Why would a lawyer ever imagine it’d be okay to lie to and threaten a judge? This sounds like the exact opposite of how you’re supposed to act. And it looks like that was a lesson Georgia attorney James A. Dunlap had to learn the hard way.
Dunlap was temporarily admitted to practice in the state of Tennessee, but after his representation of a wannabe methadone clinic went off the rails, the Tennessee Supreme Court suspended him for one year. The court found that Dunlap had violated professional ethics rules against dishonesty and mandating candor to the court.
The disciplinary action stems from a company trying to open a methadone clinic in Tennessee. As part of that effort, in 2013, Dunlap filed an action with a state agency as well as cases in federal court for the clinic permits. Big Law Business has the details of just how Dunlap’s, erm, zealous advocacy for his client ran afoul of ethics rules:
After the state denied the certificate, Dunlap appealed and administrative judge Kim Summers stayed the hearing pending the outcome of the federal suits, the court said. But when Summers asked for updates on the federal cases, he stated there were no new developments when in fact one case had been dismissed and another had been stayed pending the administrative hearing.
When the state agency filed a motion to set that administrative hearing in 2014, Dunlap allegedly said to Summers there was no need for a hearing for the certificate and that he might have to ask the U.S. Justice Department to file an enforcement action against her, the court said. He also allegedly told her that if she held a hearing, she might be perceived as a “fixer” for the opposing parties and as “aiding and abetting” them.
The state professional responsibility review board did not take kindly to Dunlap’s actions, saying they amounted to “bullying and [were] prejudicial to the administration of justice.” They also found that Dunlap was “unapologetic and saw nothing improper in his conduct during the administrative appeal before Judge Summers.”
All of which is a long way of saying the Tennessee Supreme Court found a one-year suspension was warranted.
Kathryn Rubino is a Senior Editor at Above the Law, and host of The Jabot podcast. AtL tipsters are the best, so please connect with her. Feel free to email her with any tips, questions, or comments and follow her on Twitter (@Kathryn1).
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