Judge Richard Baumgartner disbarred by Tennessee Supreme Court

By: Sara Shookman Email
By: Sara Shookman Email

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Ex-judge Richard Baumgartner is disbarred by the Tennessee Supreme Court as his fall from grace continues.

The state's Board of Professional Responsibility says after its own probe, Baumgartener submitted an affidavit agreeing to disbarment.

A TBI investigation earlier this year revealed Baumgartner had purchased prescription pain pills from a convicted felon under his supervision. He pleaded guilty to official misconduct in March.

Baumgartner was sentenced to two years of judicial diversion, which if completed will wipe his record clean.

For many in Knox County, the former judge was the face of justice.

It's next step in a downward spiral for former Knox County Judge Richard Baumgartner.

"He's not able to defend against the allegations and consenting to disbarment," said Nancy Jones, chief disciplinary council for the board.

Unable to defend his guilty plea, his official misconduct with prescription drugs now cost him his right to practice.

"He cannot be associated with any office in which the practice of law is conducted," said Jones.

After ruling on dozens of Knox County's most prominent cases, his own case caught attention of the TBI. His abuse of pills and power stunned a community with respect for the man and his office.

"When I was before him, I had the highest regard for him as a jurist. I'm sorry for him and his family that it's come to this," said Ted Lavit. Lavit is on the defense for Vanessa Coleman, a quarter of the crew found guilty in the Christian Newsom torture killings trials.

"Judge Baumgartner I believe had some physical, serious physical problems," said Lavit.

That said, "I have a job to do on behalf of my client," he said.

And as ground for a new trial, Lavit says he plans to raise questions about Baumgartner's drug use.

"I attend to pursue my pending motions for a new trial. And verdicts no withstanding the verdict."

Local 8 News talked to Baumgartner's attorney, Don Bosch. "This is part of the process, and Judge Baumgartner knew that," said Bosch."Judge Baumgartner is doing very well right now. He's getting healthier by the day, and is looking forward to new challenges in the community."

It's not clear how likely a re-trial would be, disbarment is not forever. The former judge could petition for reinstatement in five years.

All four of the defendants are due back in court Friday to ask for new trials. Stay with Local 8 News and VolunteerTV.com for the latest.

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