Fields, Accused "Snake" in Anti-Herenton Plot, Censured by State Supreme Court Board 

Lawyer Richard Fields, accused by Mayor Willie Herenton of masterminding a blackmail plot against him last year, has been censured by the state Supreme Court's Board of Professional Responsibility on two counts unrelated to the conspiracy charge, including one for "conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice."

In an action that so far has gone almost unnoticed, Fields' censure this spring was formalized by the Board in an April 25 statement.

The statement noted that Fields had not requested a hearing on its original censure notice against him, dated March 17, and that therefore the censure finding was made final.

The Board ’s statement said in part:

"The censure was based on two complaints. In the first complaint, Mr. Fields informed the Court that he would dismiss a case but failed to do so as promised. This resulted in a show cause Order. In the same matter, he failed to inform his client that he was dismissing the case and made misrepresentations to his client about the disposition. Finally, he neglected to provide the file to his client until the disciplinary complaint was filed.

"In the second complaint, Mr. Fields neglected a case and failed to respond to his client in a regular and timely manner. Further, he failed to withdraw at the client's request and failed to provide the file to the client until the disciplinary complaint was filed."

At least one of the cases was that of a Memphis schoolteacher, Florida Garmon, who had engaged Fields to assist her in litigation against the Memphis City Schools. Garmon declined to elaborate on the particulars of the case "because I am still involved in the lawsuit ..."

Upholding the complaints, the Board ruled against Fields in the areas of "adequate attorney-client communication” and “conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice." The censure, said the Board, should be regarded as "a rebuke and warning" to Fields but did not prohibit his right to practice law.

In June of last year, Fields, a former political associate of Herenton, was accused by the mayor of attempting to arrange a sexual liaison between himself and cocktail waitress Gwen Smith. The point, said Herenton, citing statements made to him by Smith, was to create grounds for blackmail so as to force the mayor not to run for reelection.

Joe Baugh, a special prosecutor who investigated Herenton's complaint, later issued a statement corroborating the "veracity" of Smith but said "Although a request may have been made of Ms. Smith to gain information concerning embarrassing material about you, it was apparent from the interviews that she never intended to even attempt such action."

Accordingly, Baugh did not recommend submitting the case to a grand jury for prosecution. Herenton objected at the time and did so again in a June 6 letter to Baugh which states "...that justice will be served in the end by a thorough investigation and examination of this matter with a grand jury."

Herenton's letter also upbraids a justice system "...that routinely turns a blind eye to blatant criminal conduct if it has its origin in the white community."

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