and the amount of restitution still owed. The Special Master must submit new findings and a discipline recommendation within 90 days.
This case demonstrates the Supreme Court’s willingness to take a sterner approach than recommended when an attorney’s actions cause significant harm and multiple rule violations are accompanied by aggravating factors like failure to accept responsibility. It remains to be seen what sanction the Court will ultimately impose on Tuggle after receiving the Special Master’s additional findings.
According to avvo.com, Mr. Tuggle is an elder law attorney in Decatur, Georgia. He acquired his law license in Georgia in 2011.
A copy of the original filing can be found here.