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Georgia Attorney Suspended for Threatening, Lying to Judge

Feb. 7, 2020, 9:56 PM

A Georgia lawyer temporarily admitted to practice in Tennessee was suspended for one year by Tennessee’s high court for lying to a judge and bullying her.

Attorney James A. Dunlap’s behavior amounted to violations of professional ethics rules prohibiting dishonesty and mandating candor to the court, the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled.

Dunlap represented a corporation that wanted to operate a methadone clinic in Tennessee, the court said. In 2013, he filed an action with a state agency to get a certificate of need and also filed cases in federal court to get permits for the clinic.

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.

A panel of the Tennessee Supreme Court’s professional responsibility board found that Dunlap’s conduct amounted to “bullying and was prejudicial to the administration of justice,” according to the Tennessee high court ruling.

The attorney had lied to her about the status of the federal cases, which was dishonest and not candid, the professional responsibility panel had said. That conduct resulted in an eight-to-nine month stay, impeding the resolution of the case, the panel said.

According to the court, the panel also concluded that Dunlap was “unapologetic and saw nothing improper in his conduct during the administrative appeal before Judge Summer.”

This conduct warrants the one-year suspension, the court concluded.

The case is Dunlap. v Bd. of Prof’l Responsibility of Supreme Ct. of Tenn., 2020 BL 44145, Tenn., No. M2018-01919-SC-R3-BP, 2/7/20

To contact the reporter on this story: Melissa Heelan Stanzione in Washington at mstanzione@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jessie Kokrda Kamens at jkamens@bloomberglaw.com; Rebekah Mintzer at rmintzer@bloomberglaw.com; Andrew Harris at aharris@bloomberglaw.com

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