Georgia high court reinstates disbarred lawyer

Saying he’d served his time and paid his debt, the Georgia Supreme Court this week welcomed back a lawyer who lost his license and went to federal prison in a drug case.  

In 1998, Atlanta attorney Alvin Kendall was sentenced to five years and fined $12,500 for conspiring to give his client, a member of a drug ring, advance warning of upcoming law enforcement searches and seizures.

He was also disbarred from practicing law. He's since served his time, paid his fine and, in 2012, had his civil rights restored.

Two years ago, Kendall applied for reinstatement to practice law. On Monday, the state Supreme Court unanimously said yes.  

"The record exhibits that Kendall has accepted responsibility for his actions, has committed himself to making amends ... and has volunteered extensively in his community," the court said. "We are convinced of his candor, credibility and rehabilitation and conclude that Kendall has demonstrated by clear and convincing evidence that he is entitled to be certified as fit to practice law in Georgia."

Almost 20 years ago, Kendall’s criminal case was big news in Atlanta legal circles. In a federal indictment, he was charged with Drug Enforcement Administration agent Regina Bledsoe in the tip-off conspiracy.

Federal prosecutors said Bledsoe alerted Kendall that federal agents had obtained warrants to search drug dealer Sam Carroll’s homes in July 1994. Kendall allegedly told Carroll, his client at the time, about what was going to happen.

On the night before the searches, Carroll frantically removed records, $20,000 in cash and luxury cars from his home. As a result, it took agents almost three more years to make their case against Carroll.

Carroll wound up pleading guilty and turning on his lawyer. Testifying for the government, Carroll said Kendall had told him the day before the search what items DEA agents had planned to seize.

Kendall was convicted of the conspiracy during a 1998 trial, but the same jury acquitted Bledsoe of all charges.

“Honey, you need to find better friends,” a juror told Bledsoe, embracing her after the trial.

In Monday’s opinion, the state Supreme Court noted that Kendall, who could not be reached for comment, had accepted responsibility for his convictions. And while his record looks troubling on its face, Kendall has said most of his issues stemmed from his past immaturity.

“He indicated that his experience has taught him a valuable lesson and created a resolve in him to never put himself, his family or his community through such an ordeal again,” the court’s opinion said.

In past years, Kendall has performed legal research for various attorneys as a paralegal and founded with his wife a nonprofit organization to increase awareness of childhood obesity. He also submitted 29 letters of support from friends, family members, prior clients, federal and state court judges, a former U.S. attorney and a police chief.

“They all support his readmission and many suggest that they would hire him or work with him if he is reinstated,” the court said.

While Kendall received good news on Monday, more than half a dozen other attorneys lost their licenses. Among them: