“I am thankful for the chance to return to this profession that helps people through difficult times”
COOKEVILLE – A former District Attorney General and Cookeville attorney that’s been disbarred since 2009 has had his license reinstated by the Tennessee Supreme Court.
Bill Gibson, who currently serves as executive director for the anti-drug coalition Power of Putnam, filed a petition for reinstatement in January. A state panel for the Board of Professional Responsibility ruled this month that he’s complied with the terms and conditions of his seven-year disbarment and is allowed to again practice law effective March 20.
“I am very pleased that the panel and board have given me this opportunity,” Gibson told the UCBJ. “I’m thankful for my excellent attorneys and the many good people who spoke on my behalf during the process.”
Gibson, who served as DA in the 13th Judicial District from 1990-2008, first ran into trouble in 2006, when his law license was temporarily suspended; he was disbarred in March 2009 for “dishonesty, fraud and deceit.”
While Gibson was District Attorney, state officials said he improperly communicated with Christopher Adams, charged with the first-degree murder of Lillian Kelley, an elderly Putnam County woman. The state said Gibson influenced the outcome of the Adams prosecution, while misrepresenting the strength of the state’s case to the family of the victim. Gibson was also said to have improperly assisted Tina Sweat, convicted of assault and possession of a controlled substance in 2003, in obtaining post-conviction relief.
He officially resigned from office in 2008 on the heels of state legislative action meant to remove him.
Since, Gibson has seemingly thrived alongside Power of Putnam, which was founded in 2004 and established as a non-profit in 2009. The group aims to reduce substance abuse, underage drinking and prescription drug use in the community. Gibson oversees the coalition’s development and is certified as a substance abuse prevention specialist trainer.
“The coalition has continued to grow,” Gibson told the UCBJ in a November interview. Newer initiatives, he said, include outreach into the business community about reducing drug use in the workplace, an increasingly common concern. “We’re trying to get the workforce cleaned up as much as we can, so we can attract more industry,” he said.
Gibson first started practicing law in 1987 after working his way though law school while serving full-time as a City of Cookeville police officer. While DA, he prosecuted and convicted former Putnam County Assessor of Property Byron (Low Tax) Looper for the 1998 killing of Monterey Sen. Tommy Burks — arguably his most notable case.
His reinstatement does come with some conditions:
- that he engages, at his expense, a practice monitor, typically a licensed attorney in the same city or firm that meets with should meet with him on a regular basis, for five years. The monitor will provide periodic reports to the Board of Professional Responsibility. Gibson will provide a list of three proposed practice monitors; the board will designate one;
- that he attend the Tennessee Law Institute annual review seminar each year for the next five years;
- and that he continue counseling sessions with Cookeville psychologist Dr. John Averitt – or another licensed mental health professional – on at least a quarterly basis for a period of five years.
In 2007, Vanderbilt psychologist Dr. James Walker diagnosed Gibson with adjustment disorder with depressed and anxious mood as well as alcohol abuse. Walker prescribed intensive rehabilitation, which Gibson completed, and continued counseling with Averitt.
Gibson said he has no immediate plans to leave Power of Putnam; he looks forward to returning to the courtroom one day, but does not plan to run again for office.
“Been there, done that,” he said. “My work at Power of Putnam is very fulfilling. We work every day to keep kids off alcohol and drugs and to reduce addiction and overdose deaths. That is my top priority. I will consider taking a few cases as time allows and ease back in.
“For now, I am just thankful to God and the board for the chance to return to this professional that helps people through difficult times.”