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Georgia Lawyer-Turned-Pastor Can Be Readmitted, Court Says

June 16, 2020, 3:34 PM

A Georgia lawyer who turned to the church upon surrendering his license for taking $90,000 from a client is fit to practice law again, the state’s high court said.

The Georgia Supreme Court on Tuesday granted James Caleb Clarke III’s certification of fitness for readmission after finding there was clear and convincing evidence of his rehabilitation.

In 2002, Clarke surrendered his license, “which is tantamount to disbarment,” it said. He admitted that while serving as the administrator of an estate, he took $90,000 of its money for his personal use.

Clarke also “appropriated” a car from the estate, falsely telling the heirs he’d sold the vehicle and deposited the proceeds into the estate account, and failed to file “proper” income tax returns on behalf of the estate between 1996 and 1999, the court said.

Since then, he’s received a master’s degree in divinity and has been serving as a pastor at a church in Stone Mountain since 2010, it said.

In addition to his clerical duties, Clarke oversees youth education programs, a care center for senior adults, as well as his church’s budget, “and engages in regular service to the community, including at local refugee centers and hospitals and by providing marriage counseling to couples,” the court said.

He’s paid full restitution to the estate and has reconciled with the heirs, one of whom provided a letter of support saying she believes he’s turned his life around, it added.

Clarke has “accepted responsibility for his past wrongdoing, expressed gratitude for the personal growth that he has undergone in its aftermath, and expressed his desire to clear his name in order to provide a positive legacy for his family,” the court said.

As soon as he meets the other requirements, including passing the Georgia bar exam, Clarke will be allowed to practice again, the court said.

The case is In re Clarke, 2020 BL 221569, Ga., No. S20Z0712, 6/16/20.

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

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Seth Stern at sstern@bloomberglaw.com; Andrew Harris at aharris@bloomberglaw.com

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