On Monday, April 8, 2024, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported that a former judge from East Ridge, Tennessee had been suspended from practicing law for five years.

John Cris Helton previously served as a city court judge in East Ridge from 2014 until resigning in August 2021. He had also worked as an attorney in the Chattanooga area for many years, operating his own law firm called Helton Law Firm. However, Helton ran into legal issues pertaining to taxes and faced discipline from the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility.

Specifically, Helton failed to file several years’ worth of required federal income tax returns, attempting to avoid paying taxes he owed. This led the IRS to sue Helton in 2017, with taxes owed estimated to be around $400,000. Helton subsequently filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy to have an IRS lien removed from his law firm. Nonetheless, a federal bankruptcy court ruled that Helton’s failure to pay taxes was willful and intentional, refusing to remove the lien.

In 2022, a petition for discipline was brought against Helton by the Board of Professional Responsibility due to his actions regarding unpaid taxes. He conditionally pled guilty to violating Tennessee’s rules of professional conduct for lawyers. As a result, Helton received an active suspension from practicing law for four years, with the ability to serve the fifth year on probation with supervision. He had also received two prior public censures in 2003 and 2008 related to inadequate handling of client funds and estate administration.



Source: Chattanooga Times Free Press