Legal Ethics

Two Law Grads Who Didn’t Tell Schools of Full Criminal Pasts Are Barred from Bar Exam

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The Georgia Supreme Court is refusing to allow two law graduates to take the state bar exam partly because they didn’t reveal their entire criminal histories on their law school applications.

In the two cases decided on Sept. 12, the supreme court refused to grant certificates of fitness to practice law to John Payne and Roy Yunker Jr., according to the Fulton County Daily Report.

Yunker, now in his 40s, is a veteran of Operation Desert Storm. He had three misdemeanors on his record stemming from convictions or no-contest pleas to drunk driving, disorderly conduct and damage to property, and domestic battery, the supreme court opinion (PDF) says.

Asked on his law school application if he had ever been charged or convicted of a crime other than a minor traffic offense, Yunker said no. He also failed to disclose all of his convictions when he applied to take the bar exam. The supreme court opinion cited another concern: He was fired from an internship after a conflict with a supervising attorney.

Yunker tells the Daily Report he graduated tenth in his class from Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School in 2008, and he is working as a law clerk for two judges. “I’m disappointed in the entire process,” Yunker told the publication, “especially considering that I’ve had the full faith and confidence of two superior court judges.”

Payne, who is now 57, disclosed all of his criminal history to the state bar, but he didn’t tell Southern Illinois University about some of his drunken driving history. He had six DUI convictions, as well as other felony and misdemeanor convictions, spanning from his youth to his mid-40s.

Payne is a recovering alcoholic and has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, though he does not take medication for it, according to the opinion (PDF) in his case. The court was troubled because he answered “no” to a question on the fitness application that asked whether he had any condition which, if left untreated, could affect his ability to practice law.

Payne has participated in 12-step programs for more than 20 years, and his last DUI conviction was 16 years ago. Payne told the Daily Report he knew there were no guarantees he would gain bar admission when he decided to go to law school, but he hoped for success. “I have practiced full disclosure for decades—with employers, associates and colleagues—and it was well before the family decision to pursue the law,” he said.

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