Georgia high court orders disbarment of Atlanta City Councilman Willis

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ATLANTA — The Georgia Supreme Court ordered the revocation of an Atlanta city councilman’s right to practice law in the state on Monday.

The high court issued an opinion finding that Councilman Lamar Willis violated a number of rules contained in the code of professional conduct that govern the legal profession in the state. Willis’ violations include putting a $30,000 settlement check for a client he represented in a personal injury action into his personal or business account, the court opinion said.

The money was part of a settlement meant to be paid to the family of a child who was injured when a fence fell over. After the defendants gave the check to Willis, the court eventually ordered the defendants to pay the child’s family directly and seek reimbursement from Willis after the family said they were still waiting to be paid.

The councilman failed to repay the defendants in the case, the opinion said.

Willis responded to the state Supreme Court opinion in a statement:

“Two years ago, during a time when I was facing tremendous personal challenges, I made a grievous professional error,” he said. “I acknowledge it, apologize for it and I accept the repercussions of it. ... The defendants have been repaid contrary to the language in the Court’s opinion.”

The review panel said Willis’ assertion that depression was the reason for hs failure to respond to the formal complaint against him was “not credible.”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Willis has been a Georgia State Bar member since 2006, on the Atlanta City Council since 2001 and faces re-election in November.

Willis is running against Georgia Tech administrator Andre Dickens, who called for him to be disqualified from holding public office on Monday.

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