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Chattanooga lawyer suspended for double billing, other misconduct

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CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) - A well-known Chattanooga attorney is suspended from practicing law for 45 days after the Supreme Court of Tennessee ruled on allegations of double billing and other charges of misconduct by attorney Fred Hanzelik. He's represented clients in several high profile cases locally. Channel 3 learned, this isn't his first suspension.

A visit to attorney Fred Hanzelik's law offices, Hanzelik & Associates, in downtown Chattanooga Tuesday revealed he's still seeing clients. That's because the 45 day suspension doesn't go into effect until next Monday. It's a ruling based on the American Bar Association Standards.

"According to those standards for the misconduct Mr. Hanzelik engaged in, those standards suggest suspension is appropriate," Board of Professional Responsibility Senior Litigation Counsel Sandy Garrett says.

The Board of Professional Responsibility investigated complaints from two of Hanzelik's clients. The board charged him with double-billing, unreasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client, not communicating with the client, charging an unreasonable fee, and not responding to the board when questioned.

"These charges were actually filed in 2005," Garrett says.

It was a seven year investigation that overlapped with another suspension Hanzelik was ordered in July of 2010. That time it was for 30 days for not providing accounting for a settlement, engaging in a conflict of interest and again, not communicating with the board or his client.

"Certainly a lawyer who's had prior discipline that could and would be used as an aggravating circumstance if they face disciplinary charges again at a later day, but there's no magic number," Garrett says.

There's no magic number of suspensions for being dis-barred, because the board says it depends on the severity of the misconduct.

The Supreme Court of Tennessee could've ruled up to a five year suspension, but said 45 days suited Hanzelik's misconduct charges.

The board says it took seven years, because Hanzelik had health issues, one of the clients was out of the country, and Hanzelik went through an appeals process.

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