Ga. judge accused as a lawyer of fraud and malpractice settles lawsuit

Christian Coomer in February 2018, when he was Majority Whip in the state House of Representatives. Later that year he was appointed to be a judge on the Georgia Court of Appeals. (BOB ANDRES  / AJC 2018 file)
Caption
Christian Coomer in February 2018, when he was Majority Whip in the state House of Representatives. Later that year he was appointed to be a judge on the Georgia Court of Appeals. (BOB ANDRES / AJC 2018 file)

Credit: Bob Andres

Credit: Bob Andres

Georgia Court of Appeals Judge Christian Coomer has settled a lawsuit filed by a former law client who accused him of fraud and legal malpractice.

The settlement was disclosed Tuesday in a motion dismissing the case in Bartow County Superior Court.

“This was a troubling case to discover, troubling in every way an attorney could be disturbed by a case walking into his office,” said Cedartown attorney Wright Gammon, who represents Coomer’s former client, Jim Filhart.

Gammon said he was glad the lawsuit, filed in March, was settled quickly. “I’m thankful I was able to get my client all of his money back,” he added.

In a statement issued after the suit was filed, Coomer said he “completely and utterly” denied allegations of fraud.

“The facts underlying these claims arose before Judge Coomer became a judge,” said Atlanta attorney Joe Kingma, one of Coomer’s lawyers. “It is very common these days for disputes to arise between lawyers and clients. We are pleased that the lawsuit has been dismissed and that this dispute has been resolved to the satisfaction of both parties and is now over.”

Filhart, 78, of Cartersville, alleged Coomer took advantage of him at a time when he suffered from diminished capacity. In response, Coomer maintained Filhart was of sound mind.

Georgia Court of Appeals Judge Christian Coomer, when he served as a legislator in the state House of Representatives in 2017. (BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM)
Caption
Georgia Court of Appeals Judge Christian Coomer, when he served as a legislator in the state House of Representatives in 2017. (BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM)

In 2018, Filhart gave two loans totaling $289,000 to a holding company Coomer controlled, and the loans had terms that were extremely unfavorable to Filhart, the lawsuit alleged. One of the loans, for $159,000, was to be paid off at the end of 30 years, when Filhart would have been 106 years old.

Coomer also prepared a will for Filhart that could have given Coomer access to nearly all of Filhart’s estate, the lawsuit said.

At the time, Coomer ran a law practice in Cartersville and served as majority whip of the Georgia House of Representatives. In September 2018, Coomer was appointed to the Appeals Court by then-Gov. Nathan Deal. With no challenger, Coomer retained his seat in the June elections.

After the lawsuit was filed, the GBI began investigating allegations in Filhart’s lawsuit. That probe is ongoing.

The state Judicial Qualifications Commission is also looking into the allegations. The judicial watchdog agency investigates judges for alleged misconduct that occurred before they took the bench and while they are serving.