ALBANY, Ga. — The Georgia Supreme Court has accepted a petition from a local attorney, adding six months to his 18-month suspension from practicing law.
Tony C. Jones is a former city of Albany solicitor and Municipal Court judge for the city of Edison. He has offered to the Georgia Supreme Court a petition for voluntary discipline, a petition that was accepted Monday morning. The justices also doled out another six-month suspension to be tacked onto his 18-month suspension.
In October, the justices determined that Jones should be suspended after they determined that he abandoned a client who hired him to pursue a civil claim against the client’s ex-wife.
In their opinion Monday, the justices state that Jones had stipulated that he violated four rules of judicial conduct stemming from three different instances.
In the first incident, Jones admits that he took a $2,500 fee from a client but failed to communicate with his client, all but abandoning the client to the client's detriment. In the second matter, he failed to file a notice of appeal or transcript order form as directed by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The third matter involves a fee dispute with a client over negotiations of a divorce decree and land settlement.
"By this conduct, Jones admits that he violated Rules 1.3, 1.4, 3.2, and 3.5(c) of the Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct found in Bar Rule 4-102 (d) and acknowledges that probable cause was found to believe he violated Rule 1.16," the justices write. "In mitigation he offers that he should have limited his practice to those areas of law with which he was most familiar, such as criminal cases. He acknowledges that his problems were avoidable and self-inflicted, he should have maintained an adequate staff, and his actions have harmed himself, his family, the Bar, and the profession."
The State Bar had originally recommended that Jones be disbarred for what Supreme Court justices referred to as the “wholesale abandonment” of a client who hired Jones to represent him in a civil matter. Instead, the justices suspended Jones from the practice of law for 18 months. He also must repay any money he accepted from his client. In Monday's ruling, the justices accepted Jones' recommendation that he be suspended for an additional six months from practicing law.
The State Bar agreed with Jones' requested punishment, the opinion Monday stated.
In the October opinion by the Georgia Supreme Court, Jones admitted that he was hired by a client in 2007 to file a civil contempt suit against the client’s ex-wife. Jones filed the suit, but following that action he failed to communicate with his client, didn’t return phone calls or emails to the client, and even failed to the tell the client that the ex-wife had filed a counter-suit against him.
The opinion further states that when a hearing was set on the matter in October 2008, Jones not only didn’t tell the client about the hearing, but failed to show up to represent the client’s interests. Subsequently, the court ruled in the ex-wife’s favor.
The client didn’t become aware of the judgment against him, according to the opinion, until after his wages were already being garnished.