Tennessee Supreme Court Affirms One-Year Suspension for Georgia Attorney

February 7, 2020

Tennessee Supreme Court has affirmed the one-year suspension of Georgia attorney James A. Dunlap, Jr., from the practice of law in Tennessee.

Mr. Dunlap had been admitted to practice in Tennessee for the limited purpose of representing a client in an administrative appeal before the Administrative Procedures Division of the Tennessee Secretary of State’s Office. The one-year suspension resulted from his misconduct while representing the client when he failed to disclose material information and made misrepresentations to the administrative law judge presiding over the appeal, threatened to sue the judge in an attempt to influence the judge’s decision, and mischaracterized the judge and the tribunal as not being fair and impartial.

A Board of Professional Responsibility hearing panel found that Mr. Dunlap’s conduct violated Tennessee Rules of Professional Conduct 3.3 (candor toward the tribunal), 3.5(a) (impartiality and decorum of the tribunal), 8.4(c) (conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation), and 8.4(d) (conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice). The hearing panel recommended a one-year suspension for Mr. Dunlap’s misconduct. The Davidson County Chancery Court affirmed the hearing panel’s decision. Mr. Dunlap appealed to the Tennessee Supreme Court challenging the factual bases for the hearing panel’s findings, arguing that suspension was inconsistent with sanctions imposed in other cases, and asserting that his conduct did not cause any harm.

The Supreme Court examined the evidence, the presumptive sanction for Mr. Dunlap’s misconduct, and the applicable aggravating and mitigating factors under the American Bar Association’s Standards for Imposing Lawyer Sanctions. The Court concluded that the hearing panel’s decision was supported by substantial and material evidence and was neither arbitrary nor an abuse of discretion. The Supreme Court also determined that the delay in the administrative appeal resulting from Mr. Dunlap’s misconduct and his disparaging remarks toward the administrative law judge and the tribunal evidenced harm to the legal system. Thus, the Supreme Court affirmed the chancery court’s judgment and upheld Mr. Dunlap’s one-year suspension from the practice of law in Tennessee.

To read the unanimous opinion of the Court in James A. Dunlap, Jr. v. Board of Professional Responsibility of the Supreme Court of Tennessee, authored by Justice Sharon G. Lee, please visit the Opinions section of TNCourts.gov.