Judge Tunison returning to private practice

Judge James Tunison

VALDOSTA – Southern Circuit Judge James Tunison is returning to private law practice this week.

"There's nothing wrong," Tunison said Monday. "I'm just ready to return to practicing law and representing people. I've missed going to court and advocating for people."

Tunison leaves his post as Southern Circuit judge Tuesday, June 30. He made the decision earlier this year.

Gov. Brian Kemp will appoint a successor who would have to seek election in two years from the voters of the five-county Southern Judicial Circuit, Tunison said.

Tunison will work for an Atlanta-based law firm and is opening a Valdosta branch of the law firm, he said. 

He said Lowndes County has approved an accountability court associated with the juvenile court that will start operating in July. Tunison added he will be involved with the accountability court part-time as an associate judge.

Tunison took office in 2009. He was elected following the retirement of Judge H. Arthur McLane. 

In a past interview, Tunison said he became interested in the law as a middle school student. He participated in a mock trial offering the what-if premise that America lost the Revolutionary War and the Founders were tried for treason.

"I played an attorney and was impressed with how a case like that works in the courtroom," Tunison said in 2009. 

By high school, he worked part-time for the one-time law firm of Blackburn, Bright, Edwards and Dodd. The son of Jim and Mary Tunison, he also worked in Tunison's Office Furniture, the family's long-time downtown business. Attending Valdosta State, he worked at the law firm and loaded freight for Roadway.

From 1985-88, Tunison attended Mercer Law School, before returning to Valdosta to practice law with the firm where he had once worked part-time as a high school student. He started his own practice in the early 1990s, sharing downtown office space with attorney Converse Bright.

Tunison unsuccessfully ran for judge in 2006 against incumbent Southern Circuit Judge James E. Hardy. Tunison won the 2008 campaign to elect a replacement for the retiring McLane.

Tunison and wife Brice have three college-age children, Laura, Kate and Will.

Tunison said he would not rule out running for judge again in the future, but for now, he looks forward to returning to private practice.

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