How “much” Disbarment Does and Attorney Have to Undergo Before Actually Being Disbarred?

It took three times in separate actions by the Georgia Supreme Court before disbarred attorney “Action Johnson” of Lithonia was formally disbarred. Why? “Serious misconduct in 5 client matters and multiple violations of the State Bar of Georgia's ethics rules. The Supreme Court also said that Johnson “has shown contempt for the disciplinary process” since he refused to respond to the State Bar's investigators' request for information.

In the matter of Melvin T. Johnson, S20Y0257, decided February 10, 2020, the Supreme Court cited 5 separate offenses:

  • Failing to appear without explanation, at several hearings, in a domestic relations matter;
  • Failing to place $344,000 of client funds into his escrow account, giving no accounting of these funds to his client, and misleading the client as to the whereabouts of the funds.
  • Improper solicitation of an automobile accident victim one day after the auto accident (client did not contact Jackson or his office about representation). Johnson was under suspension by the State Bar when he attempted to legally represent her and he failed to disclose this to his client. Johnson failed to appear in court on the client's behalf and sued the client after she terminated the attorney-client relationship.
  • This matter involved Johnson representing a couple in a medical malpractice matter in Alabama, where Johnson was not even licensed to practice law. Johnson forged an Alabama lawyer's name on a petition. Later the Alabama attorney informed the Court his signature was a forgery by Johnson.
  • The 5th matter involved Johnson failing to inform a divorce client he was under suspension while he was representing this client. The Court found that Johnson did not adequately communicate with his client during his representation.

This fellow was completely out of control, personally and professionally. There are a few take away from this attorney's conduct:

  1. Always ask for an accounting of your money held by your lawyer in escrow during your court case. This is so easy to do. Failure to receive adequate information should be a big red flag.
  2. Failing to communicate with a client probably does not mean failing to return a phone call within 24 hours? It should certainly mean failure to inform the client of the status of one's case, what is happening, and how close to a hearing one is when the exchange of information (discovery) will be complete, etc.
  3. Soliciting an auto accident case when the injured victim did not contact the lawyer first is a clear ethical violation. Do not respond to any lawyers or their runners when you have been in an automobile accident and someone is calling you while you are still in the hospital! And, do not fall for the runner who says he/she will come over to your home (for your convenience, of course) and sign you up. I would insist on a face-to-face meeting with the attorney whose office personnel are so “hot/eager” to represent you. You will probably find the lawyer is in Florida on vacation. Then, go elsewhere. There are plenty of quality lawyers who practice law from their “real” offices every day.

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